Greek Sailing Odyssey Day 9: Mykonos - Delos - Ikaria / by Honza Cervenka

So this was quite eventful!  My dad and I woke up early, at around 7:40, in order to catch the first ferry ferry to Delos (cost €17 return).  Now why do people with a sailboat need a ferry to get to an island?  Because the authorities decided to declare Delos a no-mooring zone, probably due to the fact that the entire island is basically an archeological site--it used to be a mighty island! Legend has it that Leto, a titaness and a mistress to Zeus, was pregnant with Apollo and Artemis, but Herq, Zeus's wife, cursed Leto and said that she could give birth nowhere on Earth. Leto prayed to Zeus, who intervened and requested Poseidon to anchor Delos, which used to be a wandering underwater island, with chains and bring it above the water. Finally, Leto was able to birth Artemis and Apollo, the God of Sun.  And sun there was!  There was only one tree on the whole island--a tree where, according to same legend, the anointed birth happened.

Strangely enough, once the Athenians took over the island in 478 BC, they decided that no person shall die or be born on the island in order to preserve its sanctity.  So all bones of the dead (!) were taken to a neighbouring island of Rheneia--same with all pregnant women.  And--it figures--that on a small islet between Rheneia and Delos, the Goddess of death, Decate, was worshipped.  I guess the Greeks were practical after all!

But enough with the history lesson--let's instead see what of it remained standing to the present day: not much.  Most of the island, as it is often the case with ancient monuments, is in ruins.  

Delos-Honza-Cervenka.jpg
Delos-Honza-Cervenka.jpg

Still, we figured a tour guide might let us make a bit more sense of it all.  The lady that we go was a sprinter; I think she tried to zip through the tour as fast as humanely possible, so that she got done before the next ferry arrived an hour later. Although mostly in ruins, the island was actually quite magical: with some imagination it was possible to get a pretty good idea of the breadth and wealth of the island.

The island had a distinct Greek section (old) and a Roman section (new). Each was littered with fallen columns, but some managed to defy gravity to this day and outlined the porticos of long-gone ancient temples. Both the Greek and Roman parts of the island had some pretty important landmarks: The Greek one had an amphitheatre, the Roman a hippodrome (which was not yet fully excavated and thus disguised as a meadow).

 Amphitheatre! 

Amphitheatre! 

 The hippodrome is somewhere in the background--I think???

The hippodrome is somewhere in the background--I think???

But the flora did not take over the entirety of the Roman part of the island.  In fact, one of the island's most famous landmarks, the 5 great statues of lions (originally there may have been 9-13 of them), originally crafted by the Naxions to guard the lake, were there.  And saw was a temple of Dionysus, with an entourage of two proudly erect penises, which were symbols of protection and strength--amongst other things I'm sure.

Delos-Greece-2013-Honza-Cervenka.jpg
 Headless man.

Headless man.

 Headless penises--couldn't help it.

Headless penises--couldn't help it.

We finished the visit of the island at the local museum, where many of the original retrieved mosaics were housed.  I also learnt that, apparently, mosaics were the cheap way to go about getting a floor in your house because, in their most rugged form, they are just a collection of stones carefully laid out on--much cheaper than marble!  Originally we thought we would walk up one of the hills on the island, where there was supposed to be a big temple and a splendid view of the whole town, but the sun was beating us down too much and so we decided to head back to Mykonos for a little tour.  But before that, let me show you a few more cool pictures from Delos:

 Mosaics!

Mosaics!

 An ancient water cistern--very impressive!

An ancient water cistern--very impressive!

 but not very sanitary.

but not very sanitary.

And now a few more from Mykonos:

 Old port in Mykonos

Old port in Mykonos

 Mykonos windmills

Mykonos windmills

 Can't blame her for posing--the flowers were absolutely stunning.

Can't blame her for posing--the flowers were absolutely stunning.

After a two-hour walk around the centre of Mykonos--complete with the famous, but sadly sail-less windmills, we returned to Oxalis amid extremely strong gusts of wind--not a good sign! We decided to wait for the wind to calm and did not sail off until about 5pm.  The departure was actually quite tricky--given the large amount of sailbots (upwards a hundred for sure) and their high density, there was a risk that our anchor could get stuck in one of the other sailboats' chain if we lifted it up in the conventional way.  So to play it safe, Maurizio decided to dive in and raise the anchor from the seabed manually.

Once safely away, we sailed north for about 2 hours before turning east and heading for Ikaria.  Given our late departure, we sailed well into the night.  I got sick a few hours into the journey and actually threw up--for the first time in years! It turns out the chicken kebab that I bought in Mykonos wasn't the best purchase I've made as of late, so from now on I'm sticking to Maurizio's vegetarian cuisine.

Luckily I felt better after a half hour or so and took over the boat so that Maurizio could take a nap.  After an hour or so, we swapped and I got some rest too.  Maurizio woke me up an hour later and I steered the final approach.  The sea was very calm, wind steady but medium-strong. Since we were in the middle of the sea, there was no light pollution and (given the constantly clear summer Greek skies) the stars were unforgettable.  More wondrously yet, we were accompanied by millions of minuscule phosphorous plankton on the journey.  They twinkled ever so playfully as the boat quietly sailed by--a truly magical moment.

We finally reached our destination, a quiet bay on the western side of Ikaria, at 3am, totally ready to hit the sack.

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Anchored in Ag. Nikolaus at 3am. Traveled 79.4 km/42.9 nm in 9.5hrs.  See map for the route sailed during the Odyssey and click here for more posts from the Greek Sailing Odyssey.

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