Quietly, like a thief in the night, my chariot arrives at the port of Rhodes. Rhodes is as famous as Patmos is obscure. Everyone learns in elementary school about the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus of Rhodes is amongst them. While the Colossus no longer exists, the city of Rhodes on the island of Rhodes still thrives. What many don’t know, even war movie aficionados, (unless you read the credits) is that you are seeing Rhodes when you watch the movie “The Guns of Navarone.” Since no such island as Navarone exists, Rhodes became the backdrop and set for the movie. (The studio planned to use the island of Cypress but political unrest on the island prompted the change to Rhodes.)
The island of Rhodes has a very long and interesting history. Besides the famous Colossus, the island boasts a medieval old town and the second most visited Acropolis in Greece. (Only the Acropolis in Athens receives more visitors.) The old town was built along with a mighty fortress and the Palace of the Grand Master by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Rhodes was under their control from 1309 to 1523. It came under Turkish rule with the Ottoman Empire taking possession of the island in 1523. After World War 1 the Italians took possession of the island. After World War 2 Greece took possession of the island and it has been under Greek rule since.
The tour I am taking leaves at 7:15 in the morning so it is early to rise to get breakfast and be ready for the tour. Stefanos is our guide and is very informative. Our first stop is the town of Lindos when the second most visited Acropolis is located.
There are 2 ways to get to the top of the Acropolis. One way is easy and I will show that later. Or, as you can see, there is what I call the death march way: the stairs. Yep, you guessed it. I took the death march way following my tour guide. What I am showing is the easy part at the base of the Acropolis after the long climb. The stairs below this point are narrower and you can only move in 2 single files: one up and one down. The single file up side is against a shear rock cliff and the single file down has no guard or hand rail and a straight drop! There was no such thing as stopping to take a nice scenic picture during the climb.
This is our guide, Stefanos (I hope I spelled his name right). He makes the climb every day during tourist season so he is fit and looks like he is out for a walk in the park. I, on the other hand, was soaked in sweat and very worn out by the climb. (God, am I that out of shape?!) Most of the tourists on this climb were totally soaked with sweat as well.
This is the complete scene of the final climb. If the ruins in the foreground look familiar, it is because this site was used in the movie “The Guns of Navarone.” Gregory Peck and company walked pass these columns. It was a short scene but these are the columns.
As an aside, according to our guide, all the donkeys on the islands are American. After WWII, the United States instituted the Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe. All sorts of vehicles and rebuilding supplies poured into Europe. However, the Greek islands had few usable roads that could accommodate trucks. To get around this, hundreds of donkeys were sent from America to be used to transport material and equipment around the islands. Once the rebuilding was done, the donkeys were left to the Greeks. These donkeys thrived and bred. Hence, all the donkeys are American.
This beautiful park under the bridge was once the moat that protected the approaches to the city walls. Picture this area covered with water. It is quite a formidable barrier for any invader to overcome.
For more information on the sites used in Rhodes along with stills from the movie and how the site looks today, see the magazine After the Battle Issue #177. The company offers many interesting books and magazines.
Copyright © 2018 John J Campo