Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Friday, November 30, 2018

greek island paradise - part I: mykonos & delos

 

Mykonos...the perfect isle


If you like nightlife, boutique shopping, and gorgeous white-washed houses, then the Town of Mykonos should be on your bucket list.


But I loved Mykonos because of its disorienting, car-free, narrow lanes, (so narrow that two tourists passing in the night need to yield to each other), its cubed houses draped in blooms, and its old fishing houses standing proudly in the sea, being rhythmically caressed (hammered?) by the waves.

Mirador Windmill

From the port of Mykonos, up on a hill towards the right, you will see swarms of tourists among a row of antique windmills (the famous Káto Mili). But, if you want a windmill to yourself I suggest venturing in the other direction, all the way through town and up the other hill, to Mirador, a run-down windmill, providing a gorgeous view of the town and sea below...it's an isolated gem in my opinion.

Church of Paraportiani

One of the most photographed churches in the world is the Church of Paraportiani, situated very close the sea's edge, in the oldest part of Mykonos Town. Stemming out of the 1400's, it consists of 5 seperate churches which have been joined together...though the entire building seems relatively small by European standards. The church's whiteness against the blue of sky and sea is just plum beautiful.


Wandering through the old Kástro neigbourhood you will stop every 5 seconds to take a photo (I bet ya!). What fascinated me was thinking about how this place used to be, before the mega party scene and Louis Vuitton. Apparently, this was a humble, out-of-the-way fishing village, whose confusing, narrow lanes bewildered the few pirates who actually made land here.

St. Nikolas Greek Orthodox Church

Many of the oldest houses in Alefkandra, or Little Venice, just steps from Kastro, are now hip, not-inexpensive taverns, where we also took a break, had a beer, and watched the waves leap onto the terraces and startle the tourists.

View of Káto Mili from a Little Venice tavern

Mykonos has incredible beaches, but we preferred to explore the town and take in the interesting architecture, the blooms, the coloured balconies, and the narrow lanes.



As you leave Mykonos Town for one of the other islands, as we did to head to Delos for the morning, you will no doubt stop to admire the small Agios Nikolaos Church at the Old Port. Amid bobbing (or retired), wooden fishing boats called 'kaiki', the blue dome and cross will be a beacon of Greece for you...a point of home whenever you get lost meandering through the labyrinthian alleyways of Mykonos.

Agios Nikolaos Church by the Old Port

Delos...the sacred isle


One of the absolute highlights of my Greek Isle trip, and which I was so excited about, was Delos. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis (although that might have been just a great marketing ploy back in the pre-Roman days, according to our tourguide), and one of the best preserved sites of ancient Greek civilisation.


From Mykonos' Old Port it's just a short ferry ride, and makes an easy, unforgettable half-day experience. Delos has been an uninhabited island for centuries, because of its sacredness. There are only a few guards living on the island with their families. Interestingly, our tour guide was one of the archeologists who lived and excavated the island decades ago. She spoke with such a passion for the history of this place that is was worth every penny of the tour price.


Delos has a very long and complicated history. It has changed hands many times since the first indications of civilisation in the 3rd millenium BC. Already before the 8th century BC someone had deemed it the birthplace of Zeus and Leto's twin children, Apollo and Artemis. Legend has it that Hera, Zeus's wife, shunned Leto from giving birth on any land mass and therefore Delos, as being not attached to the ocean floor, was the only place Leto could find to deliver the twins.

Terrace of the Lions

It has been almost always a religious pilgrammage destination, at times the largest slave trader, was the site of numerous brutal Athenian purifications, and after 146 BC was Greece's most important trading centre, with over 30 000 inhabitants.

The magnificent Terrace of the Lions (600 BC), whose original statues are in the island's museum, stand watch along the Sacred Way.

House of Dionysus

From the ancient port, the right-hand side of the excavated town comprises the residential quarter. One of the incredible homes is that of a 2nd century, wealthy family whose courtyard is lined with a mosaic floor depicting Dionysus riding a panther...an amazing piece of art to see.


There are too many impressive sites and stories to explain here, but one aspect of walking in these ancient footsteps was coming across the most beautiful headless statues, mostly in former homes of the well-to-do. Apparently, headless statues were often built with fairly generic, toga-draped bodies for the commissioned heads of heros or well-known people or just plain-old rich folk to rest atop of...and for some reason I found them all very beautiful.



Delos, if you go:

- Book ferry tickets online, or for the same price at the old port of Mykonos Town.
- I highly recommend a guided tour of Delos (ferry and entrance fee are included) because of the many interesting stories of individual families who lived there, the complex history, the ancient symbols and carvings which are pointed out which you would surely miss, and of course, the mythology of the many temples.
- Be wary of snakes when walking around Delos on your own. I wanted to trek up to the Temple of Artemis but the tourguide mentioned the snakes and I decided against it....went into the museum instead.
- Bring water and food along. There is one cafeteria on the island, by the museum, which isn't cheap...of course.

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