Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rhodes - New Town

Entering Rhodes by sea, the boats of the past floated under the tallest and most magnificent statue of the ancient world into the harbor. The Colossus of Rhodes was a giant statue of the Greek god Helios, and was erected on the island between 292 and 280 BC to celebrate a victory over Cyprus. Helios stood over the water, with each foot planted on a dock, and rose over 30 meters high. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The statue took 12 years to complete, but only stood for just 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue snapped at the knees and fell onto the land, where it lay for over 800 years. Even then, people traveled to see the impressive pieces. In 654, an Arab force captured Rhodes and the remains of the statue were sold to a Jewish merchant, broken down, and the bronze scraps carried off on the backs of 900 camels. Tis a real shame. In place of the statue, now stand two bronze deer on pillars (look for them in the photos), which symbolize the native deer of the island.

Just outside the castle walls of Rhodes Old Town (where we stayed) is the modern Rhodes Town—a busy little downtown with well-known designer shops, boutiques, hip restaurants, and traffic. The place had a lot of young people, especially on the weekend nights. We ate dinner here most of the time because the old town closed up early and was a little overpriced (being a tourist center).

We spent one day exploring the ancient ruins on the island. About an hour’s walk away from the center of town, is the ancient acropolis of Rhodes, dating back to the 3rd-2nd century BC. “Acropolis” means “highest city” in Greek. For defense purposes, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build the first settlement. We walked through a 600ft long stadium, some crumbles that used to be a gymnasium, a small marble odeion (or theater) which was used for musical performances or oracle readings, and 3 and a half gigantic columns supporting a block of stone that we’re told are part of the ancient Temple of Pythian Apollo. We sat in the rows of curved benches in the odeion to see what the view of the stage was like. Then sat in silence and awe on rocks beneath the remaining tall pillars that used to be a grand temple in the midst of a city, but are now surrounded by empty fields.

Lining the new Rhodes town is a long sandy beach, mostly deserted. Some scattered locals sunbathe on the sand--men in speedos, topless women. There are a few clusters of empty lounge chairs, but many more lounge chairs and umbrellas lay stacked and locked up, waiting for next season. I can only imagine how busy it must get here in the summertime on this perfect beach. We laid out in our swimsuits one day with books, pumpkin seeds, and my progressing cross-stitch.  I walked in to my knees, Yuriy up to his neck in the water. He’s a tough one. It was pretty frigid, despite the 70 degree weather. But even tougher than us were the dozens of locals who swam back and forth along the shore far out in the deeper water. They must have been doing this for exercise in their little swim caps, because the water wasn’t warm, and they were swimming fast... back and forth. Out in the middle of the sea was a set of concrete stairs that lead up to a high diving board. I imagined it being in full-time use during the summer when the heat drives everyone into the water. We wanted so much to swim out to it. As we always say though, we’ll be back.

- Julia

[Collosus of Rhodes source]