Most people would quite probably agree that Mykonos is the most high profile of the Greek Islands. The island was already a world famous centre for summer hedonism and all night parties long before Shirley Valentine transformed it’s fortunes on a global scale. But, truth be told, to those ‘in the know’- from the widowed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy onwards- Mykonos has always had a unique, almost surreal lustre that sets it apart from its neighbours.
And no sight on this most alluring of islands typifies Mykonos more than the range of seven, sixteenth century Venetian windmills that crown the high ground just above the cafe strewn pier. They loom even above the surf kissed bars and restaurants of Little Venice. In fact, this group of ‘seven sisters’ can be seen from anywhere on the entire island.
Painted blinding white like most Greek architecture, they range in a lopsided line along the brow of a hill that offers the best view out over the town. All of them were initially built to mill wheat, and some were in use until the middle of the last century. One of them has now been preserved as a museum, but they all stand still, as perfectly petrified in time and space as the statues on Easter Island. And, it has to be said, they are a lot prettier.
They are all built in the typically round style of the times, with narrow. slit windows and gaunt, skeletal sails that look like the weavings of some giant spider. The thatched, mop top roofs look like an early homage to a Beatles haircut.
This is undoubtedly the best place from which to witness the legendary Mykonos sunsets, an experience in high summer that verges almost on the religious in terms of the crowds it draws out.
The silence is incredible, and the sense of peace and calm is impossible to quantify as the sun sags gently into the slowly rolling embrace of the summertime Aegean. The great, fiery orb casts a pale, dusky pink glow on the sinuous curves of those seven windmills, throwing them into sharp relief against the backdrop of a slowly reddening sky.
It’s a truly beautiful, spectacular sight; a superb natural floor show that comes at no extra charge. Often as not, it’s the mellow prelude to an evening of late night, early morning carnival madness on the true hot spot of the Greek party circuit.
And more than one or two people have wandered back to their hotels at sunrise, somewhat the worse for wear, only to find themselves entranced again as the slowly rising sun glints with deceptively gentle shyness against those ancient Venetian windmills. Waiters are setting up the cafes on the quayside as the silhouettes of the first inbound cruise ships loom impressively over the horizon. It’s another day, Mykonos style.
For visitors, the days and nights are never long enough. But for the seven slumbering sisters, time stands as still as the gossamer like strands that still frame their faces, just as they have for centuries here.