“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.”
– Aristotle Onassis
Also part of the Cyclades, Mykonos is known as an artist colony and is famous for its beaches and nightlife. (and of course, because Jackie O’ was here!). It’s light, airy, and does have a playful attitude.
Our time is spent in Mykonos Town with its winding alleys, dazzling whitewashed exteriors, and working windmills, is short and sweet. A bit touristy, of course, but still fun and appealing, the shops, galleries, quaint outdoor restaurants and photogenic cats greet you at every turn. It’s a great place to just get lost, because you really can’t and no matter where you end up, it will be colorful and inviting.
Walking up to the windmills, even the famed local pink pelicans (from eating shrimp) hug terra firma, bracing themselves against the strong winds while patiently pose while tourists click away!
Before departing, we enjoy a seaside snack. Dodging the spray of persistent waves (it’s very choppy and windy here even making it impossible to tender in at times), we take in still another picture perfect view.
“In beauty of face no maiden ever equaled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream-an airy and spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the fantasies which hovered about the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
To get to Delos, you have to arrive by boat. You can be tendered in if you arrive on a cruise ship or take a short boat ride from nearby Mykonos. In stark contrast to Mykonos which exudes life, today Delos is hauntingly still. The winds here whisper, only hinting of the prosperity and fame of times gone by.
Except for the entrance and ticket booth, a small museum, a caretakers small abode, and napping cats, Delos is uninhabited. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the stark silence and total lack of modernity – no shops, no restaurants, nothing – is almost eerie and one has to imagine its ancient popularity an glory.
Inhabited from the 3rd century B.C., Delos was believed to be the birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis. As a major sacred destination and a holy sanctuary for a millennium, it was second only to Delphi in importance. In fact, it was considered so holy that no one was allowed to be born or die here!
At its peak the population reached 30,000 and included settlers from Rome, Syria and Egypt making it a major financial and trading center of the Mediterranean.The glory of Delos was abruptly ended when it was invaded and all inhabitants killed during the first century B.C.
For centuries it was raided and looted and, with no natural resources, deemed uninhabitable. In the 19th century true excavation began and, remaining an important archeological site, continues to this day.
Today, the Terrace of the Lions, dedicated to Apollo, stand in silent vigil overlooking the Sacred Lake, which today is dry. The huge and once bustling and colorful agora (marketplace) which accommodated thousands of merchants is vacant. Remains and symbols of ancient temples honoring Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis and many other gods and goddesses hold only memories of the rituals, rites and ceremonies celebrated and observed here.
We wander the narrow paths and alleyways, we stand in the mosaic colonnaded courtyards of the wealthy residents, sit on ancient walls, stand in the agora, view remains of ancient temples…and if you’re still and quiet… you can hear the haunting echoes of glory gone by.