Monday, November 12, 2012

Oct Cruise - Delos and Mykonos, Greece

Our third stop on the cruise was in Mykonos, Greece.  There is no deepwater port, so we had to ride a tender to get ashore.  And since we were taking a tour of the nearby deserted island of Delos, we hopped aboard another boat for the 30 minute ride to see the ruins.

A lifelong history nerd, I never met a set of ancient ruins that didn't fascinate me. The ruins at Delos aren't as extensive or impressive as those at Pompeii and Ephesus, but I was still enthralled.

Below is a pic of a lovely old olive press in one of the Delian workshops they've excavated.

Above is an old cistern in a section of the excavated ruins where homes were located. Below you can see a couple columns still standing near the lake (greenery behind it).  As the guide told us while we were walking through the lake, it has to be drained when the archaeologists arrived to keep them from catching malaria from the mosquitoes.

Some of the floor mosaics they have uncovered are in remarkably good shape, considering they were created hundreds of years before Christ was born.

Delos is an important part of the mythology of ancient Greece since it's believed to be the birthplace of Apollo, son of Zeus.  At one time, people from places such as Greece, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, including Jews, lived in relative harmony on the island.  It was thought to have a population of about 25,000 at its height of influence and popularity.  

Over time, Delos has been sacked and pillaged, beginning with King Mithridates in 88 BC when he razed much of it, killed thousands and sold the remaining inhabitants into slavery. It lay in ruins for centuries until it was rediscovered in the late 1870s.  Since then it has been excavated by the French School of Archaeology.

Today Delos is open to tours and also contains a visitor's center/museum.  It's interesting to note that the rule put in place back in 425 BC still exists today.  The Athenians at that time decreed a purification of the island.  All of the graves were removed and henceforth no births or deaths will be allowed on the island.  And to ensure that, visitors must leave every afternoon.

It's amazing how these dry stack walls, both homes and shops, are still partially standing after all these years.  As expected, parts of Delos resembled an architectural graveyard, with columns and pediments scattered all around.  It was all just a little too big and unwieldy to hide beneath my raincoat, so no amazingly awesome ancient souvenir for me.

Lo and behold, some of the writing remains on the ruins.  I'd love to be able to read it.

And plaster from a couple thousand years ago - with the bright colors favored in that day still faintly intact.

While looking back through my pictures, these two really caught my eye.  The first one is a portion of a phallic symbol, very popular on the island.  This isn't some crude drawing, but rather a marble penis (obviously severed) with testes and even pubic hair visible just at the base where it sits atop the plinth.  Public pornography, to my WASPy way of thinking.  

And the second was a lion's head detail on a building.  Not so sharp and crisp due to weathering through the centuries, but still really beautiful.

While we were touring Delos, there was a thunderstorm approaching. We saw lightning and heard enough thunderclaps to make me glad our tour on the barren island was almost done.  At one point, I looked off into the distance and saw a funnel cloud.

Whereas Ephesus had resident cats, Delos had lizards.  And it seems there were a variety of sorts and sizes.  I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about them, though the two lower elementary aged boys on our tour were thrilled to have something to do (attempt to catch one) besides listen to the guide's spiel.

After our tour, we took the boat back over to Mykonos and roamed along the shorefront for a bit.  

If you look closely at the above pic, you can see a rainbow.  While I was purchasing the requisite Mykonos magnet - I have a magnet collection representing all of our travels - the husband and daughter found a gelato shop.

While we were waiting on our tender back to the ship, we stood beneath some fish market stalls, already closed for the day, and spied a cat.  No doubt it's a favorite spot for the kitties to hang about and wait for something to accidentally hit the ground.

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