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Published: October 10th 2016
Today the parade of islands continues with Mykonos, a place I have to admit I knew nothing about before this trip.
Mykonos is a relatively small Greek Island. It is very rugged and hilly with an extremely dry Mediterranean climate. Outside of the city, only small shrubs and grasses populate the hilly terrain in places where soil is able to cling to the rocks. A constant north wind provides a nice cooling complement to the daily sunny skies. Blessed with several gorgeous sandy beaches, Mykonos is becoming a major tourist destination and has already been discovered by Hollywood royalty.
Our tour guide today is a lovely lady named Amaryllis, a native of Mykonos. Her British mother came to Mykonos and fell in love with both the place and with a local man and never left.
It is another beautiful day. As we travel on the bus, it is striking that all buildings we pass—and I mean all—are completely white with flat roofs, no terra cotta, and a maximum of two storeys tall. Amaryllis explains that this is a standard mandated by local law. Your only degree of freedom is the colour of your doors and shutters, but most
people just pick blue to match the Greek national colours. What's the origin of Greece's fixation on white buildings? Apparently, it became common many centuries ago to use a limestone wash on buildings for two reasons: white reflects sunlight and so provides a cooling effect; and limestone has antiseptic properties that help guard against plagues.
We spot many simple, small churches en route as well. These are family churches, where the bones of one's ancestors from uncounted centuries before are buried. Each church is dedicated to a particular saint and the family holds a celebration each year on the saint's day. Everyone and anyone can attend and join in the celebration.
We stop in the village of Ano Mera for a welcoming treat of loukoumades (a fried pastry dusted with sugar) and cold sweet coffee at a local restaurant. Across the square is the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani, with a small Greek Orthodox Church. It is the oldest operating public church on the island, dating from 1767. Plain white-washed walls on the outside, but inside exquisite iconography and a beautiful domed ceiling. The church (and actually the whole island) has a large number of cats. They are mostly
variations on black and white with some tabby mixed in.
Back on the bus. We drive past Kalafatis Beach on the north side of the island, which is especially popular with surfers and wind-surfers because of the constant north wind. We stop at a second beach, Aga Anna, on the south side that is much calmer and popular with tourists. We have an opportunity to stroll along the sand a while. It's interesting that the water does not feel that warm, although for someone with Nova Scotia roots it would be perfectly acceptable.
We return to Mykonos Town and leave the bus. Amaryllis takes us along the water front. The harbour is full of boats, both private and public, and the boardwalk is crammed with tourists and those who prey upon them. At one end of the waterfront is the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, an iconic building on the island, with its beautiful blue domed roof.
Amaryllis then leads us on a walking tour through the tiny, twisting streets of Mykonos Old Town. The buildings are a mix of intriguing little shops, hotels, and private homes. In many places, there is barely room for two fully laden
tourists to pass each other. Nonetheless, every now and then a small truck or motorcycle endeavours to push its way through the packed streets. Somehow everything works.
We stop to visit the Mykonos Folklore Museum, a one-man labour of love. All the items were donated by local families. Many interesting items. Amaryllis recounts how, on Independence Day, when everyone dons their heritage costumes, one local girl is chosen to wear a red dress that commemorates a local heroine of the war of independence. That dress is on display at the museum.
We continue on through the old town. Finally we reach the highest point of the old town, where stand five old windmills, one of the signature features of Mykonos. These are representative of the many windmills that once peppered the island. Built by the Venetians in the 17th century, they were used primarily to grind corn. One wonders why Mykonos does not use modern wind turbines, given its strong, constant breeze and many high, desolate locations. Nearby also is an area known as "Little Venice" because the homes hang out over the water.
At this point we are let loose with free time in the old
town. As it is now about 2 pm, we take a restaurant recommendation from Amaryllis and sit at a shaded table along the waterfront to enjoy beer and a platter of fried and grilled seafood. Food is great, with the highlight the grilled octopus, but the service is rather slow.
We then proceed to get lost in the old town, a very easy goal. Violet stumbles on a jewelry store where she spends a small fortune. I guess it's yet another birthday present. We are also on a quest to find a painting to match one purchased last year by some family members. Amazingly, we happen upon a shop that has exactly what we are looking for.
We eventually return to the waterfront where we are able to catch a shuttle water bus back to the "new" port where our ship is docked.
Mykonos really impressed us. I can see this place as a possible "island getaway" of the future. While Mykonos Town itself is very commercialized, outside the town there are many unspoiled areas of great natural beauty. And they love their cats here, too.
The random draw for supper tonight gives us three Ozzies
Aga Anna Beach
and a pair of Brits. Evening entertainment is provided by a ventriloquist named Kieran Powell. He is silly and predictable but a lot of fun.
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