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Rhodes - Central Rhodes and the three mountains - Around mount Profilitis Elias

Around Mount Prophitis Elias
The curious, semi-abandoned hill-top village of Eleousa (37.5km from Rhodes ), created by the Italians as the ‘Campochiaro Agricultural Settlement’ in 1935, at the eastern end of Mount Prophiis Eli­as can be reached either from the west coast at Soroni­ (25km from Rhodes ) via the monastery chapel and spring of Aghios Soulas, or from the junction (22km) on the main east-coast road south of Afandou, via Archipolis. Either approach leads through particularly rich agricultural lands.
   By a series of scarcely-veiled laws of expropriation passed between 1924 and 1929, the Italians systematically transferred the island’s agricultural production from the local Greek population to Italian settlers, and brand-new settlements were created here and at other points on the island.

‘Campochiaro’, as it was called then, was designed from scratch by Rodolfo Petracco and Armando Bernabiti in 1935/6, with less felicitous outcome than the project for Porto Lago on Leros on which they also worked together. Roads wind up to the main hippodrome-shaped piazza which stretches between the Church and the School at opposite ends. To either side are the settlement’s administration buildings with their characteristic ‘submerged’ arcades and, at times capricious, architectural juxtapositions. These are not unattractive creations, and they use the same design vocabulary as the architects’ other buildings in the city; but they remain fundamentally divorced from the rural land scape around. After the Italians left, the Greeks re-named the settlement after an attribute of the Virgin, ‘eleousa’— ‘compassionate’: they returned to the cultivation of the land and abandoned the ostentatious buildings to the ruin of time. An unreal atmosphere prevails, relieved and rendered elegiac by the shade of the now mature umbrella pines and palm trees.
   The road west along the mountain ridge passes at the edge of the settlement of Eleousa an unexpectedly large fountain pool (originally also used for swimming) designed by the Italian architects for a rising spring of water. Its simple, low circularity is of considerable elegance.

Two kilometres to the west, beside another *spring of remarkably soft water, is the characterful *church of Aghios Nikolaos ‘Foundoukli’ (‘of the hazelnut’), beautiful both in itself and in its panoramic and bucolic site.

This is a domed 14th century votive chapel built on a Greek cross plan which has been extended with apses to give the impression of a quatrefoil. It measures no more than 8 m x 8 m and is surmounted by an attractively arcaded cupola decorated with knotted pilasters and a belfry above the west door. Unusually, there are doors also to north and south, as though the building were a baptistery. Its design makes it a rural cousin of St George in the Old City—with rough er masonry and less gracious proportions, but with great charm nonetheless. The space created within and the form from without are both captivating. Unlike St George it preserves, almost complete, the cycle of wall-paintings of its interior which were executed perhaps a century or more after the church’s construction: an earlier layer may lie beneath. The dome, which was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century, no longer has its Pantocrator figure; but virtually every other surface is covered—from the Evangelists in the squinches, down through the Scenes of the Life and Passion of Christ, to the row of saints who stand at ground-level here and with whom one has the pleasing sensation of mixing at ease in the small space. The narrative scenes are conceived with clarity and liveliness and show slight Italian influence. Beside the west door is the dedicatory scene with the donors and their family presenting a model of the church to Christ.

The continuation of the beautifully wooded road to the west (right hand branch after 1.5km) leads towards the summit of Prophiis Eli­as. At 6km from Aghios Nikolaos, are two more unexpected curiosities of the Italian occupation: in a Tyrolean chalet-style of architecture, are two hotel buildings—the main, Elafos (‘Stag’) Hotel (1928) and the Elafi­na (‘Doe’) (1930) designed by Rodolfo Petracco to provide a place of recreation, or ‘villeggiatura’, for the Italian settlers who were far from, and nostalgic for, a week-end in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Other buildings in similar style are to be found on the mountain further to the west. Just to the east of the Elafos Hotel is the small, whitewashed monastery of the Prophet Elijah. Of all the island’s mountains, Prophiis Eli­as has per haps the richest flora. Its mature woods of pine and cy press are favoured by drifts of wild flowers in the clears—large quantities of cyclamen, in particular—an endemic, Rhodian Cyclamen repandum rhodense, and Cyclamen persicum. This area is also home to the beautiful wild peony with wide, enamel-white flowers formed of few petals, and with gold-yellow stamens, often touched with scarlet at the very centre. This is a Rhodian subspecies (rhodia) of the Paeonia clusii found otherwise only on Crete and Karpathos. The flower (March/April) has a light cinnamon perfume. Wild orchids of many varieties are also prolific. Much rarer and harder to see is the endemic, delicate yellow, Rhodian fritillary. Both common and long-legged buzzard (the latter, distinguished by its ruddier hue and a tail with no markings on the under side) are resident year round and are often seen hunting from the sky. To north and south, respectively, of the ridge are the two attractive villages of Salakos (31km)—where there are abundant springs, two Byzantine churches of the 14th and 15th centuries and the remains of a fortress—and Apollona (44km), reached by a panoramic descent of the south side of the mountain. There is a small museum in the centre of the latter, exhibiting domestic artefacts, folk art and a selection of ancient pieces—sarcophagi and al tars decorated with garlands and bucrania. A section of Byzantine wall stands in the forecourt, which was part of a destroyed church. A long and deeply rural road (18km, un-surfaced) leads through uninhabited valleys, densely wooded with Calabrian pine, due south from Apollona to Laerma (63km). Both villages, as well as the monastery of Artamii to the west of their mid-point, and the town of Asklipiei­o to the south, have names probably relating to the cults of the ancient gods: Apollo, Hermes, Artemis and Asklepios. ‘Laerma’ (‘Ladarma’) is thought to represent a corruption of ‘laos Ermi­s’ (‘people of Hermes’). Empty though this landscape has always been, the tutelary deities watched over it from all sides.


Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


access

Rhodes Island, Greece.

By air: With a total of 6–7 daily flights from Athens to Rhodes operated by both Olympic Air and Aegean Airways, Rhodes is easily accessible at all times of year. Its airport is also the hub for local flights within the area to Kastellorizo, Karpathos and Kasos (almost daily), and to Kos, Leros and Astypalaia (three times weekly). There are also daily connections direct to Thessaloniki and to Heraklion (Crete). The airport is 15km southwest of the centre of Rhodes town (€15 by taxi).
By boat: The port of Rhodes is also the principal hub for the Dodecanese Islands, with daily connections to all the principal islands, though the frequency of connections to the lesser islands varies considerably according to season (see entries for individual islands). There are year-round, direct connections by car-ferry to Piraeus (c. 16 hours) every day; and connections to eastern Crete twice weekly. In the holiday season, there are also daily connections (by private carriers) to Marmaris in Turkey. Since the port is large and has several harbours, it is important to ascertain from which part of it a ferry will leave.
The neighbouring island of Chalki is served twice weekly from Rhodes town, but there is a daily service from Kameiros Skala (2 hours). The GNTO office in the New Town (corner of Makariou and Papagou Streets, T. 22410 44335) provides helpful sheets with weekly boat departures, museum opening times, a price-list for taxis and schedules of bus times and fares for the whole island. Its web-site is: www.ando.gr/eot

Rhodes Travel Guide

eating

Rhodes Island, Greece.

Rhodes offers some of the best and most varied eating possibilities in the Aegean— although in the city itself, the visitor will need to explore outside the Old Town to sample the best Greek food. Within the walls of the Old Town, unimaginative and often overpriced tourist-fare prevails; we would suggest only: the -Marco Polo (see lodging, above); Dinoris Restaurant (upper medium price) in a tiny alley across from the entrance to the Archaeological Museum— an elegant and traditional taverna of long standing, one of the few in the Old Town regularly frequented by locals; Photis Restaurant (expensive; open all year) in Menekléous Street—also an elegant and well-established fish restaurant, where the undoubted high quality and presentation of its dishes compensates for the hauteur of the reception and service. At lunchtime, -Indigo (medium price), inside the Nea Agorá market building (at no.105/6) beside Mandraki harbour, offers delicious, finely prepared dishes from the cuisine of Greek Asia Minor. Further afield (but without question worth the short taxi-ride) in Zephyros, southeast of the city centre, is the -Paragadi fish restaurant (medium expensive; corner of Klaude Pepper & Australias Streets: reservation recommended, T. 22410 37775) with an exceptional quality of service and of seafood and fish dishes, prepared in the best and simplest manner. This is one of the best fish restaurants in the Dodecanese. Nearby, open all year, and usually packed with locals, is To Steki tou Cheila (inexpensive) at the southern end of Kodringtonou St., on the corner of Hadjiangelou and Dendrinou Sts: the symiakó (tiny shrimps) and the wine are both fresh and delicious.
Around the island: Mavrikos in Lindos (expensive; reservations, T. 22440 31232) is a fine and justly famous restaurant with pleasing setting, serving many homemade products. The excellent and panoramic -To Limeri tou Listí ("The robber"s den") in Prophilía (T. 22440 61578) in the central south of the island, certainly merits the long journey and represents one of the best places to eat on the island: it has imaginatively and care fully prepared traditional dishes of the highest standard, e.g. a light and unforgettable imam bayaldı. Nearby, Petrino in the picturesque plateia of Váti, is a good country taverna with fresh and unaffected cuisine.

Rhodes Travel Guide

further reading

Rhodes Island, Greece.

Cecil Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times and Rhodes in Modern Times (first published by CUP in 1885, both now re-issued by Archaeopress ‘3rd guides’, Oxford); Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (Faber & Faber, London, 1953); H.J.A Sire, The Knights of Malta (Yale, London & New Haven, 1994); Vassilis Colonas, Italian Architecture in the Dodecanese Islands, 1912–1943 (Olkos Press, Athens, 2002); Elias Kollias, The Mediaeval City of Rhodes etc.,(Ministry of Culture, Athens, 1998).

Rhodes Travel Guide

lodging

Rhodes Island, Greece.

The most beautiful and characterful place to stay in the Old Town of Rhodes is the -Hotel Marco Polo (T./fax 22410 25562, www. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; open May–late Oct) at 42 Aghiou Phanaríou Street, not far from where it joins (the main) Sokrátous Street at the Mehmet Agha Mosque. With architecturally fine rooms of great individuality, and the thoughtful and friendly service that goes with private ownership, this is a memorable place either to stay or just to dine on its imaginative, traditional food in the peace and quiet of a mediaeval walled-garden. Elegant, modern luxury at a higher price, in an enviable location just off the Street of the Knights, is offered by the newly opened -Avalon Boutique Hotel (T./ fax 22410 31438/31439, www.avalonRhodes .gr), which is open all year round. The Old Town also has many small and characterful pensions: worthy of mention are, The Apollo Guesthouse (T. 22410 32003, www.apollo-touristhouse.com) and Hotel Andreas (T. 22410 34156, fax 74285, www.hotelandreas.com), at 28c and 28d Omírou Street respec tively (contiguous, but under separate management) not far from the St John/Koski nou Gate, and overlooking the ancient church of Aghia Kyriaki. Both are relatively inexpensive, and inhabit interesting buildings; the rooms are comfortable, but small. At Ippodámou Street, 61, is the delightful S. Nikolis Hotel (T. 22410 34561, fax 32034, www.s-nikolis.gr). These last three close between late October and the week before Easter. In the winter season, the New Town has a number of hotels which are open year-round and offer more conventional services and convenience. Comfort able and satisfactory, without being too big or expensive, is the A-class Hotel Mediterranean (T. 22410 24661, fax 22828, www.mediterranean. gr), opposite the Casino at 35 Kos Street; most rooms have good sea-views. Exceptional value year-round is represented by the Esperia Hotel (T. 22410 23941–4) at 7 Griva Street which is warm, pleasant and strictly functional: the pool-side rooms are quietest.

Rhodes Travel Guide

practical info

Rhodes Island, Greece.

851 00-09 Rhodes : area 1,401sq. km; perimeter 220km; resident population 115,334; max. altitude 1,216m. Port Authority: 22410 22220, 28888, 28666. Travel and information: www.travel-Rhodes .com

Rhodes Travel Guide

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