By Don George
Rhodes embodies, for me, the cultural riches of Greece.
First, there is the extraordinary quality of the light, which carves everything in its own distinct reality: Every rock is rock, every tree is tree, every white marble temple column stands in its own luminous reality. Given the distinctive quality of this light, it seems only natural that the famous Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was dedicated to the sun god, Helios.
Then, there is the warmth and hospitality of the residents. On my first visit, I had been wandering around the exquisite ruins at Lindos, when a local gentleman, flipping his worry beads outside a cafe, beckoned to an open seat and invited me to join him for a coffee. “Where are you from?” he asked. When I replied, “Connecticut,” he asked me if I knew his cousin, who was a policeman in New York.
“How do you like Rhodes?” he later asked me. When I said I loved it and that it seemed like the quintessence of Greece to me, he suddenly ordered two glasses of licorice-flavored ouzo, and we toasted Greece, and Rhodes, and our blooming friendship.
Then, there is the island’s complex layering of history and culture. As my new-found friend explained to me, “Because of its excellent location and climate, Rhodes has been a highly prized port throughout its history. We have had the Persians and Alexander, the Romans and the Knights Hospitaller, and then the Ottomans too,” he said, sweeping his arm toward the ruins like a professor indicating a blackboard. He raised his glass of ouzo as if toasting the past and clinked it with mine. “They all have left their mark here.”
This history is especially visible in the Old Town of Rhodes. Exploring this picture-puzzle of architectural styles — Hellenistic, Byzantine, medieval, Turkish — is like walking through a glorious, three-dimensional textbook of Aegean history.
Clarity, history, humanity — such are the enlarging riches of Rhodes.
Explore Rhodes — and several other gems in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Malta — aboard Crystal Serenity’s September 13 “Vistas of the Aegean Sea,” September 20 “Mediterranean Majesty” and October 2 “Myths and Monuments” voyages.