Coming at you with a collaborative effort today. So both Mitch and I will be writing a bit just because it was a big day and there’s lots to talk about.
K – We were up early today to catch the 9am ferry to the island of Delos which is 25 minutes from Mykonos. So with our coffees in hand we headed to the old port which is a 2 minute walk from our hotel. The boat was really busy which would be surprising was it not for the fact they only head to the island 3 times in a day. 9am, 10am and 11am and come back at 12pm, 1:30pm and 3:30pm. The recommended time to walk around and see everything on the island is 5 hours so we did pretty good seeing it all in 4.
A little information on Delos for you. It’s a tiny island only 5km long and during the 2nd century BC (199 ~ 100BC) it was made a free port where merchants from all over Greece, Italy, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and the other settlements of the eastern Mediterranean congregated to trade goods. It is known that it was originally settled around 2500 BC which is hard to fathom, but didn’t come into too much importance until 2nd century BC.
Greek mythology theorises that Delos was a sacred island raised from the water by Poseidon at the request of Zeus. This was so his human lover Leto could give birth to her twins Apollo and Artemis; because Hera (Zeus’ wife) shunned Leto from all land due to her jealousy and anger at Zeus’ infidelity. The island raised was “supposedly” not attached to the ocean floor and therefore not considered land.
Apollo is one of the more important and complex olympian gods. He is the god of light, harmony and balance as well as healing, archery, music, dance, poetry, truth and prophecy. So just a few things to be in charge of.
If you read our post about Naxos and visiting Apollo’s temple; the temple sits by the water and faces out towards his birthplace, which is Delos. However there are more than 10 temples dedicated to him in Greece and not counting those in Italy as he was worshiped in Roman mythology also.
As it usually is with mythology, women are much less interesting. Artemis was the moon goddess in contrast to her brother. As well as this she is said to be goddess of the hunt, archery, forests and hills.
M – Kalispera, we arrived at Delos port and you could see over the main part of the island, complete ancient ruins and we were eager to explore. As with the flavour of this holiday, I got in for free with my student card and Katy was too scared to try and use her expired one so payed the full price (damn morals!) of €12.
We started wandering through the ruins and had saved a podcast on our phone, so we listened to that for the 3min it went for. The podcast gave us a good background of Delos, which we were pleased to know as our backpackers budget couldn’t afford another €18 each for a guided tour. We had a very extensive map and our phones for google so we set off. We actually did the island the opposite way to what the map said as to avoid the hoards of tours going the correct way, we later learned this was a great decision as we had lots of the island to ourself.
We started wandering through the merchant part of the town. All the roofs were missing which you might expect when they’re 2500 years old. We heard tour guides saying they were all shops and markets and trade merchants, many of the rooms looking the same. A famous Greek sculptor has placed random statues of rusty bronze humans around the island- we didn’t really appreciate the artistry behind them as I just found them a tad creepy. They were scattered through various rooms and on ocean sides and mountain tops.
We stumbled across this water well. Still working to this day. The many water wells on this island allowed them to be a fairly well functioning society – clever Greeks!
We stopped at a temple that had a very interesting mosaic on the floor depicting Apollo and a mythical creature.
The tiles are placed at random angles as to have minimal gaps between them- this creates the illusion that the mosaic looks like a painting. Later in the museum we learned that this mosaic was a copy and the real one is in the museum on the island. Here is a photo of the real one that has been excavated and placed in the museum. It was very impressive up close, the colour they used really helped it to look like a painting as they stated.
From this temple our next main stop was the theatre. Again it’s so old that most of it has blown over but you can see how it was built into the hill. The bottom part of the audience seats is where the important people sat and they know this because it’s the only row in the audience with back rests. I tried them out- not that comfy 😎.
Next stop was the highest point of the island. You can see it in the background of the previous theatre picture. On top of that peak was the Sanctuary of the gods and the Temple of Zeus. These were the least impressive of the island as all but a few rocks had blown away in the wind. Nonetheless, the climb up the unsteady rock steps was good to get the heart rate up and the view was awesome.
The Cyclades islands (the group of islands we have been at in the last month) are named because they are all in a circle around Delos. Placing utmost importance again on the island of Delos. From the peak we could see a lot of the islands- some too far away to see but on the map you can see how they all wrap around Delos
For the next hour or so we snaked our way down the island visiting the various archeological sites such as the Temple of Hermes, Sanctuary for the Syrian Gods and the Temple of Athina.
Eventually we came to the museum which is situated in the middle of this small island. The museum actually had all of the sculptures and precious parts of the sites we had just visited- hundreds of them. We didn’t realised that all of these buildings were riddled with sculptures and various opulent decorations from that era.
That last photo as you may guess is taken from the Temple of Priapus- Greek god of fertility, the son of Aphrodites- the Greek goddess of love.
In this museum was the Naxian lions (Naxian meaning Naxos). They are the poster of Delos, on all of the advertisement and the main attraction. Turns out the ones on the actual island are replicas and the real ones are in the museum as they had already been badly damaged by erosion from wind and sea spray.
The last few stops included the Hippodrome, Gymnasium and Stadium with is quarters. These sites were literally nothing. We walked through a dirt track in the grass without knowing it was the Hippodrome. The picture below is of the stadium, you can see a faint outline of stone walls but as I said, there was nothing to see.
We had about 90min until the boat back to Mykonos so we spent it strolling through the rest of the ruins. This side of the island was seemingly not as important as the other side, it housed things such as the Lake House and Temple of Granite and also a Jeweller. This was apparently the newest settled part of the island and also the most damaged during a fire in one of the wars. Much of this part I believe is reconstructed- we think. The marble and stone seemed too clean and white to be as old as all the others.
We boarded our boat and checked back in to Mykonos. I went for a quick swim at the beach nearby and Katy recharged the batteries. The sun was going down and Katy and I decided to go to Little Venice in Mykonos to watch the sunset. It’s the most famous part of the island to do this and it’s lined with bars selling cocktails for €15 minimum. We knew it was going to be pricey but decided it was worth it for the experience.
We chatted for a good hour while sipping on our expensive cocktails and watching the moon replace the sun. Afterwards we went for a cheap dinner to even out the price of the cocktails.
It was a very big day and we were happy campers by the time we were showered and in bed. We both agreed we were glad to have seen some of Ancient Greece while we were here, as that’s one of the main attractions of this country, it’s rich history and depth of stories and mythology.
Only a couple days left here in Greece 🙃
K + M 😀