I had a lovely couple of days staying on Mykonos in the Greek Cyclades Islands recently. Mykonos is one of the better known of the Greek Islands, and is also known as the Island of the winds. According to Greek mythology, it was named after a guy called Mykon who was the grandson of the god Apollo, and was the site of a mighty battle between Hercules and the Giants (read about it below).
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When I was looking for somewhere to stay I didn’t really know where would be the best place. Most of the action is around Mykonos Town, (or “Chora”) so stay as close to that as you can. Being on a budget, I stayed a little way out of town at Agios Stefanos, and I was actually pretty happy with it as a location. There was a beautiful beach on my doorstep, which I had pretty much to myself in the mornings. After 10am it became progressively more crowded.
Getting to Chora wasn’t too difficult. It was just within walking distance, although on a hot day you wouldn’t want to try it. You also had to walk on the road with no real space for pedestrians.
Buses in Mykonos are a little disorganised at first glance but easy enough once you get the hang of it. Fares are €1 to €2 and you either pay the driver or at the ticket booth if there is one at your stop. From Agios Stefanos the bus took you to the North station of Chora and an easy stroll into the town. If you then wanted to transit to the airport or Super Paradise beach (for example) you had to walk to the other side of Chora (around 20 minutes through winding streets) to Fabrika Square, which is the main station. There are timetables on the KTEL website.
Mykonos was the first time when I really reflected that Greece is not the best place (for me) for solo travel. If I’d had a travel partner to spur me on, I would have been OK with hiring an ATV to zoom around the island like I saw lots of people doing. It would have been a great way to see a lot more, but I was just too chicken to do it on my own. We all need a nudge sometimes, someone to laugh at and give ourselves false courage. I don’t often mind being on my own to travel, but this was one of the rare occasions I had a second where I noticed something missing.
I didn’t let that stop me enjoying the island. Between the beach and Chora I had more than enough to keep me occupied. I’m sure there are a lot of other amazing things that I didn’t get to see, but I console myself that I am never going to see everything!
Hercules and the Giants
When Zeus was first establishing himself as the king of the Greek gods, the Earth gave birth to a new, monstrous set of gods called the Giants, fathered by the Sky itself. The Giants were tall as mountains and so strong that they were nigh on unbeatable. Where the other gods looked a lot like normal men and women, the Giants were a bit different. According to Apollodorus, their shaggy hair drooped from their heads and chins, and they had dragon scales on their feet.
The Giants were immortal only so long as they remained in the land of their birth, Pallene, in the region of Thrace. The Giants hung out and tossed house-sized boulders and burning oak trees at Mount Olympus – where the other gods lived – to pass the time, causing general annoyance and a desire to commit genocide in return.
Now there was a prophecy that declared that the gods could kill the Giants only if they had the help of a mortal. Enter Hercules. The Earth (the mother of the Giants, remember) heard about the prophecy, and so she tried to prevent Hercules from going to help the gods.
But Zeus had a plan. First he forbade the Sun from shining, then the Moon and the Dawn (which is the first step in any well-laid plan I think). And then in a secret undercover operation he sent Athena with her chariot to bring Hercules up to Mount Olympus.
The two biggest and strongest of the Giants were called Porphyrion and Alkyoneus. Alkyoneus was climbing up Mount Olympus, leading the other Giants. Hercules looked down on them, drew his bow and shot Alkyoneus with an arrow that sank completely into the giant’s shoulder. The giant lost his grip and fell to the ground unconscious, with an enormous crash.
Hercules then grabbed Alkyoneus by his heel and dragged him far away to Mykonos, and there he died because he was no longer immortal so far from his birthplace.
While Hercules was busy with Alkyoneus, Porphyrion had reached the top of Olympus. He cornered Hera between the rocks and the sheer cliff. Zeus cast his thunderbolt at Porphyrion, leaving him dazed (a measly thunderbolt is nothing compared to an arrow from Hercules, obvs), and Hercules returned from Mykonos in the nick of time to fell Porphyrion as well.
Now all the gods and Giants entered the fight. Apollo shot one of the Giants in the right eye, and Hercules shot him in the left eye. Dionysos killed one by whacking him with his staff. Hecate set another Giant on fire with torches. Hephaistos eliminated one by pelting him with white-hot metal. Fun times were had all round.
Two of the Giants turned to flee, but oh no that was not to be allowed. Take no prisoners! Athena caught one and imprisoned him under the island of Sicily; Poseidon broke off a piece of the island of Cos and threw it at the other. Hermes wore Hades’ helmet and slew a Giant as he ran away, and Artemis killed another. Even the Fates killed a couple of Giants, fighting with clubs made of bronze.
Finally it was all over. Zeus had struck down the rest of the Giants with his thunderbolts, and Hercules finished them off where they lay. Although presumably he couldn’t actually do that – he had to drag them all to Mykonos?
Earth, who had seen her children slaughtered by Hercules and the gods, was understandably upset. She brought forth Typhon, a super-Giant (I’m not sure where he was stashed away earlier – in a cupboard under the stairs perhaps waiting for his brethren to be killed off). Typhon was half man, half beast. He was so tall that he towered over the highest mountains, and his head brushed the stars. He was of human form down to his thighs, but he had huge snake coils instead of legs. When the coils were drawn out, they reached all the way to his head and let out a loud hissing (yikes.). One of his hands reached out to the west and the other to the east, and from them projected a hundred dragons’ heads (this is like the atomic bomb of giants I guess). There would be a final contest between Typhon and Zeus, but that is another story that has nothing to do with Mykonos.
So when you visit Mykonos, keep an eye out for the large rocks scattered around the island, which are said to be petrified corpses of the Giants.