Mykonos: Armchair Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

Peggy and I are continuing to self-isolate ourselves, as are so many of you. Medford, Oregon, the medium sized town where we do most of our shopping, is on the edge of becoming a coronavirus hotspot. (Nowhere is safe.) We have zero desire to go there and have enough food— and wine— that we don’t have to for a couple of weeks. I even have older blogs to repurpose. (Grin.) Something like 900. I’ve been blogging for 10 years. Last week I re-posted a blog on the Greek island of Corfu. Today is Mykonos. Stay safe.

The area known as Little Venice is one of many charming sites on Mykonos.
The area known as Little Venice is one of many charming sites on Mykonos. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

The maze-like town of Mykonos (Chora) was designed to discourage invasion. It was easy for invaders to get lost in the narrow, winding streets that ran into other narrow, winding streets that ran into other narrow, winding streets.

Modern day invaders, otherwise known as tourists, also find it easy to get lost. But that’s half the fun. Except for finding a restroom when you really, really need it, there is no danger. You can easily spend an hour or several wandering along the town’s crooked roads and paths. There are beautiful white buildings slathered in stucco to admire, shops to explore, and cats to photograph. You may even find a Greek musician playing the bouzouki, a mandolin-like instrument that produces what most people think of as Greek music.  Picture Zorba dancing.

White is the common color for buildings on Mykonos, Santorini and other islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea.
White is the common color for buildings on Mykonos, Santorini and other islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea.
One of the main streets in Myconos.
One of the main streets in Mykonos. This road is freeway size in comparison to most routes through the town.
Routes through Mykonos are much more likely to look like this.
Routes through Mykonos are much more likely to look like this. Note the blue trim used to add color to windows and doors.
This blue Mykonos door is decorated by a cactus.
This blue Mykonos door is decorated by a cactus.
My wife Peggy on the right and two of our traveling companions, Kathi and Frances stand in front of another blue door.
My wife Peggy on the right and two of our traveling companions, Kathi and Frances stand in front of another blue door.
Bougainvillea seems to be the flower of choice in Mykonos.
Bougainvillea seems to be the flower of choice in Mykonos.
A street musician entertained us by playing his
A street musician entertained us by playing his bouzouki…
And a cat confiscated a cafe chair for its mid day snooze.
And a cat confiscated a cafe chair for its midday snooze.

We managed to get both lost and separated. There was no hope of finding each other in the labyrinth, but fortunately we had a plan. We would meet at the island’s famous windmills. Long since retired, five of them remain hunkered down on a ridge south of town. Mykonos is noted for its winds. The locals even have names for them based on their intensity: bell-ringer, chair thrower, and knock you off your horse. We experienced a brief example of chair thrower but fortunately missed knock you off your horse.

The windmills used cloth sails to capture the winds and run mills for grinding grain. Local bakeries then turned the grain into sea biscuits, aka hardtack, which is flour and water baked several times into a consistency of hardness just this side of rock. The value of sea biscuits is they are basically indestructible. Before modern refrigeration, they were used on long sea voyages. Throw in a lime plus a generous dollop of rum and it was dinner. Producing these ‘delicacies’ was the island’s main industry.

One of the windmills of Mykonos. Dark clouds brought brief rain and a "throw a chair" wind.
One of the windmills of Mykonos. Dark clouds brought brief rain and a “chair thrower” wind. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
Three of the five windmills.
Three of the five windmills.

Following the coastline back into town we came upon Little Venice (pictured above), a community where sea captains of yore built mini-mansions perched on the ocean edge. Since it neither looks like Venice nor has canals, my thoughts are its name is derived from its proximity to water. Either that or a real estate agent was involved. The community is quite colorful, however. I’d be glad to call it home.

Mykonos has some 70 churches to meet the needs of its 7000 residents, which seems like a lot. I am reminded of the number of Baptist churches found in the rural South of the United States. When I was traveling through East Texas on my bicycle in 1989, I estimated there was one for each family. The Mykonosians had a unique use for their churches, however. They enshrined the bones of their dead relatives in the walls. I doubt the Baptists do this but it might give new meaning to the old saying, “the family that prays together, stays together.”

Scrunched between Little Venice and the harbor is the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, the most unusual church on the Mykonos. Once upon a time five different chapels existed side by side. Then they morphed together into what has become one of the most photographed sites on the island, with reason. We contributed our share of picture-taking.

The Church of
The Church of Paraportiani of Mykonos.
Another view of the church.
Another view of the church.

The small harbor area of Mykonos definitely fits the description of picturesque. It was our last stop (except for lunch) on our way back to the ship. That’s where we met Petros the Pelican.

We have this photo of Petros on our living room wall.
Petros playing ghost? Or possibly drying his wings cormorant style.

Unfortunately, it was Sunday and the local fishermen had taken the day off. We satisfied ourselves with admiring the boats. The area also features a small beach that would be crammed with sun worshippers in the summer. Now all it featured was golden sand and blue sea.

Idle fishing boats in the Mykonos harbor.
Idle fishing boats in the Mykonos harbor.
The golden sands and blue waters of the Aegean Sea of the small beach in Mykonos.
The golden sands and blue waters of the Aegean Sea of the small beach in Mykonos is a good place to end this post..

WEDNESDAY’S BLOG: Santorini. I’ve posted on this more recently but this beautiful island is always worth revisiting.

34 thoughts on “Mykonos: Armchair Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. Oh, how this brings back fond memories. I’ll write about this island soon, since it was one of our favorite stops on Viking’s Ancient Lands tour. Your photos do it justice: love the windmills, streets with white paint between the rocks, and the buildings. We, too, got lost a bit in the interior — looking for a bakery, no surprise! But we found it, bought some things to bring home, and left with a great feeling for this island.

    • Laughing. I didn’t meet a Greek Island that I didn’t like. I could really see Peggy and me hanging out in the islands for a couple of months. Hopefully, I’ll catch your post. –Curt

  2. Great memories of our trip, Curt. And a reminder that when and if the world regains its equilibrium and traveling restarts, where is so much more of Greece and its islands to visit.

  3. I’m enjoying these trips to the Greek islands. Better to see them virtually than not at all! It looks idyllic. I wold love getting lost in all those narrow winding streets.
    Alison

    • I am enjoying the revisit equally, Alison. One advantage that you and I and Don and Peggy and most of the other bloggers I follow and that follow me have is our vast store of travel experiences we have had and can look back on. They make our lives rich in a way money never could. –Curt

  4. Great memories Curt. Unfortunately Mykonos has become a favourite destination of the cruise ships, as many as 3 or 4 in one day which means thousands of day time visitors.. This has spoilt it, the streets and bars are crowded and the shopkeepers and restaurant owners are all from Athens looking to make a fast buck. Last time I was there I was glad to get away and take a ferry to a smaller island.

    • Well, that’s one problem that is at least temporarily solved by the pandemic. It’s possible that the cruise industry will be changed dramatically by what is happening now. I also think the locals need to come up with solutions. It can’t be pleasant having your whole life disrupted by thousands of people descending on you, even if it is profitable. I think some type of compromise is in order. I’d start with placing a limit on no more than one ship arriving at a time and limiting cruise landings to 2-3 times a week, just enough to keep the local economy perking. Smaller cruise ships are also in order, considering they just keep making them bigger and bigger. –Curt

  5. Thank you for offering this visit back to Greece. I didn’t make it to Mykonos and your photos remind me of its beauty. And yes, the cats… the town of Mitilini on Lesbos was like that too, cats everywhere! I had forgotten until I read your post. What’s with the cats! While Mykonos seems to be all about blue, the shutters in Mitilini were of all different colors and a joy to paint. I liked playing with all the different angles they presented.

    • Many, maybe even most of the cats are homeless. But they looked healthy and well fed. Somehow, I missed that you were a painter as well as a photographer. Now I will have to go looking for your paintings. –Curt

  6. Oh, how we loved Mykonos — the windmills, little Venice, the bakeries and white painted streets and buildings. Would love a return trip a bit longer so we could roam around a bit more. In fact, I could return to Greece in a heartbeat!

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