Aegean Odyssey Cruise Day 1. Mykonos and Delos
The Queen Elizabeth docked in Mykonos in the new port area, a short drive round the bay from the old port and harbor front area. Shuttle buses were running back and forth between the two areas for most of the day. I signed up for a morning excursion to Delos, a short boat ride from Mykonos.
One of the Cyclades islands, Mykonos is surrounded by four larger islands, Naxos, Paros, Syros and Tinos. It has a population of just under 10,000 residents. Bob and I visited Mykonos and Delos many years ago. Ever since, for me the words "Greek island" have conjured up an image of white washed houses on a mountainside, so dazzling white against the deep azure blue of the sea, that it was almost too bright to look at. When I moved into my condo my interior design sought to recapture that image - bright white walls, and a sage and aquamarine colour palette for the furniture. And now I was back in the islands of deep blue waters and pale blue skies.
About 40 minutes by ferry from Mykonos is the island of Delos. As mythology tells it, this island was invisible and tethered underwater. To the anger of his wife Hera, Zeus impregnated Leto who needed a safe place to give birth to her twins, Artemis and Apollo. Poseidon, God of the Sea, came to her rescue, loosened the tethers and the island rose from the sea.
The babies, Apollo and his twin, Artemis, were born under a palm tree in the center of a lake on the island. As the birthplace of Apollo, the Sun God, Delos became a sacred place, the centre of the cult of Apollo. A palm tree, planted at the legendary site of the birth, where a lake once covered the area.
In the 7th century BC, Delos was the religious centre of the Ionians. Traders brought goods to the city which by the 5th century BC was a rich cultural centre with a huge agora, and massive outdoor theatres. As Athens became more powerful, Delos was made the headquarters of the Delian League, the first maritime confederacy. In 454 BC the Athenians transferred the federal treasury to the Acroplois of Athens and Delos once more became less an economic centre than a religious centre. Dying people or pregnant women about to give birth were transferred to the nearby island of Rheneia so as not to disturb the sanctity of the island. At this time the Delia was a religious ceremony held every four years during which Athens and other big cities brought gifts and sacrifices to the temple of Apollo.
Later Delos again became an economic centre and was famous as a massive international slave market where 10,000 slaves could be sold on a single market day. What an awful thought! The city was plundered by Mithridates in his war against Rome and then destroyed by raids in which 20,000 inhabitants were murdered.
Delos is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The excavations began 150 years ago around a large swamplike central lake. Over time working around swamp water, workers got ill from diseases such as malaria, and the lake was deliberately dried up and filled in. A palm tree is said to mark the spot where Leto gave birth, while Zeus watched from Kynthos, the hill that rises above the ruins if the city. This is the largest excavation site in the Mediterranean and the only ongoing archeological excavation of a classical Greek city.
The guide for our excursion from the cruise ship was George, a multilingual man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the area. He pointed out that walking among the ruins you can see the ancient Agora, the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Sanctuary of the Foreign Gods, and the sacred Mount Kynthus. Houses of wealthy merchants have been discovered with brilliant mosaics on the floors. Most famous from this area the lions made of Naxos marble that lined what was once a long avenue with shops on each side. The original marble lions are now in museums but there are several replicas showing where the originals once stood.
After our group toured the archeological site, we returned to Mykonos. I wandered around the old port area and then caught the shuttle bus back to the ship. My resolution, as it has been on the last couple of cruises I have done, was not to gain a single pound on this cruise. In fact I aimed to continue to lose a pound or two. The combination of not eating bread at dinner (hard when the bread is so tasty and tempting), having only a very occasional glass of wine, and getting in some great dancing every day, has worked wonders over the past few months. So hopefully I can stick to my plan.
On that note, we were booked into the first sitting for dinner, so we met at six at the Britannia restaurant. When you are not part of a large group the wait staff very quickly get to know your likes and dislikes. Our team of waiter and waitress were efficient and friendly and our service was excellent throughout the cruise.
After dinner we strolled off to the Queens Room to find that the floor was empty and they were playing their recorded strict tempo Ballroom and Latin music. Fantastic. This was followed by the first set from the Queens Room orchestra. By the time we decided to go and get great seats for the later show in the Royal Court Theatre, I was ready to sit down and watch professional performers dance! But I figured that with even an hour and a half of dancing each night, by the end of the 10 night cruise I would be in even better shape than I was when I boarded.