The Dodecanese islands are located in the southeast part of the Aegean Sea and consist of twelve major islands and a number of smaller islands. Some of them are located at the border to Turkey. They have everything to offer to the visitors: whitewashed houses, beautiful beaches with crystal waters, charming villages, exciting nightlife and more.
Rhodes. One of Greece’s many highlights, the island of Rhodes, has both incredible beauty and interesting history to share with its visitors. The largest of the Dodecanese island group, Rhodes has several beaches from which you can enjoy the sea. One is covered with small pebbles in place of sand, but the magnificence of the royal blue water is obvious regardless of the composition of the beach. Rhodes receives over 300 days of sunshine a year, which makes you appreciate the crisp coldness of the Aegean even more.
After the fall and fragmentation of Alexander the Great’s Empire of Macedonia, the island of Rhodes fought for its freedom and after a long siege, triumphed in 305 BC. It was during this period that the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was constructed and straddled the harbour. This impressive giant statue was demolished during an earthquake. Because of its strategic position (on the crossroads between East and West) Rhodes has been under constant attacks and dominations from early times. This continued even up to WWII when the Germans took it over for a short period, followed by the English who maintained their rule until 1948. At that time the island of Rhodes (and all the islands of the Dodecanese) was united to the newly built Greek State.
Today pottery is Rhodes’ craft and tours of factories are available. You can see how the pieces are created from start to finish, including the painting of the finished product by talented artists. Pottery is for sale all over the island, but the factories have the best selection. Some of the most beautiful pieces have colored porcelain baked onto the clay in flowery designs.
The city of Lindos on Rhodes is built around an Acropolis. Square white houses set amidst abundant greenery line the lower portion of the rock projection. Although the Acropolis of Lindos is not as high as Athens, its grandeur is enhanced by its extraordinary setting above the Aegean Sea. At the bottom, a white sandy bay greets the blue water with a spattering of umbrellas. There is seldom an empty space on the fine sand, the tourists come early and stay late. It’s quite easy to walk to the top of the Acropolis, but there is also a more adventurous way to ascend to the island’s highest point – by donkey. You might assume that this would require a lot less effort in the blazing sunshine, but you will expend more energy praying for your life and gripping the makeshift saddle. Donkeys are not the most graceful walkers and you will be constantly bumped from side to side. They also have a tendency to walk wherever they like and this includes walking awfully close to the precipitous edge where you will be sure you are going to go tumbling off the Acropolis into the clear blue water at any moment. Fortunately they are not suicidal, so don’t make any sudden shifts of your weight that would throw them off balance and all will be well.
Whichever way you get to the top, you’ll be astounded by the view. The color of the water is mesmerizing. In one direction, a long beach stretches on for miles. The water that meets the sand is almost white and then abruptly changes to a richer, dark blue as the depth of the sea increases. In another direction, tiny pieces of land form mini islands in the turquoise water.
The ruins on the Acropolis of Lindos easily rival that of Athens. Dating back to 2000 B.C., what remains is a mix of Byzantine, Turkish and Frankish ruins. The majority of the summit’s floor is a mix of rock and dry grass. Stone stairs lead to one of the Acropolis’ highest structures of which only three tall columns still stand. The front two columns support two stone blocks stacked on top of one another.
Farther along, the ground has been paved and a concrete platform makes for easier walking. Remains of another building stand here, the front and back each consisting of four supported pillars. Stacked stones compose what is left of the walls, although they are in the process of being restored. From here you can see the Bay of Lindos and the water is so clear that you can easily make out the bottom of the sea.
Patmos. Another popular cruise ship stop is the Holy Island of Patmos. The northernmost island of the Dodecanese group, Patmos is a place of pilgrimage for many Christians due to its religious history.
At the summit of the small island lies the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. If you have the time, climb up the steep road that coils its way up to the monastery. It’s a fairly long hike, but worth the effort as you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of Patmos and its numerous bays and coves. Buses and taxis also make frequent runs to the top of the hill.
The monastery itself is built within a fortress and its gray buttressed walls retain their strength even today. From the outside, it looks more like a castle than a monastery. Built 900 years ago, the monastery is constructed mainly out of gray stone. A cement pathway on the pebbled ground leads inside to an open-air courtyard. The rusting stone is stacked into arches and the positioning of the monastery on the highest point of the island means that all you can see when you look up is the clear blue sky.
One of the covered archways is decorated with scenes of a religious nature. The frescoes of saints and churches are precise to the smallest detail and their color endures. The monastery’s church is decorated with even more remarkable frescoes. Gold embellishment and exquisite wood carvings throughout the church emphasize the importance of this section of the monastery.
A small museum on the site houses sacred treasures such as intricately decorated manuscripts. It is also possible to see aged embroidered religious garments, jewelry and mosaics.
Another notably sacred place on Patmos is the Grotto of the Apocalypse. Just down the hill from the monastery lies the cave where it is believed St. John experienced his divine revelation. Watch your step here; the stairs are steep and the rock is slippery. Inside the cave, a worn stone ledge comprises the desk where St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. A smaller ledge served as his pillow. Three fractures in the stone roof mark the spot where God’s voice reached through to St. John. The triple crack both symbolizes and honors the Holy Trinity.