From the Sea Cloud in Greece
Oct 9, 2012 - Sea Cloud
Delos / Syros
Delos, though the smallest of the Cyclades, was once the political and religious centre of the Aegean World. It was considered to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and had one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient world. The island flourished throughout its history, but in particular after 166BC when it was declared a free port by the Romans. The town of Delos became the centre of operation for hundreds of merchants from all over. The population rose to 25,000 people and beautiful houses were built. What is fascinating about Delos is that one visits a whole city with its sanctuary, theatre, stadium, wresting houses, gymnasium and residential areas and can understand ancient life. The houses of Delos are multistoried. The rooms are grouped round a central courtyard which was reached from the street by a corridor. The court had marble columns around it and a mosaic floor covered a cistern, which stored main water on which the household depended. The walls were plastered and painted to imitate marble. The mosaic floors of Delos’ houses are very famous. Some have depictions of Dionysus, others use theatrical masks as decorative themes, dolphins or legendary scenes were other options.
After visiting the local museum, some walked to the terrace of the foreign deities and others ventured to the top of Mount Kynthos for a spectacular view. Returning to the ship, everything had been set for a swim in the sea! What a pleasant surprise! Of course, we did not miss the opportunity to dive into the blue, crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
After lunch we had some time to rest before arriving at our next stop: the island of Syros. What a delightful island, although it was not in our original itinerary! Syros is the modern equivalent of Delos: a small rocky island without resources, but occupying a good place in the Aegean. During the War of Independence, refugees built the town of Ermoupolis by the sea. This town soon developed to the mercantile junction of the Aegean. In the mid 19th century the port became the coal refueling station for packet ships sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean and the most important port of Greece. When oil burning replaced coal, Syros started developing industries in order to counterbalance the losses.
The city is an amazingly beautiful 19th century city with excellent examples of neoclassical architecture. The houses indicate the wealth their owners once enjoyed. The quay, bustling and animated, is lined with cafes and shops selling ‘loukoumi’. We walked all along the waterfront to the church of the Virgin of Psara, where we saw the icon the refuges brought with them when they fled from their island without knowing that it was a genuine El Greco! The main square of the town is paved with marble and shaded by trees and in the center is dominated by the Town Hall, an elegant building. The city of Ermoupolos has a romantic, aristocratic, nostalgic atmosphere. Staying in port this evening gave us the opportunity to enjoy the relaxed pace of the town and some of us even had dinner ashore. Another nice day came to its end. Thank you!