Sunday, October 9, 2011 –
After my first night ever sleeping on a cruise ship, I woke up very relaxed. This morning I woke up for the first time in the Greek Islands. We anchored offshore the classic Greek isle of Mykonos around 8 a.m. Jeff and I grabbed some breakfast before catching our tender boat to shore.
Before touring Myknonos, Jeff and I had pre-booked a tour to the historic island of Delos. For $89, we enjoyed a 4.5-hour tour including our guide, boat and national park tickets to visit the island. We caught the 45-minute Delos Express ferry to the tiny uninhabited island.
Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. In ancient Greece, Delos was the top religious center because it was the mythical birthplace of the god Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. The island was also the commercial center of the Greek world.
Our Greek guide, Amaryllis, took our small group on a 2½-hour stroll to historical areas such as the Sanctuary of Apollo with its three temples dating from the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. We couldn’t believe the amazing treasure trove of Ancient Greek history we were walking through during the morning. It almost seemed like we were visiting a large open-air museum with all of the magnificent temples, shrines and sanctuaries surrounding us.
After viewing the Sanctuary of Apollo, we walked west to the Sacred Lake, where Apollo was said to have been born. Standing guard over the Sacred Lake are nine replicas of the famous marble lions, which were a gift from the people of Naxos in the 7th century B.C. One of the lions is located at St. Mark’s Square after it was plundered by the Venetians. We also saw nearby the amphitheater and the nearby theater quarter where wealthy owners built opulent houses with grand colonnaded courtyards.
Much of the island’s structures are in bad shape. In addition to earthquakes, Mithridates, the King of Pontus destroyed the island in 88 B.C. In the modern era, Greek archaeologists have undertaken restoration work that has uncovered artifacts and interesting vignettes of life in Ancient Greece. Then in 1990, the island was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Our last stop on the tour was the archeological musem. There were saw amazing artwork including vases, mosaics, sculptures, artwork and jewelry all discovered on the island. For me, the highlight was seeing the actual Naxian lions. Therese are the original lions that guarded the Sacred Lake outside. They had been moved inside to protect them from thieves and the effects of acid rain.
After the tour took us back to Mykonos, we Jeff and I grabbed some lunch at a Greek Café. Then we ventured off to explore the island in a light rain. The temperature was cool in the high 60s.
Mykonos has the reputation of being a party island and beach destination. Much like Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands, it certainly boasts discoteques where thunderous dance beats thump well into the early morning hours. However, it would be a mistake to only think of Mykonos as a party destination. The island is naturally beautiful and also is home to classic Greek island culture. In October, the weather is much cooler than the scorching summer months and many European tourists have already traveled back to their home countries. Therefore, it is much quieter now and the prices are cheaper. Unless you are a party animal, it’s probably the best time to visit.
First off, we visited Little Venice. There we saw the beautiful old town and stones lines the wall of the Aegean Harbor. Small fishing boats bobbled up and down as they were anchored next to luxurious yachts.
After having a mix up in meeting up with Dad, we decided to go ahead with our own walking tour. We strolled over to the nearby windmills in Hora, some which were churning in a crisp fall breeze. If it weren’t for the Aegean, I would have sworn that I was in La Mancha of Spain with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza!
Later we walked through the old town of Hora past scores of white-washed churches and cubist houses. One highlight was the stunning Parportiani church, a Byzantine architectural masterpiece. It is the classic white Greek church with a blue dome and classic spires. We definitely felt like we were in the Greek Islands. I went to a small shop and bought a small replica head sculpture of Alexander the Great to take home as a souvenir.
After finishing our tour, we took a tinder boat back to the Wind Surf. We met up with Mom and Dad for dinner. I had an amazing veal cutlet and for dessert, a decadent crème broulee. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset before checking out the rest of the ship. Our boat set sail around 10 p.m. for our next port of call: Santorini!