Did you ever visit a place after reading about it and compare it to the picture in your mind? A place you’ve written about can be all the more startling. My historical mystery-in-progress is set in Rhodes, on a Greek island of the same name, far to the east near Turkey. Before last month I’d been there only briefly, thirty years ago.
Our hotel this fall was in the heart of the old Knights’ quarter, its medieval exterior enclosing updated rooms. The alleys of the walled town proved narrower than I’d imagined, the dry moats wider, the cats more languid. I discovered that cobblestones are slippery after rain.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site continuously occupied since 408 BCE, Rhodes is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. The Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers, today the Knights of Malta) moved there after the end of the Crusades and ruled for over two hundred years. Their gothic buildings and defensive walls survive nearly unchanged. Motorcyclists who ply the cobbled alleys and shopkeepers who cater to cruise ship passengers confirm that this town, apparently frozen in time, remains very much alive.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.