A quiet street, a moped zips by, chatter from the two older ladies on the balcony above – this is the other side of Mykonos waking up for another day. I sit in a cafe with a cappuccino, the coffee beans you can taste on the tip of your tongue, not burnt but roasted just right. It is a perfect time to sit outside and people watch as the town slowly comes to life.
Mykonos has been stereotyped as the party island of Greece, yet there is much more to this blue and white jewel than most travellers realise. The party crowd may come out after midnight, but during the day when you walk the streets you can feel a peaceful energy that balances the island perfectly.
Upon arrival in Mykonos the first thing I noticed was the wind. Mykonos is the island of wind and it is easy to see why. The wind blows across the Old Port as you stroll along the waterfront. Yet it is a refreshing change from the inland heat left behind at the airport. It is hard to imagine the weather of this popular Greek island being anything but perfect and it is a little surprising at first to feel the strong winds.
It is my first time in Mykonos, yet I feel relaxed and happy here. Each morning breakfast was in the cafe around the corner from my accommodation. It was great to listen to the chatter above me on the balcony.
An escape haven away from the hectic goings on back home, it is little wonder that people want to keep coming back year after year – some never leave. I listen to the story the cafe owner tells of the lady she had just finished a conversation with. The English lady came to Mykonos as a tourist 3 years ago, fell in love with the island and she has never left. This is what travel is all about. Listening to people go about their everyday lives and having random conversations.
I walk down to Little Venice, that famous cafe/bar promenade seen in many brochures, and watch the waves crash against the sea wall in the morning. It is beautiful to watch and listen as the waves roll towards the sea wall and splash up into the air. It is called Little Venice because the buildings are perched on the water’s edge just like they are in Venice, Italy. Originally fishing houses. they were built in the mid 19th century for the rich merchants and captains. It is here that you will find many popular bars, clubs and galleries and it is considered to be the most romantic spot on the island where one can congregate with friends to watch a beautiful sunset (tune in next week to watch a gorgeous sunset).
Little Venice is also the favourite hangout of the island’s local legend. You will have the greatest chance of running into Petros the Pelican ambling slowly along the cobblestone streets. Petros has been the official mascot of Mykonos for over 50 years. It is rumoured that he has been a resident on the island following a storm in 1954. Sadly, the original pelican died but the locals elected to keep his legacy alive and chose a successor that you will continue to see today.
First sight of the Mykonos windmills was a WOW moment. Although they appear in many tourist brochures, it is different to see them for real. From the other side of the cove you can feel the energy of these iconic windmills standing tall as they look towards Little Venice. It is quite windy once you climb up to view those amazing landmarks in more detail. One has to be careful not to get blown away into the sea. Stand up at the windmills and marvel at the force of nature as the waves crash against the rocky coastline. Travel around the island and you will spot many windmills but the most famous are located here in the main town, Chora, and known in Greek as “Kato Mili” which means lower mills. These windmills were created by the Venetians in the 16th century for the purpose of milling flour and were still in use until the early 20th century.
There is also a spiritual side to this little white jewel in the form of 600 churches, chapels and places of worship. Located close to the windmills is the only Catholic Church on the island. It was built in 1668 and renovated in 1677 by Bishop Leandros Zanthakis. Step inside for a break from the heat and view the beautiful iconic Virgin Mary and baby Jesus between Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Sienna. This statue made its epic journey to Mykonos from Venicein in 1715.
However, the most visually stunning is the Paraportiani Church that sits just back from the Old Port. It can be reached by a set of stairs at the end of the promenade and is right in front of you when at the top of the steps. Known as “the doorway to the sea” because it was originally located next to the entry of the medieval castle’s Kastro door.
The Paraportiani Church is one of the most impressive, artistically designed buildings in the neighbourhood of Kastro on the same site as the medieval castle built in 1207. However, the castle was destroyed during the 16th century and over time was buried by the expansion of Chora in the 18th century. This beautiful church took up to 200 years to build and was not completed until the 17th century. Let yourself be surrounded by its beauty, block out the noisy tourists around you and enjoy this architectural delight.
No matter how bad things get on the mainland, when you are on Mykonos these troubles seem far away. It is like the island is in its own little bubble. I have learned from other locals that this is the same on the other Cyclades group of islands. There is something magical about being on the island. A positive vibe that goes through you. When you are on Mykonos there is a new energy that energises you and you feel as if you can do anything.
Mykonos is an island that can boast approximately 300 days of sun each year restricting the rain only to February and March, it is no wonder that tourists flock there to escape the winter at home. Mykonos takes its name from the son of the King of Delos of which it has a longstanding history and connection to neighbour Delos. But more on Delos in a couple of weeks…….
In the meantime – Welcome to Happiness!