Hiking During The Flowering Season On Rhodes

The flowering season and a breathtaking hike on Rhodes

The view of Rhodes Town from the Monte Smith hill in May

The intoxicating flowering season of Rhodes

May has arrived, the month when the wildflowers, the jasmine shrubs, the olive and pomegranate trees, the Caper bushes by the sea coasts, the Asphodel and the signature herbs of the Greek islands are in full bloom.

On Rhodes island, April and May are the two months when Mother Nature is singing Her love songs through the blooming landscape. These months are not only visually intoxicating ones, but when taking a deep breath, the fragrance of the sea breeze, the blooming herbs and the rejuvenated pine forests delight your whole spirit.

Blooming pomegranate tree on Rhodes island

The emanating essential oils of the blooming Mediterranean herbs like sage, wild lavender, oregano, and wild thyme are agents of otherworldly messages for the human soul. These blooming flowers – the love song of Gaia – are manifestations of Eros, the Greek God who „was the uniting power of love, which brought order and harmony among the conflicting elements.”(source)

May is still a month when Greeks usually greet each other with the message of Easter: Christ is Risen! This month is still about the celebration of life, renewal, the victory of light and a testimony to newness.

Blooming olive tree in May in Greece

The flower ritual of ’Protomagia’

This time of the year possesses several local folk and religious customs in Greece that involve certain flowers and herbs. Probably the most wonderful flower ritual I know is on the 1st of May, or ’Protomagia’ as the Greeks call it. Every year on that day, young girls and women go out to the meadows to collect wildflowers, and while enjoying a picnic, they create wonderful May Wreaths. Later they hang the wreath on the entrance of their home. This custom already existed in ancient Greece, where people wore flower wreaths and decorated their houses with them around this time of the year.

Rhodian wildflower composition for the first day of May, when Greeks say to each other,’Kalo Mina!’ (’Have a good month!”)

Who was Maia?

The month May got its name from the nymph Maia, the eldest of the seven ’Pleiades’ (the mountain nymphs of ancient Greece), and she was also the mother of Hermes. When Orion consumed them, Zeus placed the seven sisters on the sky, so they became the star constellation Pleiades – which means ’The Ladies of Plenty’. Maia was called “the nursing mother” and was occasionally identified with Gaia (the goddess of the Earth). When we look at the colourful, vibrant, fragrant lands of Rhodes in May that provide plenty of nourishment for bees and other pollinators, we understand the nursing, mothering message of this month.

Mayflower wreath of the Greek islands by Mariann Lipcsei

Whether you wish to create your own May Wreath or simply want to worship the enamoured, nursing island landscape of Eros and Maia, there is no better time for hikes and long walks on Rhodes island than in May.

In the second part of this article, I will recommend a wonderful hiking route on the island that will lead you through untouched nature scenes. At the same time, you can explore one of the richest cultural sites of the island that will navigate you through the history of Rhodes.

Oh, and one more reason to visit Rhodes in May: the International Museums Day is annually on the 18th of May, which means free admissions to several museums and archaeological sites!

Walk the ancient path of Athena through the pine forest of Mount Filerimos

– from Trianda village up to the ancient acropolis of Ialysos

Panoramic view of Ialysos (Trianda) and Rhodes town (on the right side) from the ancient path of Filerimos hill

If you don’t have time for more than one hike during your holidays on Rhodes, I highly recommend choosing this one. As a reward for this two-kilometre-long uphill walk (besides the breathtaking fertile vegetation), you’ll get a bit of a taste of each historical period of Rhodes by reaching the area of an ancient acropolis on the top of Filerimos hill. This hill was used for religious reverence through all the ages. And not only the hill itself but the whole surrounding area bears a very rich, long human history that deserves a bit more attention.

The historical footprints of this landscape

The 267-meter high hill of Filerimos – covered by an abundant coniferous forest – stands right behind the modern age Rhodian village of Trianda, which was renamed Ialysos in 1976 and became a densely populated town by the 2000s due to the explosion of mass tourism.

Ialysos (or Trianda) is located between Diagoras Airport and Rhodes Town on the island’s northwestern coast, and its seashore lies the closest to Asia Minor. Because of this gifted geographical position and its fertile natural environment, this area records the earliest prehistoric proto-urban settlement of the island (Asomatos) from the 3rd Millenium BCE.

Minoan and Mycenaean style frescoes, pottery remains and tombs proved the continuity of a flourishing, peaceful, self-sufficient society with a culturally open sea trader elite on this landscape up until the 13th century BCE.

Ialysos. Fragmentary LB IA frescoes. „The art of painting at Ialysos was inspired by the poetic feel of the landscape” – from the book WALL- PAINTING AND VASE- PAINTING OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM BC IN DIALOGUE.

After the Greek Dark Ages, in the 8th century BCE, the ancient Dorian city-state of Ialysos started to emerge here with an acropolis on the Filerimos hill. Ancient Greeks of Ialysos built their temples at the highest peak of Filerimos, and their latest known temple was a great sanctuary of Athena Polias, the virgin patron goddess of the city, wisdom, crafts and war.

The sea-born Rhodians (besides the earth-born Athenians) had their strong and unique Athena cult since Classical times, and they built her sanctuary on every acropolis (Ialysos, Lindos, Kameiros and later in Rhodos).

“Gold rained on the island [of Rhodes] at the time when Athena was born”, – wrote Strabo in his Geography, referring to Rhodos’ special connection with Athena.

Figurine possibly representing the local Athena Lindia goddess of Rhodos circa 6th century BCE (source)

The currently visible partial ruins of the Athena Temple of Ialysos was built around the 3rd-2nd century BCE above an older temple, of which 9th-6th century BCE votive objects can be visited in the Archeological Museum of Rhodes.

I mentioned partial ruins because Christians destroyed the Athena sanctuary around the 6th century AD in order to build an Early Christian three-aisled basilica exactly on the top of the ancient temple using its own materials. And guess who they dedicated the basilica to? To the Virgin Mary, the chaste female saint of Christianity. Covering the actual temple and the cults of the pagans, early Christians consistently built a church of an analogue saint of theirs.

On the locations of Athena (or other female deity), temples Christians tended to build a church for the Virgin Mary. The same happened in Lindos and on the famous pilgrim hill of Tsambika, where ancient Greeks had the sanctuary of Eileithyia, the goddess of human conception and childbirth. And the Greek Orthodox tradition carried on with the same Christian saints of these early churches until today.

The contemporary church of the Virgin Mary of Filerimos on top of the ancient temple of Athena.

At the very same location in the 10th century, Byzantine faithfuls built their own aisleless church too. So did the Crusaders of Saint John – the invaders of Rhodes in the Middle Ages. They built two chapels here in the 15th century where they kept and revered the famous miraculous Byzantine icon of unclear origin: ’Our Lady of Philermos’.

It was an icon worshipped by both Western and Eastern Christians, and it finally left the island with the Knights in 1522 after the fall of Rhodes. The Crusaders attributed their long successful defence of Rhodes to the icon, and they treated it as their most precious possession. The present-day church of Filerimos owns only a copy of this icon, and the original one is exhibited currently in the National Museum of Montenegro.

The miraculous icon of Our Lady of Filerimos which represents only the face of the Holy Virgin without the Divine Child (source)

In the 15th century, the Crusaders decorated the tiny Byzantine chapel of Agios Giorgos Chostos (which is located a few meters west of the ancient temple) with colourful western-style wall paintings (but with Byzantine painting traditions!) depicting the passion and the life of the Virgin Mary, and the Knights with their patron Saints.

The entrance and the interior of the tiny chapel of Agios Giorgos Chostos on the acropolis of Filerimos

The Ottomans destroyed the main church complex on the top of the hill and used this site solely for military purposes due to its 360-degree panoramic view and its strategically safe location.

The Italian conquerors of Rhodes (between 1912 and 1945) restored the monastery of Filerimos (which is a popular place for weddings and baptism ceremonies by present-day Rhodians), excavated the remains of the Temple Athena Polias and the nearby Dorian fountain-house, they created the Golgota path of Filerimos with reliefs depicting the Passion of Jesus that leads to a popular panoramic viewpoint. (This is the hilltop where a huge concrete cross stands – you have probably seen it from the plane while landing on the island.)

Panoramic viewpoint on the top of Filerimos hill

The Path

The hiking trail leads you from the foothill of Filerimos through the ancient footpath up to the above-described acropolis of Ialysos (the entrance costs three eur). You can either start your walk right by the foothill of Filerimos (a 2 km long walk one way) or further into the core village of Trianda (a 4 km long walk one way).

There is a huge meadow between the hill and Trianda where you can collect your wildflowers for your May Wreath.

The meadow between Filerimos and Trianda
Detail of the traditional Rhodian village, Trianda

Parking is possible at both locations, and buses are pretty frequent between Rhodes Town and Ialysos (Trianta) if you have no vehicle.

You must have your eyes wide open in order to find the beginning of the steep, narrow ancient path very close to the fire station (don’t confuse it with the long, winding asphalt road). Once you find the path, your reward will be the breathtaking natural environment of the pine forest with its local characteristic herbs, wildflowers and shrubs.

The ancient path of Filerimos

You will be able to observe all the ingredients of the healing herbal liqueur made by the 20th century Capuchin monks of Filerimos: ’Sette Erbe’, or Seven Herbs. They created this unique local spirit by collecting and mixing seven herbs of the pine forest, including oregano, thyme, sage and wormwood, and three more… 

The rich vegetation of Filerimos hill

The ancient path consists of two parts. Just follow the asphalt road uphill once you have done the first part. In the first hairpin bend of this asphalt road, take the off-road path on your right hand, and after that, immediately turn left uphill to start the second part of the steep, narrow ancient path of the forest. 

This section of the ancient trail will lead you up to an old narrow asphalt road that you should follow uphill (right direction). At the hairpin bend of this old road, you will see a fountain with fine engravings of a cypress tree and flowers (most probably from the Ottoman period).

Fountain with engraved marble slab on the old asphalt road of Filerimos hill

When this old road reaches the main asphalt road, you can continue uphill along the main road. After a 10 minute walk, you will arrive at a huge parking space right next to the acropolis.

You will see here:

Huge pine trees, old beautiful oak trees, majestic cypress trees, wandering peacocks, grazing animals and of course the abundant historical footprints of all times.

Peacocks on the acropolis of Ialysos
Oak tree on the acropolis of Ialysos
The parking area of the acropolis of Ialysos

I hope you will enjoy the time travel of this little journey and soak up the beauty of Rhodian nature on its zenith in May.

Don’t forget to tell us about your journey on Rhodes in the comment section. We would love to read about your experiences!

And if you have never been to Rhodes, don’t hesitate anymore, book your accommodation NOW!

 Written by Mariann Lipcsei Ilios Art  / May 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any content of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Have You Heard About The Magic Cake Of Rhodes?

The fascinating custom of Fanouropita

One of the most beautiful things I love in Greece is that certain foods are closely connected to special celebrations and moments in people’s lives. Or I could say this the other way around – each important event has its own unique taste within the cultural traditions. That’s why life can be so tasty and full of expectations on the Greek islands, especially Rhodes.

Everything has its own time and value if you follow the rhythm of these traditions. In Greek culture, you can never separate food, community gatherings and religious customs from each other. They go hand in hand, and one of the best examples is the story of Fanouropita – the aromatic sweet cake of Saint Fanourios. And probably this is the most special one of all, straight from the island of Rhodes.

Fanouropitas from the book ’Μακριά μυρωδιά. Η μαγειρική κληρονομιά της Ρόδου

As with most of the traditional sweets of Greece, Fanouropita itself is closely related to a specific celebration (and saint) within the Greek Orthodox religion. But Fanouropita is a real Rhodian treat with a unique custom behind it. You don’t just make Fanouropita. You always do it for a specific reason as an offering to Saint Fanourios – whose worship originated from Rhodes Island and spread to other parts of Greece.

Let us look at the etymology first: ’fanerono’ (φανερώνω) in Greek means ’I reveal’. And Fanourios is the saint in Orthodox Greece who reveals things. According to religious belief, you can call upon him and ask his guidance whenever you lose something important, or need an answer or a solution for a problem, or whenever you need good luck in a specific situation.

Let’s suppose that you’ve lost your car keys and you can’t find them anywhere in heaven and earth. What do you do now? You keep calm and bake a Fanouropita following the guidelines:

  • Use 7 or 9 ingredients (not less, not more).

The recipe, therefore, is not strictly defined but contains only lenten ingredients (besides olive oil): sugar, water, flour, baking powder. On Rhodes Island, the Fanouropita can also include raisins, walnuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon and cloves to ensure the divine taste. Mix the ingredients (sprinkle with sesame on top), and then put the pastry into the oven for an hour (~180 Celsius)

  • During the whole baking process, think about your lost car keys; otherwise, the magic will not work.
  • When the cake is ready, offer it to at least seven households/families. You can eat the cake yourself only after that. But you have to eat the whole cake, no remaining pieces and crumbs!
  • Now, wait for Saint Fanourios to reveal the exact place of your car keys.

The religious Rhodians happen to bake the Fanouropita not only as an invocation but also after any lucky event, as a gesture of gratitude towards Saint Fanourios. This is a so-called votive gift (or offering) which was common also in the Ancient Greek religion related to different gods and goddesses. The Colossus of Rhodes (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) was also a votive gift to the solar deity, Helios, who helped the Rhodians to defend their polis against the attack of the Macedonian King, Demetrius Poliorcetes.

Both the act of invocation (prayer) and gratitude can express and retain a deep humbleness in an individual towards non-human forces, whatever we call them. But nevertheless, it can also remain no more than superstition – perhaps it is the intimate matter of each individual.

The celebration of Saint Fanourios

Probably the most breathtaking church on Rhodes dedicated to Saint Fanourios is the byzantine chapel within the walls of the Medieval Town of Rhodes and dates back to the 13th century. Only by observing it from the outside one could never imagine the amazing interior of this half-underground chapel with its old colourful frescoes. It is located in Agios Fanourios street within the Old Town. It is best accessed from the Gate of Saint John (Kokkini Porta) or from Saint Athanasios Gate.

Saint Fanourios church, Medieval Town of Rhodes
Entrance of Saint Fanourios church, Medieval Town of Rhodes

SAVE THE DATE!

The Orthodox Greek religion celebrates Saint Fanourios annually on the 27th of August and it is one of the most interesting religious celebrations in the Old Town of Rhodes. On this day you will find lots of locals participating in the liturgy. They bring their own homemade fanouropitas, and share it with each other after the church service in the lovely garden accompanied with coffee – of course. This is a truly unique event once a year only in that specific church in the Medieval Town.

Fanourios church annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes
Saint Fanourios church annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes
The holy icon of Saint Fanourios on the annual celebration of Saint Fanurios (27th August), Medieval Town of Rhodes

Maybe, dear Reader, you can start to realize that visiting and understanding Rhodes has many aspects: traditional local tastes embedded in unique celebrations and customs, visiting Medieval churches within the UNESCO site, ancient remains, and understanding the shaping (natural and cultural) forces of the character of a Greek island.

We would love to hear about your favourite custom or superstition…please share your story or leave a comment below

Fanouropita was only a tiny slice of the big cake of Rhodes. To begin your own discovery, book your accommodation in Rhodes with us HERE!

Read more from Mariann by visiting her website Ilios Art

Written by Mariann Lipcsei / February 2022 / Copyright © / Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photo, or written content of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Sign Up For Special Offers & News

A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.