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New Town of Rhodes

New town beachThe New Town is not all that new. When the Greeks who did not leave Rhodes with the Knights in 1522 were kicked out of the old city and its protective walls they created new neighborhoods in the south called Marasia. They were joined by people who came from other islands and countries who settled in the northern coast of the island. This was called Neohori, or New Town. In the New Town you will feel like you are in a real modern city instead of a walled medieval fortress. Much of it was built by the Italians when they took it from the disintegrating Ottoman empire. There are stores, traffic lights,mansions, hotels that look like apartment buildings and plenty of cars and motorbikes. It is also remarkably clean and well-cared for, much more so than some other Greek cities.

New townThe New Market near the harbor is a large 7-sided building with an outdoor central courtyard where the old fish market was located in the giant gazebo with the fish decorations. The front of the market has the fancy cafes which all seem to have the same identical strawberry sweets and pastries and waiters smile at you and try to herd you into the comfortable chairs. There are a variety of shops on the inside and the outside of the building including an excellent gourmet deli next to the fine traditional ouzerie Indigo (see food) along with a dozen or so grill restaurants, all with whole chickens and cuts of lamb and pork turning on rotisseries day and night. Between the New Market and the entrance of the Old City is a shaded park area where street venders sell sponges, shells,  beads and jewelry and a line of painters wait to offer their services doing caricatures of the tourists who pass between the two towns.

Saint Nicholas Tower and entrance to Mandraki harborAcross the street from the New Market is the harbor called Mandraki distinguished from the outer harbor by the 3 windmills and the fortifications at the end of the dock. The 15th century Tower of Saint Nicholas at the end of the pier in the Mandraki harbor was the key to the defense of the city and in both the first unsuccessful seige of 1480 and the second and final seige of 1522-23 was pounded into rubble in some of the most ferocious battles in the defense of the city. The harbor of Mandraki was actually the ancient harbor. The three windmills that still stand on the breakwater that leads to the tower are actually all that remain of a line of 14 medieval windmills which were used to ground wheat. The two deer, one male and the other female which stand on pillars at the entrance of the harbor were built by the Italians and symbolize the actual deer they brought to Rhodes to rid the island of snakes. You can see the decendents of these deer in Rodini Park, in the southern part of the city, a ravine with running water, peacocks, trails, and fauna.

Municipal theater in RhodesMuch of the new city was built by Mussolini and there are a large number of Art-Deco buildings mixed in with modern apartment buildings and neo-classic architecture. Some of the most impressive buildings are the National Theater, the Courts, the City Hall and the Governor's Palace, all located in the same area beyond Elefterias Square, on the western side of the Mandraki harbor. Some of the buildings the Italians left are also in the old city as well and it is said that Mussolini laid the foundation for tourism in Rhodes.

The Church of the Annunciation was originally a Catholic Cathedral, built in the same style as the church of the Knights of St John, opposite the Grand Master's Palace in the old city. Across the broad avenue is the Mourad Reis Mosque and in a small Turkish Cemetery which surrounds it is the house where Laurence Durrell lived and wrote from 1945 to 1947. If you are wondering if this was the house where he wrote the Alexandria Quartet while Melissa's child played happily in the sea, I would have to say, probably not, though it was tempting to believe it since I was in fact reading Justine at the time of my visit and until I saw the plaque (pointed out to me by Michalis Axarlis) I did not know that Durrell had ever lived in Rhodes.

Town Beach in RhodesIf you continue along the coast you come to the popular town beach and the Aquarium where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean that is the only one of its kind in Greece and worth a visit to see the sea turtles, moray eels and many of the fish they serve ion the restaurants, alive and happily swimming. If you go behind the Aquarium and swim at the point you will be swimming in two seas. The Aegean is usually windy and has waves and in fact that area and up the coastal road the air can be several degrees cooler than the air to the east. I did not swim here because I was afraid of being swept by the Aegean into the Mediterannean and all the way to Turkey. Many of the most popular hotels are here on the med side including the Hotel Mediterannean where we stayed. This photo was taken from our balcony. Let me mention that this must be the cleanest town beach and one of the most enjoyable places to swim (and people-watch) anywhere in Greece.

Kritikos from Monte SmithOverlooking the city of Rhodes is the ancient Acropolis, a restored stadium from the second century, a small restored ampitheatre and a  temple to Apollo on a mountain named Monte Smith. It's actually the ancient Hellenistic city of Rhodes but the mountain was named for Sir Sydney Smith whose job was to sit on the mountain watching for Napoleon's fleet in 1802. ("Just sit here for a year and we'll name this mountain after you." they told him) You can take the number 5 bus or walk here though we came up with Nick as part of our city tour. The view of the new city and the Aegean coast is spectacular and the line of small houses along the coast were actually built for Turkish (or Muslim Greek) refugees from Crete and is called Kritika.

New Town beachStaying in the new town is really the most convenient place to be. The old town is a twenty minute walk from just about anywhere and the broad avenues and tree lined streets combined with the breeze from the Aegean keep the area cooler in the summer. In fact some nights the coastal road can be like walking in a wind tunnel which is why many of the restaurants there are enclosed by walls or glass. If you are renting a car to see the island it is easier to get in and out of town and to find a place to park than in the old town. If you are taking a taxi to the port or the airport they are much happier picking you up or dropping you off in the new town too. And really, the beaches in the New Town make it unnecessary to go anywhere else if that is all you want to do.

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