Rhodes… the most famous ancient boxer and the Colossus of Rhodes, the Order of St. John and the medieval city, Lindos and its Acropolis, the butterflies and the aquarium, the dishes and of course the traditional sweets of Rhodes… All this in our new article, accompanied by the book Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου of Savalas Publishers together with a recipe for chocolate truffles with walnuts!
Rhodes’ history begings a long time ago… In the book Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου (2012) by Nantia Sarantopoulou and Giannis Sarantopoulos we found a lot of interesting information. We learned that the Dodecanese took their current form thousands of years ago, in 10,000 BC. Until then, Rhodes was one island together with Symi and Halki. Man appeared in the Dodecanese around 8,000 BC. at the end of the Mesolithic and the beginning of the Neolithic period.
Since then, the history of Rhodes has been tremendous. In ancient times, Rhodes dominated the sea. The heyday of the island began in 305 BC after the compromise that came after the long siege of the island by Dimitrios I of Macedon. At that time, the Colossus of Rhodes was created. Let’s see some fragments of the history of the island, from archeological and historical monuments to modern sights…
The Colossus of Rhodes, as we read in the blog of Rhodes, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, a huge statue depicting god Helios. It was erected by Haris Lindios in the 3rd century BC. According to legend, god Helios saved the island from the Macedonian Demetrios I of Macedon. The Rhodians dedicated the statue to him, which, in addition to being grateful, showed the strength, wealth and technology of the island. Unfortunately, it collapsed 60 years after its revelation due to an earthquake that knocked down its knees. It is said that with the fall it leveled thirty houses. An oracle suggested to avoid repositioning it and so the ancient miracle was lost forever…
Diagoras the Rhodian, the most famous boxer in Greece, came from Ialyssos in Rhodes. The great poet Pindar had praised the “Olympians” with his poems, that is, the famous athletes. Among them is Diagoras, inspired by whom Pindar created one of the masterpieces of ancient Greek poetry. The Rhodians wrote the poem in golden letters on the temple of Athena in Lindos.
The history of Rhodes went through alliances, sieges and raids… Over time and the course of history, Romans, Goths, Persians, Saracens, Turks, Byzantines, Venetians and Genoese claimed the island, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.
At the beginning of the 14th century the Genoese sold Rhodes, Leros and Kos to the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The Order of St. John was founded in the West around the 6th century AD and was militarily organized in the 12th century. The knights of the Order of St. John had a red flag with a white cross and wore a red mantle with a white cross on the part of the heart.
The knights of the Order of St. John were divided into three classes: those of aristocratic descent, from whom the Grand Prior were elected -only those could hold senior positions- the non-noble principal officers and the priests of the order. The Grand Prior was the commander-in-chief of the Knights state, commander of the army and admiral of the fleet.
The members of the Knights’ Order were distinguished at the Crusades in the Holy Land. When they left the Dodecanese after two centuries of domination, they settled in Malta. Their decline began in the 17th century and today they exist as a battalion of monks based in Rome.
And like that our journey through time reaches the medieval city of the island. In the book Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου we read that the castle of Rhodes was part of a wider defense system. The monumental zone includes the medieval fortification complex, the moat, the perimeter protection zone, the central trading port and the three piers. This area is inextricably linked to the history and evolution of the city of Rhodes from antiquity to the present day.
In addition to built attractions, Rhodes has also beautiful nature. One of its undoubtedly most beautiful areas is the Butterfly Valley. On the official website of the National Tourism Organisation we read that it is one of the rare habitats in Europe, the summer shelter for a species of butterfly. The green valley is crossed by the river Pelekanos and from mid-June to the end of September it is covered by a real “butterfly cloud”!
This year, despite the disasters caused by the epidemic, we have learned that the valley has been completely renovated from the damage it suffered last winter, and is ready to welcome visitors. In the same article we learned why the valley is full of butterflies every summer: they are picked up by the smell of the juice secreted by the some trees that look like plane trees. We also learned that the reason butterflies were disappearing was the lack of moisture. The Department of Environment of the University of the Aegean provided the solution with a water recycling system in the ravine.
Mass tourism, though, always leaves its mark on the natural environment. For this reason, in the Butterfly Valley it is forbidden to walk outside the path, smoke, whistle, clapp and shout. We wish for the natural habitat to be protected, so that we can enjoy it, always with sensitivity and responsibility!
One of the most impressive sights of Rhodes is its aquarium. We were informed by the book Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου that it is located at the northern end of the island, in a submarine cave which gives the feeling that you are underwater!
It goes without saying that a mental -and real too- journey must have its desser… Come along to see some traditional sweets of Rhodes and later make our own traditional chocolate and walnut truffles!
But before seeing sweets from the island we will make a stop to see the traditional Rhodes’ dishes. In the book Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου we read that the pottery and ceramic art of the island have been famous since ancient times. “Masterpieces of soil, fire and color” is what the book calls them. Rhodes was the most important center that supplied the European markets with these folk art creations. It is said, in fact, that when Justinian was building the Hagia Sophia, decorative materials, slabs and light bricks were ordered from the Rhodes’ workshops.
In the Byzantine years, oriental art influenced the ceramic art of Rhodes, but Greek artists managed to eliminate the intense coloring, making the designs more harmonious, in order to match the Greek aesthetics and the psyche of the Greeks. The art of pottery and ceramics passed from Greece to the peoples of the East to create this kind of art that European industries tried in vain to imitate.
Moving on to what fills the Rhodes’ plates, we will now try to find the characteristics and influences of Rhodes’ cuisine through some of her typical desserts!
We will begin the overview of the Rhodes’ pastries with the oriental asure, a fragrant fasting dessert. It was also made in Constantinople and Asia Minor, as we read in an article. In Rhodes, the traditional housewives made it and distributed it to the neighboring houses. In Greece it is also called Varvara in honor of St. Varvara. It is made with a base of wheat to which legumes, nuts and dried fruits are added, ingredients that give a lot of energy.
Perhaps the most famous dessert of Rhodes is melekouni! It is a traditional, soft pasteli (nut bar) in the shape of a diamond, which one will find at weddings and baptisms as a treat, and also in everyday life as a healthy snack. Its has an ancient Greek origin and we have read that it differs from the other pasteli in the ingredients -fresh sesame seeds, orange zest, bergamot, spices, etc.- and in the method of preparation.
Rhodes avgokalamara are traditional pastries made with an almond dough and soaked in an aromatic lemon syrup. They are fried in butter like crepes, on both sides, and then rolled into rolls.
We learned that moschopougia are sweets that the bride traditionally brings to her mother-in-law when she gets engaged, on a holiday or on May Day. They are made with almonds, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and are moistened in a flower water syrup.
We saw that the sweet cuisine of Rhodes has nuts, spices and aromas. So, we also chose to make traditional walnut bites, with a recipe we found in our book, Εδεσματολόγιον Ρόδου by Savalas Publishers.
Chocolate-walnut truffles from Rhodes
|500 gr walnuts|
|400 gr sugar|
|1/2 cup crushed rusks|
|3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder|
|1/2 cup water|
|Sugar for rolling|
Crush the walnuts, place them into a bowl, add the crushed rusks and the cocoa powder and mix.
Then, pour the sugar and eater into a saucepan and boil them until they become a thick syrup.
Then, add the syrup to the walnuts, mixing with a wooden spatula until they form a dough (it may not need the whole syrup). Stir constantly and as soon as you can stand its temperature, form quickly the truffles with your hands. Give them the shape of a pear or a walnut and roll them right away in sugar. If during molding the dough becomes too thick, add some boiling water, knead the dough and continue forming your truffles.
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