Sunday, June 12, 2016

Greece | Rhodes Island | Rhodes Old Town | Landmarks and Sights

Like most of the Greek islands Rhodes has numerous layers of history dating back several thousand years. The oldest visible layer dates to the pre-Christian Hellenistic period.
Ruins of Temple of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, dating to probably third century B.C. (click on images for enlargements)
Starting around the fifth century the island became part of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Islamic Arabs and Turks seized the island at various times, but the Byzantines were able to regain control and remained the dominant force on the island until the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the Knights Hospitaller took over. 
 Byzantine ruins 
Ruins of the Byzantine Church of the Archangel Michael
Byzantine Church of Ag. Paraskevi
Byzantine Church of Ag. Spyridon
Detail of Byzantine Church of Ag. Spyridon
 The Knights Hospitaller Period of Rhodes history began in 1308 and lasted to 1522.  
 Knights Hospitaller Era Church of the Holy Trinity. As you probably know, the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—was in large part formulated by Gregory of Nazianzus, a.k.a. Gregory the Theologian (c. 329–390), who once lived in the Cappadocian village of Güzelyurt, which I wandered through not long ago. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Basil of Kayseri  are also credited with laying the theological foundations of the Greek Orthodox Church.
 Church of the Holy Trinity
 Church of the Holy Trinity
 Knights Hospitaller Era Church of St. Artemios
 Ruins of the Church of Panagia tou Bourgou—Knights Hospitaller Era
Ruins of the Church of Panagia tou Bourgou— Knights Hospitaller Era
In 1522, after a long and protracted siege of the Walled City, the Ottoman Turks conquered Rhodes.  It remained part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912 when it was seized by Italy during the  Italo-Turkish War. Nazi Germany briefly controlled the town during World War II, but after the war, in 1947, the island became part of Greece.
Ottoman Era Suleiman Mosque
Ottoman Era Aga Mosque
Fort at the entrance to the harbor of Rhodes
Entrance to the harbor of Rhodes at dawn
Street Scene. No private cars are allowed in the Old Town. Most streets are not wide enough for them anyhow.
Street Scene
Street Scene
Street Scene
Many of the streets are paved with sea pebbles.
You might think the uneven surface of sea-pebble paved streets and walkways would provide firm footing. Actually, centuries of use have worn the pebbles as smooth as glass and in the morning when they are wet with dew or after a rain they are quite treacherous to walk on.
Street Scene
Street Scene
In the summer  Rhodes is one of party capitals of the Eastern Mediterranean, as hinted at by this graffiti on a park bench. 
There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of bars, nightclubs, and discos in Rhodes Old Town, but most of them are closed in wintertime. This place remains open all night for local worshipers of Dionysus, the current God of choice in Rhodes. When I went out for coffee at six in the morning there were still gangs of local women hanging around out front. Most sported multiple body piercings and some were festooned with chains. At the Open/24/7 bakery where I breakfasted on coffee and chocolate croissants the baker on duty often offered me a complimentary shot of Ouzo from his personal bottle he kept behind the counter. He said it was the Greek way to start the day.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Greece | Island of Rhodes | Rhodes Old Town | Old Town Walls

The wall build around the Old Town of Rhodes by the Knights Hospitaller is about 1.8 miles in circumference. There are eleven gates in the wall. 
Old Town Wall (click on image for enlargements)
One of the Gates in the Wall
One of the Gates in the Wall
One of the Gates in the Wall
One of the Gates in the Wall
Detail of the Gate
One of the Gates in the Wall
Detail of the Gate
One of the Gates in the Wall
One of the Gates in the Wall
Detail of the Gate
Wall on the seaward side
Fortification built into the wall
Fortification built into the wall
Fortification built into the wall
The outer wall to right, in from of the higher outer wall
A section of the outer wall
Inner wall on right
The outer wall to right, in front of the higher outer wall
One of the bastions in the wall
Stone cannonballs left from over various sieges of Rhodes by the Ottoman Turks. The city was finally seized by the Ottomans in 1522. 
Turkish cannonballs

Friday, June 10, 2016

Greece | Rhodes Island | Rhodes Old Town | Knight Hospitaller

From Chania On The Island Of Crete I wandered over to the island of Rhodes. The town of Rhodes was of course the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller from 1309 to 1522, when they were displaced by the Ottoman Turks under Suleiman the Magnificent.
 Crete at the bottom of the map. Rhodes is the easternmost of the white (Greek) islands, with the town of Rhodes at the northern end (click on images for enlargements).
The old town is essentially the part of the town lying inside the mammoth walls built by the Knights Hospitaller. The modern town of Rhodes lies outside the old city walls. 
Modern city to the north and south of Rhodes Old Town, shown here in dark yellow

 Old Town of Rhodes showing the Hospitaller walls in brown.

Main street of the Rhodes Old Town. Rhodes is primarily a summer resort. In the winter most of the stores and restaurants serving tourists are closed and the town is very quiet.
 Same street in summertime; obviously a different scene (not my photo)
Main Square of Rhodes Old Town
Ipoton Street, or the Street of Knights, leading to the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller. On either side of the street were lodges which hosted members of the Knights Hospitaller from various European countries. Prominent were the French and English.
Another view of the Street of Knights
Entrance to the Castle of Knights, which was the headquarter of the Knights Hospitaller and the home of their Grand Master. Parts of the castle was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in the nineteenth century. It was rebuilt in the twentieth century. The entryway with its two towers, however, reportedly dates back to the original building.
Another view of the entrance to the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller.
Another view of the entrance to the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller
Courtyard of the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller
Arcade of the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller
 Backside of the Castle of the Knights Hospitaller
View of Castle of the Knights Hospitaller from the back
My quarters in Rhodes Old Town. Oddly enough, the hotel appeared to be run by a Chinese woman in her early twenties. It was certainly an accommodating place. My room even had  complimentary ground coffee and a French press.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Turkey | Nusaybin | White Water | Beyazsu | Fish Restuarant

After visiting Nusaybin and the Church of St. Jacob on the Turkish-Syrian border we stopped at one of the famous fish restaurants on the Beyazsu (White Water) River north of  the city.
Most of the restaurants on the Beyazu grow their own trout in water tanks fed by the Beyazsu River (click on image for enlargements).
Trout in the tanks. After you order they are netted and prepared for the table.
Most of the restaurants feature river-side dining.
River-side tables
River-side tables
River-side table where we dined
You might think this place was just for show and that the food would be an afterthought, but not so. This was one of the better restaurant meals I have had in years. Actually we ordered the Kurdish equivalent of Surf-n-Turf. The lamb kabobs are not shown here.

Turkey | Nusaybin | Conflict

Back in the Spring of 2014 I visited Nusaybin On The Turkish-Syrian BorderNusaybin is the modern Turkish name of the city. Most of the residents of the city, however, are either Kurds, Syriacs (also known as Chaldeans, Assyrians, or Arameans, not to be confused with Syrians) or Arabs. The Kurdish name for the city is Nisêbîn. During Roman and Byzantine times the city was known as Nisibis. I was in town to visit the Church of St. Jacob and the ruins of the old School of Nisibis, which local boosters and Others try to claim was the world’s first university. It might well have been the first university in what is now Turkey. It was founded by St. Jacob in the first half of the fourth century A.D. Jacob (d. 338) had been appointed bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis in 309. In addition to founding the university, he also, according to local sources, built the church which still stands near the ruins of the School of Nisibis. Jacob was one of the signatories at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. If you are a Christian and attend Christian services you will probably at some point repeat at least part of the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea. St. Jacob was also the first Christian to search for Noah’s Ark. He claimed he found a piece of the Ark on Mt. Judi, about seventy miles north of Nisibis. What eventually happened to this alleged relic is unknown.
 Coffin of St. Jacob in the catacombs beneath the Church of St. Jacob in Nusaybin (click on image for enlargements)
Back then the town was pretty peaceful. The only sign of civil war just across the border in Syria was the almost totally empty square next to the border crossing. Normally, I was told, the square would be full of traders from the Syrian town of Qamishli, just across the border, buying and selling goods.

Now comes the sad news that 496 people were killed in Nusaybin during clashes between the Turkish military and alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). See Turkey Says It Ended Some Military Operations Against PKK. The Kurds who took me to Nusaybin had relatives in the city, whom we met while we were there. I can only hope that they were not somehow caught up in this conflict. 
Kurdish coffee sellers in the Nusaybin market