May and June sets the ground every year in Milos, to bridge Spring and Summer. The revitalized natural environment vividly colors the first hot days, and since the summer trade winds haven’t yet started, the rising temperature allows me to take the first steps on the beach and dive into the sea. This is a very good period to visit the island. Lodging is at a better price than the rest of the summer, while all tourist activities (excursions etc.) have already started for the Island’s arriving guests.
May Day in Milos
May Day in the island provides me with an opportunity to participate in an age-old custom. Girls collect flowers from the blooming fields and make wreaths to hang outside their homes’ doors. Boys, on the other hand, wait until night to steal the wreaths and hang them in the village square. Next morning, the girls go back to the village square in order to retrieve their wreaths, and exchange tricks and teases with the boys.
Milos in Easter puts on its best festive “dress”, and welcomes me with images and experiences that I will not encounter during any other period of the year. The poppies, daisies and other wild flowers put together a colorful carpet, which covers the hills and pastures, beautifully coloring my countryside strolls. In the meantime, the cool sea casts an enchanting spell, challenging me for a courageous dip in its waters.
Easter customs and traditions that are perpetually reborn over the centuries, await my discovery in the Island’s picturesque churches, lit up and ornate for Holy Week. I will have the opportunity on Maundy Thursday, after the liturgy and until late at night, to join the hospitable locals in adorning the Epitaph of the local parish with flowers, which parishioners have brought from their gardens.
Before church service on Good Friday, I can pay my respects to the decorated Epitaphs of various other village churches, so as to judge which was the most beautiful. Afterwards, I will be able to follow whichever Epitaph procession I desire, observing the charming settlements filled with pious emotion under the candlelight.
On Holy Saturday’s Resurrection Night, midnight on Easter’s eve, I shall join the firework celebrations that intensely light up the sky, or even, in some villages, low-grade dynamite candlestick that sounds like thunder. After Resurrection observance, I will get to taste the traditional fast-breaking soup called “mageiritsa”.
Easter Sunday calls for me to follow the unique custom of the “gunpowder”. Parishioners of St. Spyridon church in Triovasalos and those of St. George in Pera Triovasalos have spent the year preparing improvised dynamite candlesticks that erupt in mid air. Their churches are situated atop opposing cliffs, separated by a large meadow. After the customary burning of a Judas effigy that lay hanged since morning, and after 3 bell tolls, the two “teams” start throwing their prepared dynamite candlesticks from the surrounding houses’ terraces, over the meadow. The parish that first claims to have thrown the most and strongest ones shouts “aleimma” (roughly meaning paste spread). This tradition has survived over the ages, through the Ottoman and German occupations, and the seven-year dictatorship of the late 1960s and early 1970s; I will not miss it!
One more quite characteristic custom is “kounia” or “hammock”. It was usually erected at the main village square, where young men would set the wooden beams and young women decorate it with flowers. This hammock was inaugurated on Easter Sunday and used on every holiday, until the day of the celebration of the Ascension. It symbolizes the rejuvenation of nature, and back in the day when the social customs were stricter and more rigid, young men and women would use it as an excuse for romantic get-togethers. Another distinct local holiday is “Tuesday of skolo” or “Tuesday of the departed”. On this day parishioners join the priests in chanting hymns for the souls of their deceased relatives, church bells toll cheerfully, and the holy icons are paraded in the village streets. This serves as an occasion, for people to remember and honor their ancestors and lost loved ones.
Milos is the 5th biggest island of the Cyclades and can be found at their southwest corner. When on the island I am 86 nautical miles away from Piraeus (138klm) and almost half way from Piraeus to Crete. If I were to walk around the island’s shores, that would mean traveling a distance of 125klm, and if I went up to its highest peak, at Profitis Ilias, I would be 751 meters above sea level.
This volcanic island is reasonably hilly, with relatively low mountains and without much tree vegetation. The flora and fauna of Milos is quite rich with many rare species and as such, large parts of it belong to the Natura 2000 areas.
If I decided to stay permanently in Milos, then I would join 5000 fellow Melians. Adamantas is the central port, above which the island’s capital –Plaka– is located, circled in turn by the villages of Triovasalos, Pera Triovasalos and Trypiti. Another important township is Pollonia (or Appolonia), a seaside village and linking port to Kimolos. Other settlements include Zefyria, the old capital of the island built inland to be protected from pirates, and the coastal ones of picturesque Mantrakia, beautiful Fyropotamos and Klima, the “little Venice” of Milos.
Milos in the past
Milos has been inhabited for longer than 8000 years; an important part of the Cycladic civilization initially, it has attracted aspiring conquerors over the centuries due to its strategic geographic location and rich subsoil.
The ancient town of Milos is located closer to the entrance of the harbor, built on the hillside between the villages of Tripiti and Klima. There lies the ancient Roman theater, ruins of the walls and other structures. Many important sculptures were discovered in these parts, including the Venus of Milo located in the Louvre, Asclepius taken to the British Museum, an archaic Apollo, which can be found in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, and a great mosaic found during the excavations of the British Archeological School of Athens in 1896.