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MYKONOS AND DELOS
By Ray Chatelin
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

From Kastro's Restaurant and Bar, you can see the windmills. There, in the area called Little Venice, is where you find the best Strawberry Daiquiri in all of Greece— if not the entire Western world.

Other nearby watering holes, my wife and I discovered, offer similar views to the iconic symbol of Mykonos – windmills, seven of which are in town and another nine scattered around the island.

Of the 39 wind-swept islands that make up the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea this is the central playpen of fun with the rich, the curious, and the adventurous, each finding their own comfort zones on beaches and in town. In the Aegean, colors dominate. In Mykonos they overwhelm. The brown, aged soil seems to grow directly out of the sapphire-blue waters.

Freshly painted fishing vessels of blues, reds, yellows, and turquoise bob on the gentle harbor swells and the town is a rich kaleidoscope of blue and red windows, doors, and terraces against gleaming white houses.

Getting around the island is easy if somewhat crowded in summer. There are 60 buses, 800-plus hotels, resorts and home stays. Thirty taxis handle the onslaught of laughing, joyous tourists who come on private yachts, ferries, and by air to the 35 square mile (91 square km) island. Motor vehicles are banned in town.

The permanent population of the island is 15,194, swelling to about 50,000 and more during May to September. If you like to watch people, you'll love it here. It's where many go to be noticed. Outlandish is the norm. So is chic.

This is a place for the senses. The shops are filled with designer and local jewelry and the labels of international fashion houses. Narrow streets are crammed with small boutiques and countless pastry shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

Walk the streets after dark and the smells of Greek food, of ocean breeze, and expensive perfumes mingle with the sounds of Greek music, ongoing conversation, laughter, boats, water, and the summer winds.

The endless feast that masks as Mykonos has servings of restaurants for every taste and budget. Some are more fashionable than others. The latest top place to party until sunrise is Cavo Paradiso, a 2,000-person open-air club on a cliff overlooking the Aegean. Boisterous hugs and greetings fill the air as customers try to out-entrance one another.

Greek food is Mama's cooking. It's tasty, stick-to-the ribs cuisine that consists mainly of lamb, fresh sea food, moussaka, Greek Salad laden with goat cheese, olives and olive oil and a variety of Greek wines and beer.

Retsina, of course, is that well-known resin-tasting wine that some compare to gasoline that's served with lunch. But there's also a wide variety of Greek wines—each island seems to have its own—that are pleasant to the palate.

The best places to people-watch are from the cafes that ring the main harbor, especially after 10 p.m. which—as in the rest of Greece—is the hour when it seems the entire population takes to the streets and restaurants.

Gays, straights, wealthy Greek shipping magnates, beach-sleeping university students, exquisitely dressed women, peacock-like men, and local fishermen parade in an ongoing wave that doesn't stop until sunrise.

And that silky sunrise seems to focus on nearby island of Delos, a tribute to what once was Greece's glory, now seeming to sit in quiet judgment of tourists from Mykonos arriving by boat for a three-hour taste of its former greatness.

It was where Apollo was born, say the legends. Once so revered no one could be born or die on it. The aged, the ill, and expectant women were taken across a narrow channel to a small adjacent island, Rehenea.

At its zenith, Delos was the crossroads of the Aegean the core of all commerce and religion, with the Dorians moving southward and the Ionians moving northward,

Now, long-silenced streets lead only to ruins and marbled walls and columns bleached by the summer sun. Yet, in springtime temples and foundations are surrounded by a carpet of wildflowers— blood-red anemones in lush, green grass.

Look around and feel the wind that parches lips and grass alike, whipping past the ancient sculpted lions that have remained intact since the days of Aristotle.

Everything here is oddly current. The rubble gives evidence of our own lives with cisterns that held the water for its 20,000 citizens; tiny courtyards surrounded by small, now crumbled houses; and in places artwork still holding their colors.

______________________________________

PHOTOS by Toshi
1. Mykonos at sunset
2. The Mykonos windmills are the symbol of the island and town
3. The Venice area of Mykonos, near the iconic windmills.
4. The Lion statues on Delos are exact copies of the originals dating from 3000 BC and housed in the local museum

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