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North (Cape Armenistis) and East (Ftelia, Palaiokastro, Ano Mera and Kalafati)
(Chora = 0.0km for distances in text) North from the ‘Old’ Ferry Port, the main road follows the shoreline and passes the New Port and marina at Tourlos and continues to the sheltered, sandy beach of Aghios Stephanos. From Tourlos a steep road rises into the interior and runs north along a rocky plateau, with good views to Tinos, as far as the solitary Armenistis Lighthouse (5.5km), built in 1890—as if on the prow of a ship heading directly into the winds which Aeolos hurls from his alleged abode on Mount Tsiknias, across the water ahead. A kilometre and a half before the light house, the road passes the hill of Vorna, where remains of early houses and of a fortification have been identified. The hillside shows a phenomenon found elsewhere on Mykonos in which man-made walls of large stones and boulders interlace with strange natural rock shapes to create enclosures, in a natural synergy. Over the ridge which protects Chora to the east, visible beside the road to Panormos, is the monastery of Aghios Panteleimon (3km) at Marathi, founded in 1665 (currently closed: only open on the feast day, 27 July). Similar to a Naxiot ‘pyrgos’, this is a compact, fortified quadrangle, with a dovecot incorporated in its upper west wall. The interior of the catholicon is decorated with 17th century wall paintings by a certain Michalis Kagianis.
The north coast of Mykonos is deeply indented by Panormos Bay. In the middle of the wide sweep of sands at the southern extremity of the bay, a low ridge marks the site of the earliest (Neolithic) settlement on the island dating from the 5th millennium bc, at Ftelia (6km). The foundations of houses, excavated since the 1980s, are visible. The excavations brought to light two Late Neolithic clay figurines, household items and evidence of food from domestic hearths which suggests a very different ecology in prehistoric Mykonos—an island that was probably forested, and rich in flora and fauna. A tumulus excavated in the same area is thought to correspond with the tradition that Ajax (‘the Lesser’) of Locris, was shipwrecked on Gyaros after the Trojan War and drowned by Poseidon for his blasphemy against the gods (Odyssey IV, 499–511): his body was then buried here on Mykonos. Although often paired as a redoubtable fighter with his namesake (Ajax, son of Telamon), his roughness and rudeness earned him the hatred of Athena. He dragged Cassandra from the statue of Athena in an attempt to rape her. Thereafter the Locrians used to send two virgins each year to serve in the temple of Athena at Troy in expiation of the crime.
On a conical hill overlooking Ftelia and Panormos Bay from the east, is Palaiokastro (7.5km). From a distance the enceinte of mediaeval walls at the crown of the hill can be seen, with the church of Aghia Triada at the summit. The walls are considerably ruined and are built over a Byzantine fort, which in turn is built on an older ancient enceinte. This is best seen on the northwest side overlooking the bay. The central well (now filled) can still be seen. The 6th century bc explorer, Scylax of Caryanda, refers to Mykonos as ‘dipolis’, i.e. possessing two cities, and it is presumed that this would have been the acropolis of the island’s second city in antiquity, possibly named Panormos. In 1207 Mykonos was taken by the Venetians, Andrea and Geremia Ghisi, who were lords also of Tinos and the Sporades. The mediaeval remains here are from their subsequent fortress on the site. Below to the south east are the ruins of mediaeval buildings, with a small chapel containing meagre remains of wall-paintings in the east end and apse. One of the ruined buildings en closes the foundations of an apsidal, single-aisle church dating probably from the 13th century.
To the south of the hill is the 18th century convent of the Panaghia Palaiokastrou, built tightly around an intimate courtyard, and with a carved wooden iconostasis. The screen must be contemporary with the much finer and more elaborate example in the Tourliani Monastery in Ano Mera (7.5km). An inscription over the ‘Royal Doors’ of the screen in the Tourliani dates the intricate wood-carving and painting to 1776. The gilding and delicate colour are well preserved, not diminishing the effect of the icons, whilst enhancing the finely wrought figures of the Evangelists in the architrave above; note, in particular, St John the Evangelist with the All-seeing Eye of the Almighty. The monastery—whose name refers to its ‘tourlos’, or dome—was founded by monks from Paros in 1542; it was sacked by pirates in 1612, and then rebuilt in its present from in 1767. The marble cladding of the belfry is elaborately carved in a ‘folk-Byzantine’ style, popular in the early part of the last century: it is the work of marble-cutters from Tinos in the 1930s. For Mykoniots, the Tourliani is perhaps the most important religious focus on the island: on feast days and Sundays it is always crowded with locals, dressed for the occasion.
Ano Mera lies in one of the few areas of relative fertility on the island, and must always have been an important inland refuge of the population during the periods of piracy. Today it is a somewhat dispersed market-village with a welcome air of normality. Beyond the village the landscape opens out into wide and spacious views: roads lead east into one of the few untouched, but barren, corners of Mykonos and up to the panoramic summit of Mount Prophiis Elias Anomeritis (341m); another road leads southeast to Kalafati (11km) where, on the eastern promontory of the tongue of land which constitutes Tarsanas Point, surface excavations have revealed the presence of another Late Neolithic settlement. From Kalafati it is possible to make excursions to the see the caves and striking rock formations of the islet of Dragonisi, just off the eastern extremity of Mykonos.
Mykonos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
Around Mykonos Island. Cape Armenistis, Ftelia, Palaiokastro, ano Mera & Kalafati.
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