The Dodecanese Islands
A long and loose string of islands in Greece that roughly follow the coastline of Turkey in the south east Aegean Sea, says Wikipedia. Dodecanese means 12, but there are arguably 15 of them in reality, plus roughly 150 islets. This is the sunniest corner of one of the sunniest countries in the world. The Dodecanese are known for their archaeology: ancient sites, medieval castles, Byzantine churches,. And beaches of course.
- Rhodes is the largest of Greece’s Dodecanese islands,
- It was Easter, the weather was almost warm enough to sunbathe on the glorious beaches, but not quite...
- We explored fascinating Rhodes Town, with its ancient ruins and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. The Old Town features the medieval Street of the Knights and the castle-like Palace of the Grand Masters. There's an immaculate Medusa mosaic ,originally found in the temple at Kos. Rhodes Town is bursting with churches, columns, authentic cafes and little bakeries, octopus grilling on the quay, the tentacles dangling out of the pans
- I searched fruitlessly for signs of The Colossus of Rhodes, a huge bronze statue of the Greek sun-god Helios, that was erected at the harbour entrance 280 BC and quickly became known as the one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. It was toppled by an earthquake only 50 years later and disintegrated into fragments. There are ongoing rumours that it will be rebuilt but it won't be from the original metal, which apparently was recovered and melted down.
- Lindos is a beautiful whitewashed fishing village with a gorgeous beach and an acropolis on the clifftop. There are monumental 4th-century gates, temples and the 14th-century Castle of the Knights of St. John.
- We drove round the island and up a precipitous mountain road, it seemed like a vertical ascent, to a tiny monastery. The old monastery of Tsambika has breathtaking views over the beaches below and across to Lindos. The scary road only goes half way up. after that you you have to walk up e 350 steps. Uptop, a tiny, Byzantine church, dedicated to the Virgin. Legend has it that women having difficulties conceiving a baby must climb the hill barefoot to pray to the Virgin for fertility. apparently it works. but you have to name your child after the monastery in return.
- We made a side trip by ferry from Rhodes, to the tiny but stunning island of Symi.
- It has an utterly charming harbour with its colourful neoclassical houses and tiny fish restaurants; the sponge capital of Greece. This has to be one of the most photographed spots in Greece.
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- Kos is the third largest island of the Dodecanese by area, after Rhodes and Karpathos, but the second most populous.
- The weather was sizzling hot and Kos was crowded. This is definitely a holiday island. There are plenty of sandy beaches. And I inadvertently booked into the the most touristy part of the island, the seaside village of Kardamena. It's an all too popular resort for young holidaymakers from the United Kingdom and Scandinavia and is rammed with bars and nightclubs.
- Kos is rich with Greek and Roman landmarks, particularly in and around Kos Town. This harbour town is dominated by the 15th-century Neratzia Castle. Then there are the Ancient Agora ruins, with a temple, shrine and columns. and a third century Roman villa complete with mosaics.
- Kos is volcanic, but there are no dramatic landscapes here. Just Therma, or Bubble Beach, near Kos Town, where the bay is fed by hot springs.
- There weren’t so many olive groves as Cephalonia, but...
- There was a lot of retsina, which tastes good cold out of the barrels (honest) and
- I acquired a taste for saganaki (fried cheese) - delicious, though it squeaks in your mouth when you eat it.
- And a side trip from Kos to Nisyros, one of Greece's four volcanic islands, and one of two in the Dodecanese, along with Kos.(The others are Santorini and Milos).
- The boat went from busy Kardamena to the (small) but pretty (with the usual blue and white cuboids) main town and port of Nisyros, Mandraki. Like Milos, Nisyros is less dependent on tourists because of its deposits of perlite and pumice. The island used to be self-sufficient, and many crops were grown on its terraced slopes. Today, though, they are cultivated on a smaller scale.
- Nisyros, of course, was once part of Kos. According to Greek mythology, the island was formed when Poseidon cut off a chunk and threw it onto the giant Polybotes to stop him from escaping.
- The circular island is of course, the volcano. The caldera is huge, nearly two miles across, and whilst the volcano is deemed to be dormant (the last eruption was a steam explosion in 1888), there are still plenty of fumaroles spewing forth sulphurous streams.