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Kamiros (Kameiros) was an ancient city on the island of Rhodes, the ruins of which include an acropolis. Excavations have revealed a long a diverse history at Kamiros including a temple to Athena dating to the 8th century BC.
Twice destroyed by earthquakes (in 226BC and 142BC), the main remains at Kamiros date to the Hellenistic period, although some Classical elements are also visible. The Hellenistic city was built on three levels with various buildings and monuments including an agora, a Doric fountain house, a reservoir and a stoa.
Located on Rhodes’s north-western coast, the other side of the island from the more popular beaches, Kamiros is well worth a visit. It is easily accessible by car and less crowded than the better-known acropolis of Lindos. Unlike Lindos, the ancient city of Kamiros has not been overlaid by a modern town, so its geography remains visible to the visitor.
The acropolis commands fabulous views across the sea to the coast of Turkey, and below it is, reasonably well preserved, the remains of a town with all its ancient conveniences. If you have a car, and are prepared to explore the less touristy side of the island, you will see stunning countryside, including Rhodes’s highest mountain, looming at over 1000m, and the Island’s own wine producing region, Embonas.
Kamiros was one of the three great ancient cities of Rhodes that reached its heyday in the 6th and 5th Century BC, thanks to its developed agricultural economy. The ruins of the city and neighbouring necropolis were uncovered in 1859 in what had over the centuries, become a wooded area. Its grand public buildings, the Agora, temples, private residences and the Acropolis at the hilltop, witness the glamour and wealth of ancient Kamiros.
In the aftermath of the foundation of the City of Rhodes in 408 BC, Kamiros started to decline, although it remained inhabited until the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Kamiros was the home of the great poets Peisandros and Anaxandrides. It is a very important archaeological site, as the ancient village is preserved in excellent condition.
The remains of the enclosure and the pavilion of a temple of the goddess Athena Kamirada were found in the acropolis of Kamiros. The city’s sewer system and a large water cistern have been preserved. Kamiros was built in tiers. Its houses belong to the Late Hellenistic and Roman times.
Important findings from the area now adorn the collections of the British Museum and the Louvre, while only a few, such as the famous headstone of Krito and Timarista, from the end of the 5th century BC, are found in the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.
Acropolis and Temple of Athena Kameiras (Level 1 - top of the hill)The temple of Athina: The remains of the temple of Athina. Only its foundation has survived, was a tetrastyle peripteral with porticos on all four sides, was surrounded by a peribolos. The Hellenistic Stoa: The remains of the two rows of Doric columns of the Hellenistic Stoa. The Stoa had the shape of the Greek letter Π and was 200 meter / 700 feet long. The Archaic Cistern: (Water Reservoir). A rectangular construction lined with plaster. Terra-cotta pipes and two apertures with stone covers on the bottom served to carry the water to the settlement. The Archaic Cistern: (Water Reservoir). It had a capacity sufficient for 300-400 families.Steps on the sides facilitated access to clean the reservoir, which was covered. It dates to the 6th-5th c. BC.
Rhode's ancient and medieval monuments tell the story of an island prized by all.
Rhodes is one of the most enchanting Greek destinations that visitors today can select. On this singular island, one comes face to face with Greece’s more recent past, where the most appropriate start to every “story” told by a medieval tower, a soaring minaret, a crenellated wall or an arched gateway marked with a heraldic emblem seems to be “Once upon a time in Rhodes…” Not every architectural or archaeological trace reveals a perfect, fairytale existence, but these contrasts make our understanding even more realistic.
All around are signs of the Rhodians’ struggles with war, their need for constant vigilance and the relentless passage of time. Simultaneously, strength, prosperity, elegant foreign influence and far-reaching Rhodian authority are also evident.
This is a strategically located, resource-rich island whose landscape and urban architecture remain criss-crossed with the vestiges of multiple cultures – from trade-bent Minoans and Mycenaeans in the Bronze Age, through despotic Persians in the Classical era, to the covetous empires of the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottomans and even modern-day, pre-WWII Italians.
Rhodes was not always subject to outside powers, however: after freeing itself from the grip of Athens, which had dominated the Aegean in the 5th c. BC, and prior to the encroachment of the Romans, Rhodes reached an extraordinary zenith during Hellenistic times (4th-2nd c. BC). It became an autonomous maritime giant that essentially ruled the seas in the Eastern Mediterranean through its enormous fleet of merchant ships and widely respected code of maritime laws.
Relief of a “triimiolia,” a symbol of Rhodian naval power, carved in 180 BC by the famous sculptor Pythokritos into a rock face at the base of the acropolis of Lindos. The triimiolia was a typical type ofRhodian warship of the era, which combined the qualities of a trireme with a schooner (hemiolia)
Everywhere one looks, whether at the fortified port of Rhodes Town or among the age-old settlements, castles and watchtowers that ring the coasts, Rhodes’ timeless relationship with the sea is clear.
Naturally, as an island, Rhodes was first occupied by seafarers: Neolithic travelers of the 6th millennium BC, who brought with them, or acquired locally through seaborne trade, volcanic obsidian and other foreign goods from neighboring islands or mainland areas both near and far. Typical of Rhodes’ Stone-Age sites are the rock shelters of the northeastern Kalythies region, including Erimokastro Cave, where archaeologists uncovered the fossilized bones of dwarf elephants.
Aghios Georgios Cave (5300 BC-4000/3700 BC) contained bone or chipped-stone tools and stone grinders used for harvesting and processing cereals, meat and other foodstuffs. Also found were mollusc shells the bones of fish, wild fauna (deer, hares, foxes, birds) and domesticated animals (sheep, goats, cattle, pigs) ceramic bowls and spindle whorls for weaving.
Altogether, it seems the earliest Rhodians were farmers, fishermen, hunters and craftsmen who migrated around the island depending on the season and availability of food resources.
The Rise of Cities
From earliest times, people settled mostly in northern Rhodes and along its eastern shores – a general pattern that continued throughout the island’s history. The first proto-urban settlement was Asomatos (2400/2300 BC-2050/1950 BC), a northwestern, Early Bronze Age coastal site, where small and large buildings, some with hearths and storage rooms, covered an area of only about 100 square meters.
During the Late Bronze Age, as Minoan and Mycenaean immigrants arrived, larger towns, referenced in Homer’s Iliad, arose at Ialysos (modern Trianda), Kamiros and Lindos, which went on to become the settings for the great Dorian-founded cities of Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Rhodes.
In 408 BC, the three principal communities joined forces to create a new city-state at Rhodes Town, which, some 2,500 years later, still remains the capital and nerve center of the island.Marble head of Helios, the Sun God, the Rhodians’ main deity. A representative work of the Rhodian Baroque style, it is particularly noteworthy for its expressiveness (2nd c. BC, Archaeological Museum of Rhodes). Marble head of Helios, the Sun God, the Rhodians’ main deity. A representative work of the Rhodian Baroque style, it is particularly noteworthy for its expressiveness (2nd c. BC, Archaeological Museum of Rhodes). The Laocoön Group, a marvelous work of Rhodian sculpture (1st c. BC-1st c. AD), which greatly influenced Michelangelo and other Renaissance sculptors. Created by three Rhodian artists, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus. The original stands in the Vatican (Pio Clementino Museum) a plaster cast is displayed in the Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes.
The Laocoön Group, a marvelous work of Rhodian sculpture (1st c. BC-1st c. AD), which greatly influenced Michelangelo and other Renaissance sculptors. Created by three Rhodian artists, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus. The original stands in the Vatican (Pio Clementino Museum) a plaster cast is displayed in the Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes.
Mythologically, Rhodes was said to have emerged from the sea as a gift from Zeus to Helios, god of the sun, whose wife, Rhodos, daughter of Poseidon, bore him seven sons. Three of Helios’ grandsons, Ialysos, Kamiros and Lindos, were the eponymous heroes of the island’s main cities. Moreover, the Telchines, semi-divine inventors of smithing, kept a workshop on Rhodes, a place praised by Pindar and widely known for its supreme artistry, especially in the sculpting of bronzes – epitomized by the legendary Colossus of Rhodes.
Pliny attributed the famous marble statue “Laocoön and His Sons” to the Rhodian artists Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus. The Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace may also have been produced by this trio, or by Pythokritos of Lindos.
Rhodes was equally famed as a center of philosophy, rhetoric and literature. Prominent philosophers and rhetors who either originated from or frequented the island included Eudemos (Rhodes) Aeschines (Athens) Panaitos (Lindos) Posidonius, Apollonius Malakos and Molon (Asia Minor). Among the well-known students attending here were Julius Caesar and Cicero.
Today, the survival and usual arrangement of Aristotle’s works are largely credited to Andronicus of Rhodes (1st c. BC). Cleobuline of Lindos (ca. 550 BC) is remembered as a philosopher, poetess and writer of riddles Apollonius Rhodius penned the epic poem Argonautica and Posidonius, the Stoic-turned-Peripatetic philosopher and one of antiquity’s greatest thinkers, also researched, taught and wrote about physics, geography, history and many other subjects.
The walled medieval Old Town is truly an impressive sight. Visitors should allow plenty of time to explore its broad avenues and narrow, labyrinthine alleys. From an ancient archaeological perspective, there are few visible in-situ remains to take in, apart from the foundations of a temple of Aphrodite (3rd c. BC), just inside the Liberty Gate, and occasional remnants of the city’s Byzantine fortifications. In its heyday, Rhodes also possessed sanctuaries of Demeter, Artemis, Asclepius, Dionysus and other deities.
A star attraction is the Archaeological Museum. From the moment you enter the courtyard of this 15th c. building – constructed by the Knights of St. John as their Hospital – you’re in another world, passing beneath vaulted ceilings, climbing stone staircases and perusing a vast arrangement of artifacts presented in numerous chambers.
Here one can see the discoveries of Italian and Greek excavations at Ialysos, Kamiros, Lindos, Rhodes Town and smaller sites: pottery, jewelry, sculpture and figurines compete for your attention with grave steles and floor mosaics depicting lively mythological figures, such as Eros on a dolphin or Bellerophon riding Pegasus about to strike Chimera.
© Clairy Moustafellou, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
Ruins at the archaeological site of Kamiros, one of the three city-states founded by the Dorian settlers of Rhodes. The people of Kamiros lived and prospered through agricultural production.
© Clairy Moustafellou, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
These latter exhibits are found in a cool, shady courtyard adorned with sculptural and architectural fragments, a tranquil fishpond and two gurgling water fountains. Adjoining this pleasant refuge are the excellent new Prehistoric Gallery, the informative Epigraphical Collection and a reconstructed 18th/19th c. Ottoman residence – all located within the former 15th c. Villaragut Mansion (now part of the museum).
Small displays of ancient artifacts and a superb series of colorful Roman mosaics – brought to Rhodes from Kos by the Italians – can also be seen in the restored Palace of the Grand Master.
West of the walled city, the ancient acropolis on Monte Smith – an enormous, mostly unexcavated archaeological preserve of some 12,000 sq.m. – is well worth a visit. There, in addition to panoramic views, one finds monuments of the 3rd and 2nd c. BC, including a restored stadium, formerly flanked by a gymnasium and library a reconstructed odeon and the Doric Temple of Apollo Pythios, partly re-erected by the Italians prior to 1943, but now encased in decaying scaffolding.
In two spots to the north are large column drums and entablature blocks marking the site of the Doric Temple of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus, protectors of the city, and an intriguing subterranean complex of interconnecting rooms carved in the bedrock (the “Nymphaia”), where ancient Rhodians worshiped. In honor of Helios, after 408 BC their principle deity, the people of Rhodes also staged a festival every four years, the Halieia, which included athletic contests in the stadium. Excavations have revealed that the Hellenistic city developed on a gridded Hippodamean plan.The ancient odeon on the hill of Monte Smith (2nd c. BC). It held about 800 people and is believed to have served as both a venue for musical events and as a place of exposition and teaching for the famous orators of Rhodes.
© VisualHellas.gr, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
The ancient odeon on the hill of Monte Smith (2nd c. BC). It held about 800 people and is believed to have served as both a venue for musical events and as a place of exposition and teaching for the famous orators of Rhodes.
© VisualHellas.gr, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
The complex of sites that composes ancient Ialysos, whose Late Bronze Age settlement was one of the most important centers in the Dodecanese, now lies largely obscured amid modern development. Rising above the coastal plain, however, stands Ialysos’ ancient acropolis on Mt Filerimos, the view from which is unsurpassed. A winding road ascends to its summit, occupied by a Doric-facaded fountain-house (4 th c. BC) an amphiprostyle Doric Temple of Athena (3rd/2nd c. BC) the ruins of an Early Christian church (5th/6th c. AD) and a Byzantine monastery chapel (10th/11th c.) a Byzantine fortress (11 th c.) the small medieval Chapel of Aghios Georgios Chostos and a reconstructed monastery of the Knights Hospitaller (14th c.), whose Gothic church has a distinctive bell tower.
Long a target of archaeological interest, Ialysos was first explored in 1868-1871 by Sir Alfred Biliotti, Britain’s vice-consul, who unearthed tombs on the hill of Moschou Vounara containing pottery and jewelry – the first known Mycenaean collection in the world, preceding even Heinrich Schliemann’s discoveries at Mycenae (1876). Subsequent early 20th-century investigations by Italian and, more recently, by Greek scholars (since 1978) have shown the Ialysos area was occupied from the Middle Bronze Age through at least Classical times.
Mt Filerimos served as a peak sanctuary, before its reoccupation in the Proto-Geometric era (from ca. 1050 BC), while settlements and cemeteries were established in its shadow. The large Late Bronze Age town, comparable to Akrotiri on Santorini, flourished ca. 1600 BC-ca. 1300 BC, serving first the Minoans, then the Mycenaeans as a major trade station and maritime gateway between the Aegean and the East. Adjacent Archaic-Classical Ialysos was home to the famous Olympic boxer Diagoras of Rhodes.
The extensive ruins of Kamiros, southwest of Ialysos, occupy a hillside overlooking the sea and the mountains of nearby Asia Minor. Although most of the remains in this grid-planned city date from Hellenistic-Roman times, with some Early Christian presence, finds of Late Bronze Age and Geometric date reveal the site was first occupied in the 14th c. BC, then resettled in the 9 th c. BC, as a hilltop shrine to Athena Kameiras.
The town thrived in the 7th-6 th c. BC, experienced a period of rebuilding after an earthquake in 226 BC, then gradually declined, abetted by another quake in 142 BC. Kamiros was known for its epic poet Peisander (ca. 648 BC), who first described Heracles wearing a lion’s skin, and as the first Rhodian city to mint its own coins (6th c. BC).
Excavations by Biliotti (1852-1864) and the Italians (from 1928) exposed three main districts: the agora, with a temple of Pythian Apollo (3rd c. BC), two sanctuaries and two public baths a rising residential zone of densely packed courtyard houses reminiscent of those in Delos, separated by narrow side streets and a broad central avenue and the triple-terraced acropolis, adorned with an unusually long (204m) Doric stoa (colonnaded, covered walkway or visitors’ hostel 3rd c. BC) and a Doric temple of Athena (3rd c. BC) installed on top of a previous Classical one. Beneath the stoa, an enormous Archaic-era reservoir was discovered that originally held 600 cubic meters of water, enough for several hundred households.The Doric Temple of Athena, constructed ca. 300 BC on the highest point of the acropolis of Lindos, in place of an earlier temple.
© Perikles Merakos, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
The Doric Temple of Athena, constructed ca. 300 BC on the highest point of the acropolis of Lindos, in place of an earlier temple.
© Perikles Merakos, Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese
The acropolis of Lindos, perhaps the most picturesque place in Rhodes, juts up from the sea, flanked by two natural harbors. The surrounding region was inhabited from earliest times, although archaeological evidence on the acropolis itself has so far only attested to use beginning in the 9th c. BC. Local worship of Athena Lindia led to the promontory’s development into a formal sanctuary, with a 6th c. BC amphiprostyle Doric temple, later rebuilt ca. 300 BC.
A monumental entranceway (propylon), installed around the same time, followed by an elegant Doric stoa, also adorned the site, while a theater with twenty-six tiers of seats can be seen carved into the hill’s western slope. At the foot of the steep Hellenistic staircase accessing the citadel gate, a relief sculpted on the face of the vertical rock by the renowned Pythokritos (early 2nd c. BC) depicts an ancient triimiolia and recalls the Lindians’ former maritime might.
Roman remains on the acropolis include the Ionic Stoa of Psythiros (2 nd c. AD) and a Diocletian-era temple (late 3rd c. AD). Lindos’ military defenses date from at least the Hellenistic era, but were augmented first by the Byzantines and then by the Knights Hospitaller, who strengthened the castle on the rock with crenellated walls and four large towers (14th c.). Caves, elaborate family tombs and other sites around the acropolis were reused for numerous Early Christian and Byzantine churches.
Excavations at Lindos were initially conducted by Danish archaeologists (1902-1905), which the Italians continued prior to WWII, along with extensive restorations. Less ambitious but more accurate restorations have more recently been carried out by Greek cultural authorities (1985-2008).
Around the Coasts
Although many visitors choose to concentrate on Rhodes’ main historical sites, a tour around the island’s coast, taking in the enormous array of other significant scenic remains, is well worth consideration. Most evocative are the ruined castles, usually perched on precipitous crags, including those of Kritinia, Monolithos, Asklipio and Farakleos. The Rhodian countryside is diverse and impressive, with historic spots lying around every bend, often signposted with intriguing labels such as the “Old Silk Factory” east of Kattavia.
The southern end of the island is another world: open, relatively quiet and featuring one of the largest sand beaches imaginable, connecting Prasonisi Islet to the Rhodian mainland. Just beside it, the fortified settlement of Vroulia (7th-6th c. BC), made visitor-friendly with EU funding, lies near-forgotten, awaiting further governmental support before opening to the public. On the east coast, the mountaintop 16th c. monastery of Tsampika, with its panoramic view of the Rhodian sea, is also well worth the trip.
Destinations: Ancient Kamiros
Kamiros is a destination for history and archeology lovers, 32km far from the city of Rhodes. The district of Kamiros contains the ruins of the Hellenistic city of Kamiros(founded around 3rd BC century), which created together with the ancient Ialyssos and Lindos the great city-state of Rhodes, founded by Dorians in the 10th century BC. The site runs dramatically down to a cliff that overhangs the sea. High on the rise are the columns of its acropolis, Temple of Athena Kameirados threading underground are the 3.500-year-old water systems many floors and walls of ancient houses.
It is known that the earthquake of 226 BC destroyed the Classical city and probably the Classical temple of Athena Kameiras. Later the earthquake of 142 BC destroyed the city for the second time. The ancient Kamiros was mainly excavated during the Italian occupation between 1912 – 1943. A lot of discoveries of ancient Kamiros are now in the Louvre, the British Museum and the Archeological Museum of Rhodes.
Ancient Kamiros & Filerimos | RHR9
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In 1929, ancient graves were unintentionally uncovered along the concave slope that once housed Kamiros. Thus the ancient city was discovered, and excavations began. The lower section of the ruins boasted what has been regarded as one of the finest examples of an ancient Greek neighborhood, while the upper half of the town was dominated by the city’s impressive acropolis. The 6 th century B.C. cistern that occupies the highest point of the town and the remains of the Athena Kamiros temple are amongst the city’s most notable highlights. Head to the striking 3 rd century stoa located behind the cistern for unparalleled panoramic views of the ruins.
A Magical Getaway to the Aegean Island of Halki
The stunning port of Halki. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
Far from the frantic daily life of today’s cities, Halki is a haven of peace and natural remedy for anxiety. Rarely will you see a car circulating other than the local bus. Its emerald waters, its incomparable picturesqueness, the idyllic beaches, the combination of mountain and sea, its history and culture are unique features.
It was afternoon when we entered the port of Halki leaving just behind us the two small islands of Nisos and Krevvati. In the background, the settlement of Nimborios, built amphitheatrically on the foot of a hill, resembled a painting in pastel shades as the sun made its last attempts to dive in the port. At the top of the hill the three windmills in a row seemed to pose ostentatiously like ornaments.
You can reach Halki by a local boat from Kamiros, the cove located at the western end of Rhodes. This trip is quite short since only 6 km of sea separate the two islands. Itineraries run several times a day. A big sailing boat, dominated like a huge sea whale in the small bay with its sails lowered. I had never seen anything like that before. As we passed it, I managed to read its name: ‘Maltese Falcon’. Its three huge vertical masts supported many horizontal antennas. This whole metal complex was gilded as it intersected with the rays of the afternoon sun.
Out of curiosity, I later googled and learned that it is considered one of the most iconic state-of-the-art and luxurious superyachts. It is 88m long and can cross the Atlantic in ten days. Its open sails have an area of 2400 square meters while its three autonomous and rotating masts are 58 meters high each. Its owner is Elena Ambrosiadou, Hedge-fund manager of IKOS Asset Management, in Cyprus.
The stunningly vivid colors which adorn the remote island of Halki. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
Approaching closer to the port, the two-story, 19th-century mansions of the old spongers were clearly visible. The houses were lined up along the harbor and their ceramic-tiled roofs and wooden elongated rectangular windows could be seen from the distance. With my photographic lens I captured their unique color shades, such as ocher, olive, fuchsia, apricot, as they revealed themselves before my eyes. The frame was completed by the colorful wooden boats on the waterfront and their wavy reflections in the water.
As I was walking along the pier, I saw the bell tower of the Church of Agios Nikolaos dominating the port.
A fisherman busy untangling his fishing net. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
Some elderly, local island men sat on stools around a small flower bed, untangling their nets, others sorting the crop from small shrimps, a local delicacy.
Then we followed the lady who welcomed us when we arrived and crossed the courtyard of the church of Agios Nikolaos, paved with a beautiful mosaic, before arriving at our small hotel.
Sponge divers of Halki
The view from our veranda was unique and unforgettable. The same was the first dive directly into the sea from a spacious patio terrace at the lower level of the building, where the moorage is located.
There, in the old days, spongers used to approach with boats and treadmills and unload their wares as they returned from the ‘hunt’ of the sponge. This terrace was called ‘snow’ because the sponges were ‘snowed’ there. It was a whitening process that upgraded the product and made it appealing to the tastes of the ladies of the time who used it for their daily care.
Sponges abounded on the shores of the Mediterranean and spongers reached as far as the coasts of Africa to collect this otherwise humble, animal species, as Aristotle first pointed out.
In the first years the profession was very hard and dangerous, a “mission impossible”. Gradually, the modernization and the use of special devices led to the overfishing of the sponges and the deforestation of the sea-beds with the result that the activity declined. At that time, many spongers migrated to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where they established a lucrative sponge industry, and they are still active today. The Halkites in Tarpon Springs, referred to as “the Greek island of the United States”, never forgot Halki. Through their donations, many buildings were renovated and infrastructure was created. Other local immigrants in Weirton, West Virginia, USA, donated the big clock to the island.
Like on a boat, moored ashore
Enjoying a slice of watermelon, a peach and a cool juice on the upper terrace of the house, after the refreshing dip, is like landing in paradise. From the outside the sounds of laughter and music enjoyed my ears. The passengers of a sailing boat kept the pace of the day unabated and the dives continued until dusk.
At the same time, on the other side of the port, the liner ‘Sebeco II’ was entering, performing perhaps the last route of the day from Kamiros of Rhodes to Nimborios.
In front of us, a little further out, near the mouth of the bay, the small islet ‘Nisos’ was gushing another warm yellow light that seemed to come out of its bodies. Gradually it began to lose this mysterious glow and the light seemed to go out, as if it was sucking it in itself leaving behind only the dark silhouette of it. The same bright mist immediately jumped to the back islet, as the sun tilted to the west, while at the same time the moon appeared, which was probably still days away from filling.
Gradually, the lights began to come on through the rectangular windows of the colored parallelepiped houses from one end of the harbor to the other.
The first night walk in the port exuded a sense of calm which had nothing to do with the busy and noisy Greek islands. The small boats pulled, almost motionless next to each other, waiting for the next day’s movements on the nearby beaches of the island: Ftenagia, Kania, Areta in the eastern and northern part: Pontamos, Trachea, Yiali, in the south. Impatient visitors, potential explorers of the island, approached to read the posted itineraries to plan their excursions. Walking along the harbor it was impossible to resist the smell of octopus, squid and fresh fish, served along with local delicacies at local taverns.
Then the multi-varied constellation of ice cream made from fresh local milk, (with 40 flavors of handmade ice-cream) in a nearby patisserie, was difficult to go unnoticed.
The culmination of the challenges of our first day, was the last evening relaxation on our terrace. There, you felt like you were on a houseboat that on the one hand gave you the confidence that you were leaning on the ground but on the other hand, launched you to fantastic destinations, beyond the horizon line and over the canopy of the sky, through the rhythms of the universe. This feeling followed you even when you fell into bed to sleep and then it was like living a dream within a dream.
The next day, walking a short distance, taking an exploratory walk through the settlement, we reached the sandy beach of Podamos while the next row was the beach of Areta by boat on the north side of the island.
On the Halki beach of Areta
The beautiful cove of Areta. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
This small blue beach “sprouts” between towering, sharp and steep cliffs that refer to similar descriptions from the Greek mythology such as clumps of stones, but without the element of wildness and crushing. Approaching and seeing the dreamy landscape you feel that you have discovered an earthly paradise.
We got very close to the shore by diving from the boat ‘Giannis express’ with the captain, Mr. Michalis. He, himself helped us to take our luggage ashore, without getting the cameras wet, while speeding up the disembarkation process to catch up on his next routes.
The few who got there started talking and exchanging information and impressions about the island. A young girl turned our attention to some shaggy kids, hanging puppet-like, who did incredible acrobatics balancing high on the cliffs that surrounded our creek. Someone else dived very deep and pulled out a “hippie” sea urchin, with somehow unusually long, irregular and sharp needles. We had seen its relatives in the port earlier, where even there the waters were crystal clear and the seabed could be seen in every detail.
A gay couple from France, Antoine and David, told us that they consider the destination unique. They come to Halki every year and are very sad when time comes to go back to Paris.
Swimming back and forth in the small bay of Areta, the feeling is unique. You have appropriated a corner of paradise for a while.
Equally revealing is to lie in the shallow waters, leaving your body free, where the gentle wave erupts, enjoying a relaxing massage on the small velvety pebbles of the beach.
Violin concert in a place and time we did not expect
Another pleasant surprise which enlivened our evening was waiting for us the same night under the steps of the large church of Agios Nikolaos in the port. Enchanted everybody by the violin concerto of Yannis Kormpetis we enjoyed a wonderful live performance of music with works by J.S. Bach, M.Vekiaris, Ernst-Lothar von Knorr, in a place and time we did not expect.
“Life goes on in difficult times, even on one of the remote small Aegean islands”, was a quick thought that flooded us with optimism.
The first Halki International Composition Competition. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
In the same context, the ‘1st International Chalki International Composition Competition 2020’, the next day, August 27, the initiative and organization of the award-winning composer Lina Tonia and Michalis Vekiaris in collaboration with the municipal authority, was another refreshing note.
Composers from all over the world submitted works for solo violin or violin and electronic sounds. From the 113 projects submitted, the committee selected eight that were presented and executed by Yannis Kormpetis, while the final judgment highlighted the three best that were awarded. Talking to the organizers and the mayor of the island, we were informed that this competition has come to stay!
Another day Mr. Michalis took us by boat to Tracheia beach in the southern part of the island. We woke up early in the morning to catch up.
Walking in the port we met a group that carried, like a trophy, a strange long and narrow fish, just caught, before handing it over to the staff of a tavern for cooking. It is one of those little episodes of the daily series that unfolds on a small island in which, if you are lucky, you can witness or even participate.
The appointment for the trip to Trachea was agreed from the previous one. This time, however, we gathered only three passengers and although the captain did not look very happy, the route was executed.
The small peninsula of Trachia separates two coves, the Flea with pebbles to the east and the Lakes with sand on its west side. We approached Flea and got off.
We felt like shipwrecks when he left us there and Captain Michalis left quickly with the one-member crew. We explored both coves and ended up in Flea. The hours were spent swimming happily, despite the high temperatures of August. In between we took earthly breaths of coolness under the protective shadows of the rocks that formed small surface caves.
Fortunately, we were supplied with water because the boatmen’s programs had proved to be a bit ‘flexible’ to relaxed and it did not take long for it to cross your mind if the captain would remember to come back to pick you up.
We were relieved to think that a sailboat was parked somewhere in the open and some tenants had dived for spearfishing.
Fortunately, we did not have to call for emergency help. Mr. Michalis came, with a small deviation, to the pre-arranged appointment. This time, however, he was even more nervous because he had difficulty navigating the rocky side of the bay. We had to do a quick jump to get on the boat while it was rocking back and forth.
The last passenger hesitated to jump and then Mr. Michalis started shouting nervously saying that because of her, his boat would fall on the rocks. He threatened to leave her there. Of course, there was no way we could leave without taking the girl with us. As it turned out, due to his haste, he did not show the required patience when approaching. Then, he came to his senses and with calm movements we picked up the young girl and sailed quickly to Nimborios. As we left Trachea, looking very high over the cliffs on the south side of Halki, we saw the castle of the Knights of Agios Ioannis which is supposed to be built on the site of an ancient Hellenistic Acropolis.
The same afternoon we planned to visit the Castle from the side of the ‘Village’, the old settlement of Halki in the interior of the island.
Rescue of immigrants in the Aegean
Returning to the port, the navy torpedo boat, which was stranded there in the morning, had left long ago.
The Hellenic navy torpedo ship off the coast of Halki. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
They had just made a two-hour stop to rest the crew, which has been on alert for months due to Turkish violations in the Aegean. In a conversation we had with them in the morning, before we started for Trachea, they told us that every time they go out for a while on an island, the inhabitants of the Dodecanese welcome them and thank them for being vigilant so that they do not experience fear in their daily lives.
We also asked them if they were the ones who were called to rescue (smuggled) migrants off the coast of Halki three days earlier. We were told that not in this case, however it is something that happens often and the ships that are closer are always running.
It is a fact that the night the ship sank the incident upset the small community of Halki and the local authorities made a quick plan to deal with the temporary accommodation of the 96 people who were rescued. We heard that they decided to open the school of the settlement. We learned from the electronic press that this was the largest rescue operation for migrants in the Aegean in recent months, and that in addition to the Greek Coast Guard, ten other ships, two helicopters and a frigate participated.
Eventually the alarm in Halki ended after most of the rescued migrants were transferred to the island of Rhodes. In recent years, Greece has become a gateway for thousands of Syrian refugees seeking asylum, as well as hundreds of migrants who, aided by Turkish smugglers, are trying to cross into Greece from neighboring Turkey. All this is happening despite the EU’s agreement with Turkey to reduce flows and combat human trafficking in the Aegean.
‘Chorio’ and the castle of the Knights
In the end, everything was fine since, despite the make-up of Captain Michalis, we managed and turned in time to catch the only bus that was running towards the interior of the island to the abandoned village-ghost.
A distance of 2.5 km separates the port from the village, Chorio, which was the old capital of the island.
In fact, especially on that day, the bus would continue to the Monastery of Agios Ioannis of Aliargas for the evening service of the big celebration of the island. He left us at a point from where we took the uphill well-preserved winding alley, passing between the ruined houses of the Village, to the castle of the Knights that rises above the village like a crown on its ‘head’.
The old village on the island of Halki. Credit: Fotini Maltezou.
This was the old capital of the island that once numbered 700 houses, almost glued together.
The inhabitants, in good times, may have reached 4000. In their attempt to repel pirates and other invaders they often resorted to the Castle, built by the Knights of St. John at the top of the hill, to protect themselves. However, there were also cases when they had experienced large and dangerous raids and then even the castle failed to protect them.
Built in the 14th to 15th century, the castle dominates the top of the hill. From the Hellenistic period one can see the thrones of the Greek gods Zeus and Hecate inscribed in stone near the walls of the medieval castle.
Approaching the entrance, you see the coat of arms of the knightly order. The coat of arms of Grand Master D ‘Aubusson (1476-1503) among others is imprinted on the inner walls of the castle.
The view from the top is breathtaking. On one side the Carpathian Sea and on the other the Trachea Peninsula. The inhabitants of the castle could, from this height, control the movement at sea and locate would-be invaders. When pirate attacks subsided, in the 19th century, the inhabitants gradually became discouraged and began to move more freely on the island, cultivating the lowlands and gradually building the current settlement of Nimborio.
Evening prayer at the monastery of Ai-Giannis of Alarga
The descent from the castle was easier and we moved quickly to catch the next bus route, which picked us up from the point it had left us earlier, continuing to the monastery of Ai-Giannis of Alarga even further west and at an altitude of 386 meters. Arriving there, the sun was setting. Faithful people were already gathered in the spacious courtyard of the monastery and the atmosphere was reminiscent of mystagogy. The priests wore formal vestments and fancy garments and incense smell filled the air around the offerings that formed a small hill in the middle of the courtyard.
Someone told us that three years ago strangers entered the monastery and stole the icon of Saint John of Alarga and many gold vows. 2020 was the first time that, due to the pandemic, the liturgy on August 28, at the monastery was without food and drink. The monastery, which celebrates on August 29, offers delicacies such as baked lamb with potatoes and appetizers on the Eve service.
Wearing our masks, we boarded the same bus that brought us and took the road back to the settlement where we enjoyed a nice dinner with fresh fish.
Another day trip was successful, sprinkled with incomparable moments of the magic of Halki.
The feast of Saint John of Alarga, on August 29, is very important for the island. Residents and expatriates from Halki are looking forward to it. The established festival in the port is one of the most famous in the Dodecanese. This time, however, everything was different. The traditional orchestra was installed on the balcony of the City Hall, away from the public that was forbidden to approach. But everyone could listen to the traditional songs and music while sitting in the taverns of the port that were full from end to end. A few of us took the initiative and approached the steps of the City Hall to photograph the music company that sang and played music with its own separate traditional musical instruments.
The days on the island passed quickly and we lived with enthusiasm in every moment. It was not long before we discovered other beaches such as Kania and Ftenaya with a special character each.
We also learned that Halki has its ‘satellites’, 13 small uninhabited islands, with an area of about 10,000 acres. Although we did not manage to visit the uninhabited island of Alimia, located between Rhodes and Halki, we nevertheless met Mr. Charalambos, a unique figure of Halki. Sheep and goat shepherd himself, he looks after his family’s flock. He has three sons, one of whom is Dimitris, the bus driver who travels to the island. Mr. Charalambos told us about his life in Alimia in the summers where for many years they cultivated wheat, barley, fava beans, lentils and had mills that ground them. In winter they returned to Nimborio.
On this island there are remains from shipyards of the Hellenistic period, a medieval castle, ruins of barracks from the Italian occupation during the Second World War, and the ruins of the last settlement, in the one that Mr. Charalambos lived and still remembers it.
Alimia, uninhabited since the 1940s, in 2016 and 2017 hosted the reality show “Island” which is the corresponding Belgian “Survivor”. In 2014, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, arrived in Alimia on their friend’s yacht for a short vacation. Even Berlusconi was once interested in buying or renting it.
Halki is unique, unforgettable!
Far from the frantic daily life of today’s cities, Halki is a haven of peace and natural remedy for anxiety.
Rarely will you see a car circulating other than the local bus. Its emerald waters, its incomparable picturesqueness, the idyllic beaches, the combination of mountain and sea, its history and culture are unique features. The most important thing is what it radiates a unique aura that makes you escape from stress and scourges. It is the perfect place to unwind. It makes you love it from the first moment, not wanting to leave and thinking when you will go again, especially now that the island is officially covid-free.
We wish, at the first opportunity we met again with the people, mermaids and fairies of the Halki island!
Kamiros is the first city state on the island of Rhodes dated from the late bronze age until 407 BC. It is one of the most important and oldest Greek cities of the Greek world and its history needs to be discovered and learned. Kamiros best findings are in British, France and Italian museums. Kamiros greatly contributed to Greek and European ancient history and civilization and unfortunately this great archaeological site is not well promoted and little is known today.
Kamiros was one of the three large Doric cities of the island, which united with Ialyssos and Lindos in the 5th century B.C. to create the powerful city – state of Rhodes. It lies about 40km from Rhodes City
Although it was established by the Dorians, it seems like the first inhabitants of the area must have been Achaeans, as the ruins of an ancient Mycenaean necropolis close to the village of Kalovarda reveal. Kameiros was basically an agricultural society which produced oil, wine and figs. During the city’s golden era of the 6th century, it was the first Rhodian city to cut its own coins.
Kamiros - History
The ancient city of Kamiros is located in the northwest of the island of Rhodes. The distance to Rhodes City is about 35 kilometers. The ancient city of Kamiros is well preserved and is built on three levels with on the top of the hill of the Acropolis, a large water storage and a temple dedicated to Athena. In the middle section were the houses where the people lived. These date from the Hellenistic and Roman period. At the bottom of the city you find the Agora (gathering center / big square), a sanctuary and a water source. The city was provided with a sewerage system. At this level alsoa second temple was unearthed which dates back to the Dorian period (3rd century BC).
The first excavations of the city of Kamiros took place between 1852 and 1864 by French and Italian archeologists. During this time the Acropolis and the surrounding area were exposed. From 1928 until the end of World War II systematic excavations took place and repair work was carried out by Italian archaeologists.
Of the major cities on the island (Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros) Kamiros was the smallest. The city had a more agrarian character, and wine, olive oil, figs and other agricultural products were produced. This in contrast to for instance Lindos which was more of a port city. The many objects that were excavated have disappeared to Museums in England (British Museum), France (the Louvre) and Italy. The Greeks hope that these objects will one day be returned to their country. Only a small number of objects excavated in Kamiros can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes Town.