Rhodes…..Crusader Castles and Ottoman Splendor

They were the Knights Crusaders who lead the Holy wars in the Middle Ages. Among them were the legendary Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers. These Christians soldiers recognizable through their long coats with a cross were powerful groups backed by the highest level of society, economically prosperous and politically influential. After the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the first crusaders in the 11th century the Knights Hospitallers was created in response to the need of caring for the poor and sick pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. The Knights Hospitallers were closely linked to the Hospital of Jerusalem. After the downfall of Byzantine Empire and the rise of Islam the Knights Hospitallers who later differentiated themselves from their military counterpart the Templars, finally established their stronghold on the island of Rhodes. And so our story began …The year 1309 and they were called the “Knights of Rhodes”.

They built fortresses around the island and succeeded in holding off Muslim attacks until they finally succumbed under Suleiman The Magnificent who took over the island to become part of the Ottoman Empire. Remnants of the fabulous centuries of the Knights Hospitallers can still be seen in Rhodes Old Town as well as ruins of some of their fortresses perched on hills. Besides military architecture that makes up the island landscape, are the beautiful Ottoman buildings in Rhodes Old Town. Even if the Greek Orthodox religion is predominant, there is still a minority of Muslim Turkish community – legacy of the Ottoman Empire…

Rhodes Old Town a World Heritage site is an amalgamation of fabulous architectural accomplishment illustrating different settlers from Byzantine Empire to the Order of Saint John Knights Hospitallers and the Ottoman Empire. I love scouring the alleys of Rhodes Old Town which make me feel as if I am thrown back into the time of the Crusaders. The street of the knights is where the action takes place. Knights from different origins would

have their flags placed in front of their houses. Walk through the many streets lined with Knights palaces interwoven with beautiful mosques, public baths and stop by the Ottoman cemetery with its mosque and an elegant minaret. So now let’s go on our historic walk and discover some fascinating places in Rhodes …


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Garden Peas

Home grown peas always taste better than store-bought.  Growing your own is easy and you do not need a large garden to grow this nutritious vegetable.

Pisum Saticum the botanical name for garden peas.  Loaded with vitamin A, B, C, Riboflavin, Protein, Carbohydrate, calcium, Iron, Phosphorous and Potassium.  Adding peas to your diet also has health benefit.  They are excellent nourishment and strength restoring.  Peas contain nicotinic acid reportedly recommended for reducing cholesterol in the blood.  Steam diced carrot and peas , mix with meat, or sprinkle on salad.  Anyway you use peas they are healthy nutritious.

Garden peas was discovered at all place in Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand by an archeological expedition at approximately 9750 B.C.  This is a much earlier finding than the peas found bronze age (approximately 3000B.C.) lake dwellings in Switzerland and Savoy.  The Greeks also cultivate peas and they were brought to Britain by the Romans.  Peas were the first vegetable to canned and later deep frozen.

Peas are cold weather crop, so plant them early.  I started mine in the greenhouse in flats in early February, then transplanted outdoors in early spring depending weather condition.  Green Arrow variety is my first choice shelling peas, they are prolific producer, long pod up to 10 peas per pod, excellent pea taste.  Pick them early when they are still tender.

Many diseases affect peas.  the most common is pea root rot (Fusarium or aphanomyces euteiches) which causes browning and dying of the foliage from the ground up.  Another pea disease to watch is the powdery mildew, those white powdery mold on the leaves, stems and pods in hot weather.  Choose resistant variety.


When done with harvesting, pull the stalks and spread them on the ground in a sunny area of the property to dry.  when they all look brown and brittle I use my gas driven mower and mow the stalks into shredded particles.  Dried pea stalks have nitrogen  content that is beneficial for compost and the garden.

Peas are good for freezing too.  shell the peas, spread on a cookie sheet then put in the freezer for several hours or until peas are frozen.  Fill one gallon plastic bag with the frozen peas, depending how often you use, it will last until next planting or longer.



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Camellias and the Zen garden

There is a place in Paris worth for a visit.  Created in the nineteenth century by its founder Albert Khan, French banker and philanthropist known also  for his auto chromes collection taken during his voyages in Asia.  The garden which once enhance his Parisian home was created to illustrate the gardens of the world.  His creative garden landscape is still kept alive till this day where visitors may enjoy the lovely walks through the French, English, the forest and especially a voyage into the meditative Zen world of Japanese gardens.



The original Japanese garden created by Albert Khan in 1908, was given its contemporary style in 1989 by the Japanese landscape designer Fumiaki Takano.  Nothing much is left of the old Japanese garden except for the bridges, the small wooden door leading to the orchard and the wonderful  weeping purple beech tree.

Walk along the pond and sit under shady trees to listen to the sounds of dripping water while admiring some of the garden flower collection such as the many beautiful species of Camellias.  The visit gets even better in Spring when cherry blossoms become a wonderful background to the Japanese style houses surrounding the garden.


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The Old China Town


Surrounded by Dutch colonial architecture, a town where Chinese immigrant live since the discovery of Indonesia.  Many buildings still stand through time, grand, imposing and some left to the elements.   For anyone who want to venture out to Old China town is a must.  Plenty to discover such as Chinese temples,  walking is the best way to experience the hustle and bustle of this old city.   If you still have energy walk to the old Dutch train station in Kota with its 1930’s style façade and browsing through the many old VOC Dutch buildings.  Visit Fatahillah Park where a large building stand was the Dutch Governor residence, it is now a museum.  A large draw bridge build by the Dutch still stand proudly through time.  This bridge connect to sea port “pasar Ikan” fish market where you can find Dutch storage area where it is a museum.  There are plenty to see and experience in this wonderful corner of Jakarta.

Fatahillah Park







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Elegant Peonies

Peonies are beautiful flowers.  With a sweet scent similar to roses.  Bloom in mid spring until early summer.  Did you know that peonies make superb cut flowers ?  The variety that grow in my garden is “Festiva Maxima” it has an old fashion rose fragrance.  Intoxicating scent through the whole area where the flowers grows.  Some varieties are fragrant.  Others have no fragrance at all, and a few tend to have an unpleasant bitter scent.  the “Festiva Maxima” produces large, white double blooms with a crimson flecks in the center.  Somewhat peculiar , though ants like to gather on the flowers.  Perhaps the sweet scent.


When making your vase arrangement, harvest the flowers as early in the morning as possible.  Using a sharp knife or prunner,  cut the stems so they are 18 inches long.  Be sure to leave at least two leaves on each remaining stem and never remove more than on half of the flowers from a single plant.  This allows the plants to continue to photosynthesize.

If you to use the flowers in an arrangement immediately, select blooms that are almost fully open.  If you want a bouquet that lasts longer select flowers in various stages of opening.






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Peacocks in cherry blossoms

Bagatelle gardens, Paris with their peacock showing off their gorgeous plumage.   The birds enjoying their leisure time among cherry blossom trees.    They roost on tree and nest on ground.  India chose blue peacock as their national bird, often you can find these birds in royal palaces.






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Daffodils Reflections of Spring sunshine

“I wandered lonely as a cloud. That floats on high o’er vales and hills. When all at once I saw a crowd.   A host, of golden daffodils”  -William Wordsworth-

A description of how daffodils seen by William Wordsworth, an English romantic poet from the 18th century.



Daffodils and other narcissi and their color range from cream, white, yellow, orange and even salmon.  Some cultivar are big and bold and others are small enough to make an important contribution to window box and rock garden.

Most garden variety of the daffodil are descendant of the wild narcissus.  There are now more than 9000+ varieties of narcissi, grouped into a number of divisions according to flower shape and color.


The word “narcissus” is used to describe varieties with a short central cup, even though the large cupped and trumpet daffodils are also botanically narcissus.

Daffodil bulbs are reliable, adaptable and easy to grow when left undisturbed in the soil for at least three years, it will produce  increase of flowers each season.  Not only they are hardy and beautiful, their bitter-tasting bulb repels rodents.  Besides the daffodil is one of the best bulbs for naturalizing in the garden.  Because it grows under deciduous trees and in open woodlands.



Before deciding where to plant daffodils, you need to carefully prepared the site .  Mix well-rotted compost into the soil and let it settle for several days before planting.  Then, mix bone meal into the planting area 5 pounds per 100 square feet.



Plant narcissi from September onwards and no later than the end of October.  Partial shade is ideal, but full sun  tolerated.  As long as the soil is fertile and reasonably moist.  Allow the plants to grow on for at least six weeks, after flowering before cutting the leaves back.  This way the bulbs  will have sufficient energy for next year bloom.  Propagate by dividing clumps of bulbs after the leaves have died and replant in the fall.


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