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      Μύκονος (5/3/2006 v.1) Mykonos (5/3/2006 v.1)

Author(s) : Tsonos Konstantinos , Kekou Eva , Sideris Athanasios (3/31/2005)
Translation : Dovletis Onoufrios (10/31/2006)

For citation: Tsonos Konstantinos, Kekou Eva, Sideris Athanasios, "Mykonos", 2006,
Cultural Portal of the Aegean Archipelago

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1. Position - Environment

Mykonos is located in the south part of the Cyclades, north of Naxos, east of Syros and southeast of Tinos. Ships connect it with all neighboring islands and the ports of Piraeus and Rafina, whereas airplanes connect it with Athens. Its ground consists of granite and is extremely arid and dry, but has more lowlands than the rest of the Cycladic islands. Profitis Ilias Anomeritis (341 m) at the eastern side of the island and Profitis Ilias Varniotis (373 m) at the northwestern part are its highest peaks.

The shores of Mykonos are quite partitioned, forming many small leeward coves with wonderful beaches at the south and northeastern side, and deep exposed ones at the north side. Its subsoil is rich in deposits of lead, silver and barite, whereas the artificial lake of Marathi, constructed in 1993, handles the problem of the island’s water supplies.

2. History

2. 1. From Prehistory to Byzantine Times

A Neolithic settlement (5th-4th millennium BC) has been recently located at Ftelia, showing that the island took part in the developments of Earlier Prehistory. Early Cycladic graves (mount Diakoftis), Middle Helladic remnants (Palaiokastro), a tholos tomb from the Mycenaean period (1400-1200 BC) at Angelika –one of the few on the Cyclades–, as well as chamber graves at Korfos, demonstrate the inclusion of Mykonos in the Bronze Age developments.

The sparce information from the Archaic Period attests the existence of two autonomous cities (Dipolis, meaning “two cities”), identified probably with Palaiokastro and the Castle of Chora. They were later (200 BC) united forming the Synoikismos. After the Persian Wars, Mykonos joined the Athenian League. In the 3rd century, it belonged to the sanctuary of Delos, the rise of which led Mykonos to decline.

We do not have enough information on the history of the island during Hellenistic and Roman times or the Late Antiquity and the Early Byzantine period. In the Byzantine period, Mykonos was a part of the theme of Achaia and later of the theme of the Aegean Sea.

2. 2. From Latin Rule until Today

After the Franks conquered Constantinople (1204), the island was granted in 1207 to the Venetians Andrea and Geremia Ghisi, nephews of the Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo and vassals of Marco Sanudo, ruler of the Duchy of the Aegean. The Ghisi fortified the hill of Palaiokastro, where many of the residents had sought refuge after the 7th century Arab raids. Ruggero di Lauria’s Catalans (1292) sacked the island, as did Süleyman the Magnificent’s admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1537, resulting to the island’s population decrease, since many residents had either been sold as slaves or had fled. Mykonos was included in the Ottoman Empire and prospered thanks to the privileges granted to it; institutions of communal self-administration were particularly developed, as in the other Cycladic islands.

The island developed into a naval centre and its population grew considerably. In the 18th century, piracy, shipping (captains, ship-builders) and trade were the main occupations of the inhabitants. Mykonos was a prosperous community.

During the Russo-ottoman War (1768-1774), Mykonos was on the Russians’ side in their clashes with the Ottomans in the Aegean.

Due to its naval prosperity, during the 1821 Greek War of Independence Mykonos had 22 ships with 132 canons and 450 men under the command of admiral Tombazis. It participated actively in the war. Among the Mykonians stood out Mando Mavrogenous (1796 or 1797-1840), who staffed and maintained ships on her own cost, while she also supported financially the operations against the Egyptian troops. During the War of Independence, refugees from Crete and the neighbouring islands helped the island develop economically. In 1830, Mykonos, as the rest Cycladic islands, was incorporated in the territory of the new Greek nation-state.

In the late 19th century, the development of steam navigation, which dealt a blow to Mykonian shipping, led many Mykonians to migrate towards the Danubian ports and the USA. Mykonos’ decline lasted until the first post-war decades. In 1941, Mykonos came initially under Italian rule, since the Axis Powers occupied the Greek territory. After Italy capitulated in 1943, the Germans occupied it up to its liberation in 1944.

From the 1950s Mykonos developed into a centre of international tourism. Today it is one of the most cosmopolitan tourist destinations worldwide.

3. Archaeological Sites and Monuments

Modern intensive building has frequently turned against the visibility of Mykonos’ many archaeological sites. Hill Palaiokastro, in the island’s hinterland, near Ano Mera, is the most significant site. It is accessed through an asphalted network and a small walk. It has remnants of ancient walls and buildings, as well as pottery dating from the Geometric, Archaic and Hellenistic Times beneath the Mediaeval and Venetian Castle of the Ghisi. The above attest the site’s use over time, and probably identify Palaiokastro with one of the island’s two Archaic cities.

At the Castle of Chora and its outskirts (Tria Pigadia, Alefkantra, Kato Myloi), ancient architectural remains have been uncovered, as well as historical times’ burials, which probably mark the location of the second city and the capital of the Synoikismos (200 BC). The settlement of Ftelia in the cove of Panormos is accessed through a cemented road and a negotiable dirt road at a deviation of the central road network of Chora - Ano Mera. It is a significant site dating from the Neolithic Period, whereas the mound covering the settlement has been identified with the tomb of Homeric hero Ajax (Aias) of Locris.

Hellenistic towers and building complexes have also been uncovered at Linos and Portes at the southeast side, while remains dating from Prehistory up to Roman Times have been unearthed at cape Divounia. The Archaeological Museum of Chora houses findings from the aforementioned sites. The main ones are the “Lady of Mykonos”, the Neolithic figurine from Ftelia, and the monumental pithamphora with a depiction of the Fall of Troy in relief from a tomb at Tria Pigadia (second quarter of the 7th century BC). It also houses the significant findings from neighbouring Rineia.

The Castle of Chora is comprised of houses with a common wall forming high walls reinforced with towers. A small gate of the Castle has been preserved at the picturesque monastery of Paraportiani. A typical characteristic of the Castle are the katastegia, oblong corridors underneath the houses, which connect parallel alleys, making the limits between private and public space indistinct.

4. Traditional architecture – Settlements

The settlement of Chora is flat and differs from the amphitheater-like built capitals of the rest of the Cycladic islands. Although it has been burdened by intensive building over the past years, it still holds some of its traditional characteristics. Two-storey houses with a narrow or wide façade, a separate stone-built staircase leading to the upper floor (anoi) and wooden balconies, as well as the narrow slab-paved alleys, are characteristics of the main traditional architectural type. Houses are divided in two spaces: the room where women used to work (argaleios, meaning spinning loom) and the sleeping room. A wooden staircase and a hatch connect them with the ground floor. Women’s handicraft production of textiles dates from Mediaeval Times and has turned the island into a production center of quality textile products.

The famous neighbourhood of Alefkantra is pictured in many photographs and postal cards. Alefkantra is situated to the south of the Castle and stands out for the doors of its houses that lead directly to the sea, a feature that gave it the name “small Venice”.

The island was scattered with agricultural settlements, some of which formed the settlement Ano Mera in the 19th century, where the houses are surrounded by auxiliary structures (barn, storage, kiln, stable, dovecote, wine press, threshing floor, and even a family church).

Special mention must be made to the church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Tourliani, founded in 1542. It has an impressive bell tower and a museum with a wood-carven templon, an epitaph, church relics, icons and works of folk sculpture.

5. Museums

The Aegean Maritime Museum, which opened for visitors in 1985, presents a very interesting restrospective of Aegean shipping and ship-building from Minoan times until the 20th century. Its exhibits include ship models, maps, engravings, documents, as well as a multitude of objects connected directly or indirectly with shipping. It is situated at the site Tria Pigadia in a traditional building that was once the house of the admiral Nikolaos Sourmelis. Apart from the museum’s exhibits, noteworthy are also its rich library and the lighthouse "Armenistis" that is placed in the yard of the building. The museum participates actively in the research and the promotion of the Aegean shipping and ship-building.

Mykonos’ Folklore Museum is in Chora, at the area of the castle. It boasts a rich collection of items of the island’s material culture from the Modern period. Its collection includes objects of Mykonos’ popular art and everyday life, as well as objects that were brought to the island through shipping. Exhibited are objects of house equipment, pottery, jewellery, textiles, paintings etc.

A branch of the Folklore Museum is the so-called "Lena’s House", a typical example of urban architecture of the 19th century with its furniture and equipment. It is situated in Chora, next to the Maritime Museum.

The Agricultural Museum - Bonis’ Mill is also a branch of the Folklore Museum. Situated at the area of Ano Myloi in Chora, it is the best-preserved example out of 28 known windmills that existed on the island during Ottoman Rule and the 19th century. It was built in the 16th century as a three-storey cylindrical stone-built structure with lime-cast and a cane roof.

The island’s frequent winds favoured grain production. Grain was processed by the millers, was baked in kilns as rusk and was traded through shipping. The profits were tax-free and contributed to the development of the island.

The windmill’s ground floor was used for gathering and weighing grain, while the middle floor was used for gathering the meal that fell from the millstones. On the second floor, there is the grinding machinery with the rotor, which is comprised of 12 wooden antennas with just as many sail cloths. In the yard there used to be the miller’s house and the auxiliary structures.

The Feast of Vine Harvest is celebrated at the Agricultural Museum. Then, people bake traditional dishes in the kiln, and visitors have fun with the accompaniment of local popular music. Feasts are always accompanied by storytellers.

(Konstantinos Tsonos)

The Archaeological Museum of Mykonos was founded in the early 20th century in order to house the finds from the "purification pit" of Rineia. Is also houses later finds from Rineia and Mykonos.

Sculptural finds from the Heracles sanctuary and some grave stones from Rineia are exposed in hall A. In hall B are exposed mainly Geometric and late Geometric vases of the Cycladic workshops. In hall C one may see finds of the Neolithic, Early Cycladic and Mycenaean periods from Mykonos, Archaic ceramics and metalwork from Rineia, and a series of exceptional marble vases of the Classical period.

Hall D houses the big pithamphora of Mykonos, the only vase of this type entirely conserved, as well as Cypriote, Parian, and Clazomenaean ceramics. Hall E contains mainly black and red-figure Attic ceramics of the Archaic and Classical periods. Finally, in hall F and the courtyard are exposed Hellenistic and Roman grave stones, the most outstanding of them being the stela of Tertia Oraria, which was culminating an imposing funerary monument in Rineia.

(Athanasios Sideris)

6. Tourism

Visitors come to Mykonos almost throughout the year. However, most arrive from April to October. Tourist infrastructures have developed significantly, while there are plenty of lodgings; 27,35% of the first class enrolled lodgings operate throughout the entire year.

On Mykonos operate approximately 50 car and motorcycle rental agencies and 26 travel agencies. The vast majority is located at the Chora. the number of cars for rent is quite big and reaches 1200. As expected, during peak months and weekends of the tourist season, all cars are rented, resulting to traffic congestion. The poor condition of the road network makes things worse.

Holiday infrastructures are constantly being built. Therefore, settlements either lose their traditional character or other problems arise (noise pollution). In 1997, 350 restaurants, taverns, and café-bars, and 130 amusement centers operated on the island.

Noteworthy are the many jewellery stores. These businesses used to have a wide clientele, while also serving wealthy passengers of cruise ships. The situation is different now, since most of the wealthy tourists, typical on Mykonos especially in the ‘70s, have been substituted for clientele with mass tourism characteristics.

Official records cover only hotels. The number of rooms for rent is not certain, but as estimated, it came up to 10,000 beds for the year 2004. Businesses (run mostly by families) come up to 328. According to data of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, in 1991 there were 265 room and apartment rental units with an overall capacity of 4026 beds. Over the past decade, businesses have increased, whereas the supply of lodgings has at least doubled.

Every day, during most of the year, a large number of cruise ships arrives at the island. Such ships don’t stay for more than 18 hours; usually 6. Among those, 30% are medium-sized cruise ships with a capacity of 200-500 people, while 70% have a capacity of 800-2500. Passengers of cruise ships who stay longer are rather wealthy, mostly Americans (approximately 65%). On the contrary, other cruise ships are a sign of mass tourism, with mostly European passengers.

Visitors come mostly from Germany, France, Britain, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. American tourists have diminished, while there has been a small raise of Australians. Japan and other European countries are new tourist markets for the island.

Greeks take up a significant percentage of the overall arrivals, coming up to 41,4%. At the same time, they support tourism especially during the weekends.

Demand is highly seasonal, mostly in July-September, when 72% of tourists arrive.

According to research data, 80% of Greek visitors stay for 1-3 nights, while 20% stay for 4-5. Regarding foreign tourists, 36,5% stay for 1-3 days, 13,6% stay for 4-5, 13,3% stays for 6-8, 31,8% stays for 9-14, and 4,5% stays for more than 14 days. The percentage of repeated customers at the hotels of the research sample comes up to 29,75% of their overall clientele.

Most of the island’s tourists prefer organized travel. The percentage of the clientele of A, B and C class hotels using a travel agency comes up to 57,8%. The reason for traveling was vacation (90%), business (8%), while a mere 2% traveled for visiting friends or relatives.

Regarding expenses, according to the research, tourists using an agency spent an average of €1260 on the tourist package and an average of €557 for other expenses during their stay.

Tourists organizing their trip on their own spent an average of €75 per day for their lodgings and €866 for other expenses during their stay.

There has been established no organized effort on developing a strategy aimed at improving the island’s touristic quality. Any efforts made are owed to the initiative of local unions or businesses (e.g. seminars on security rules for hotels, introduction of quality standards at hotel units).

However, we should also consider that Mykonos, unlike other islands, is not greatly dependent on tour operators of wide range and capacity. This allows it to be relatively autonomous. Moreover, costing does not depend solely on tourist businesses’ bargains, but also on supplying lodgings and services to isolated customers as well. According to data, we conclude that approximately 50% of incoming tourists travel organized. Of course, this percentage is not small; however, it is much smaller than that of other popular Greek destinations.

(Eva Kekou)




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