live blog: knights of the rhodes table

The biggest medieval city in Europe, the picturesque old town of Rhodes is an unexpected delight. A rabbit’s warren of narrow streets and buildings of traditional architecture, much of the town as it appears today was built by the Knights of St. John at the end of the Byzantine era. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the crusading Knights retreated to Rhodes, over which they claimed sovereignty, fortifying the northern tip of the island with the castle, towers, bridges, and gates that still stand. The Knights would later move again, weathering a name change and establishing a more famous state on the island of Malta. What they left behind saw an invasion of the Turks, who built mosques, public baths and mansions for the new patrons, followed by Italian colonizers after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and British bombs during World War II. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, it’s a minor miracle so much of the town’s architecture has managed to survive 700 years of relentless give and take. For that, the flaneur in me was quite grateful this afternoon.

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guarding the coast

Early in World War II, the United States was reeling from Japan’s atack on Pearl Harbor and moved to augment the defense of San Francisco Bay from enemy ships.  Base end fire control stations proliferated along the coast in those fearful times.  Built to house soldiers on the lookout for enemy ships, they could relay ship coordinates to a central communications and plotting center, so powerful guns in nearby batteries could take accurate aim at their targets.

Here at the Muir Beach overlook – one of the trig points vital to scouting the Bay – there are four such base end stations, also known as gopher holes.  Two served gun batteries in the Marin Headlands.  One served Fort Miley in San Francisco, and the fourth was assigned to a minefield which paralleled the shipping channel along the Marin shore.  Today, all that’s left of the inhospitable stations are the empty concrete shells and a beautiful view up and down the Pacific coastline.

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