Greece Art & Architecture :Kastellorizo island...

 researched by NEΦEΛH AΓΓEΛΛOY.
Kastellorizo is a special and an unusual Greek island at a 6 hours eastwards journey away by ferry from the island of Rhodes. Actually it is situated 90 km east of Rhodes and only 3 km from the Turkish coast. Sometimes the island is called Megisti, which means "large" but the island is only 9 km2 in size and has only 250 inhabitants. It is called "large" because it is the largest island of an archipel of 14 small islands that lay very close to the Turkish mainland. Kastellorizo has got the best natural harbour in the whole area and this has brought the island great wealth and great tragedy alike. During the two Worldwars and in the conflicts between Turkey and Greece the island has been heavily victimized.
Through time Kastellorizo usually was controlled by who ever ruled the island of Rhodes and it had a militairy purpose because of the red castle on the island (Kastellorizo means "red castle"). In the 19th century the island became very wealthy because of its good harbour when the Ottoman empire started to trade with the rest of Europe. At that time some 17.000 people lived on the small island. In 1908 this policy changed and decline set in. The island was occupied by the French in 1915 who turned Kastellorizo into a naval base. The Turks responded by blocking of the harbour and stopping all trade with the mainland of Turkey. In 1921 the island exchanged into Italian hands.
In 1926 the island was heavily damaged by an earthquake. During Worldwar II the island changed from Italian into Brittish and into Italian hands again, than again into Brittish hands again in 1943. The island was heavily attacked by German bomber planes which left great damage to Kastellorizo. The islanders were evacuated to Cyprus. In 1944 there was a major fire on the island that burned out most of the buildings. What was left was buldozed away for safety reasons. The end of the tragedy took place in 1946 when 500 former inhabitants returned to their island and the ship sank because it was overloaded and a fire broke out. 33 People died. In 1947 finally the island was reunited with the rest of Greece.
Kastellorizo and its bay used to be very much like the nowadays Symi, with many colourful merchants' mansions around the harbour. After all the earthquakes, fires and bombardments a little less than one third of the original buildings in the capital Megisto or Kastellorizo Town is still standing. Now much of the old houses are found more in the back. The waterfront houses that survived have been painted in white and pastel colours. In the harbour there are also attractive churches and also there are still the remains of the 14th century Castle of the Knights of Agios Ioannis on a hill with red rocks. The village of Megisti is backed by high mountains.
Most of the tavernas and shops you will find along the waterfront. Behind the waterfront in the backstreets there are many alleys and not all the houses here are in good condition (in fact a lot of them are falling apart). Other sights besides the red castle are a small Turkish bath, a ruined windmill, a Lycian Rock Tomb, a War Memorial, a Museum and a Cathedral.
Behind the hill with the castle there is another small harbour which is called the Mandraki Harbour. Here are some new houses and there is a road leading to the town cemetery.
The most important sight on the island is the 14th century castle. Also the museum is interesting. The entrance is free and there is an exhibition of the finds that were made at the ancient acropolis of the island (Paleocastro), earthenware from a medieval wreck that was found near the island and other interesting local artifacts and costumes. In the rock beneath the castle you will find the only Lycian tomb that is found in Greece (there are plenty in Turkey though). The last sight of the town is the 19th century cathedral in which there are some columns from an ancient temple.
From Kastellorizo there organized boat trips to be Blue Cave or Fokiali Cave in the south east of the island. This cave is the best sea cave in Greece and maybe the best sea cave in the whole Mediteranean. It is 75 meters long, 45 meters wide and 35 meters high. The cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. In the morning the reflection from the sun puts the cave in a blue light. It's possible to swim here during the trip. There are also boat trips to the nearby small islands of Strongili and Ro and to the Turkish mainland. On the island of Kastellorizo there are not many roads and the island is quite hilly so hiking is limited.


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