Mykonos: Minoans, Ionians and Manto Mavrogenous
Arriving in Mýkonos Port with celestyal cruises on an early summers day afternoon you are greeted by the sight of never-ending rows of chalk white houses of the Alefkandra neighbourhood, more affectionately known as “Little Venice”. The half Moon shaped harbour, with the main town of Chóra – GR Χώρα is stacked along the amazingly clear turquoise shores and tightly hugs the sea front. If you’re planning on staying awhile longer, and looking for some truly spectacular accommodation in Mykonos, check here.
Walking past the welcoming sign you can’t help notice the sight of wealth docked in the new harbour.
Mýkonos – GR Μύκονος is likely one of the Greek Islands that you’ve heard about. Faithfully popular with tourists who holiday on the island or like me on this trip have come with many others for an afternoon stopover with one of the many cruise ships that frequent during the summer months.
Steering clear of the hordes, I found meandering along the charming cobble paved narrow back lanes of Chóra less populated.
It wasn’t long before the path brought me through the heart of Mýkonos’ old town of Little Venice lined with historic homes; some dating back to the 18th century, with corbelled wooden loggias at the rear that faces out to the sea. There are a number of quaint churches, and many boutiques, souvenir stores and an array of buzzing bars and bistros serving traditional café and sweets.
Continuing along the water front, past Chóra and seeing straight ahead perched on a rocky landscape and standing proud looking out to sea is seven of the sixteen windmills located in Mýkonos. The windmills of Káto Míli – GR Κάτω Μήλι (meaning lower mills) are found very close to the Chóra Old Town and are not only an outstanding sight; they also hold historical interest. Built by the Venetians during the 16th century to refine locally grown grains then compressed for transport to mainland Europe. For four centuries the mills provided a living for the local islanders, and become obsolete during the 20th century. Each windmill is similar in architecture, having a round shape with pointed roof, very small windows and painted white. No windmills are in operation today, however many now provide a home to locals and are also used as vaults to store the island heritage documents.
Walking back towards ‘Little Venice’, I stopped by to take in the sight of the lovely church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Paraportiani – GR Παναγία Παραπορτιανή, located at the entrance of the Kastro neighbourhood, right beside the sea. The name Paraportiani translates as ‘standing next to the entrance door’, meaning the church beside the (former Venetian kastro) castle door.
Built during the 14th century and completed during the 17th century, this blended whitewashed Byzantine church complex actually consists of five joined churches. The church of Agios Efstathios – GR Άγιος Ευστάθιος is found in the centre with the church of Agios Anargyros – GR Άγιος Ανάργυρος (the oldest church, built in the late 14th century), Agios Sozon – GR Άγιος Σωζόνας and Agia Anastasia – GR Αγία Αναστασία clocking the inner church. With the Virgin Mary church sitting atop in the form of the dome.
It’s mid-afternoon as I walk back to Chóra Old Town, and I find myself stopping for a bite to eat in one of a choice of cafes nestled beside the small Catholic Church of Mýkonos, dedicated to Our Lady of Rosario since 1668.
The recommendation was to try the islands famous cheese and onion pie and of cause sample the islands local raki.
I learn more of the islands history and like all the Greek Islands, have stunning beaches to idle away a day soaking up the sun’s rays. I learn about the area known as Ftelia – GR Φτελιά, where archaeological evidence shows that the spectacular shores of Mýkonos have been inhabited for millennia.
Near Ftelia beach known today for its windsurfing the ancient site of Ftelia – GR Φτελιά provides evidence of human habitation in the later periods of Neolithic times around 3000 BC. Later the Phoenicians came to settle, followed by the Egyptians, Minoans and Ionians.
Due to Mýkonos’ close proximity to the sacred island of Delos (Thelos), Mýkonos became an important supply station. During the Hellenistic period, under the leader of Alexander the Great, Mýkonos came into its own as an important commercial centre for maritime and agricultural trade and gained enormous wealth during the Roman period under the rule of Augustus Caesar. Tragically, under Caesars’ rule the island became a place of islander slave trade and continued into the Ottoman occupation with thousands of islanders being abducted. This triggered a revolutionary movement during 1821-1828, and saw many Mýkonos’ sailors greatly supporting the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman rule.
It’s time to make my way back to the harbour, however not before stopping to see the statue of Manto Mavrogenous, the Heroine of Mýkonos . There are many people idling about on the concrete wall that surrounds the statue, making it difficult to capture a people free photo.
Image shown is credited to wikimedia.
The heroine’s life reads like a tragic romance novel, peppered with heroic acts for her courage and commitment to support the Greek War of Independence, a decision that created discord with her own family who held high positions within the ranks of the Ottoman rule.
Her courageous acts against the Ottoman rule, earned her the honourable title of General in Chief.
At the height of the revolution, as a penniless aristocrat and well educated women, Manto relocates to the town of Nafplio, in the Pelopnnese. Here she meets Demetrios Ypsilantis, the son of a Prince and a high ranking Greek military officer and influential political figure in the Greek War of Independence.
Their relationship and romantic love story formed during the height of the revolution was sealed with an engagement and a promissory letter of marriage by her husband to be – Demetrios Ypsilantis. Yet, shrewd external political powers proved too great, fueled with lies of cheating, betrayal and denial along with an abduction that saw Manto being returned to Mýkonos. The fallen heroic aristocrat and her lover, who withdrew his promise of marriage never, reconciled their in differences.
Yet, it is her defiant acts of bravery that are held in the hearts of many Mýkonos’ locals. Her statue located in the public square that honours her name in the small harbour port in Chóra shows a stoic faced woman with eyes fixated and looking out to sea.
A small taste of the island of Mýkonos – there is so much more to see and experience. I returned to Mýkonos a second time as part of a day trip from Naxos to ‘The Sacred island of Delos’.
Looking back across the clear turquoise shores and busy new harbour before returning to the boat and again, asking myself – will I return to learn more.
It’s now early evening and the sun’s rays are beginning their descent into the horizon.
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This blog is part of a series of posts about the Greek Islands and ancient historic sites in Greece. I hope you enjoy reading and that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world. Looking for additional reading on Mykonos, check here.
Looking to visit Santorini, read more here about the island of summer lovers and Saint Irini.
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