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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Friday, July 13, 2012

We decided to visit Milos rather than other Greek Islands on this trip because we wanted somewhere with lovely beaches to swim at, great history to explore and a bit of peace and quite - Milos appeared to have all three of these qualities in abundance. The Island only has about 5,000 inhabitants.

In ancient times, Milos prospered because of its great mineral wealth (rich in bentonite, kaolin, perlite, pozzolana, sulphur, barite and gypsum). It has been inhabited since the Neolithic age (7000 BC) and developed more rapidly than neighboring islands because of the obsidian which was used by the Melians to make tools and weapons out of. Obsidian from Milos has been located in the Peloponnese, Crete, Cyprus, and even Egypt, indicating a significant trade in the rock. We still found it on the dirt roads.

From the beginning of the Bronze age (2800 to 1100 BC) the Dorians settled on Milos and a new settlement was established around modern Klima. Art and craft developed rapidly during this time, proof of which are the so-called Melian vases which are world renowned.

Milos refused to surrender to the Persians like other Greek city states and fought along with the rest of the Greeks at the battles of Salamis and Plataea. In their attempt to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian war however, Melians were punished by the Athenians who in 415 BC put all the old people to death and sold the young men, women and children into slavery.

Until 311 BC, Milos was ruled by Macedonia and then by Egypt. Because of its usefulness in ensuring control of the seas in the region, Milos saw a phase of renewed economic growth.

During the Roman Conquest, Christianity made its first appearance. The most important event in the Byzantine era was the destruction of the ancient city of Klima in the 5th or 6th century as a result of an earthquake.

After the 4 ½ ferry trip from Athens we arrived at the town of Adamas on Milos Island and were greeted by Katerina, the owner of the studio we had rented for the three weeks. Katerina and her husband drove us to the studio and we were grateful to accept her request to drive us into town the next day to get a Greek sim card and look at renting bikes or a scooter.

Our studio has a lovely large balcony that looks out over the bay and it perfectly situated to watch Milos' famous sunsets which are, in a word, spectacular.

The next day we headed into Adamas and picked up a sim card. We decided not to rent bikes as they were 10 euro each per day and we didn't have an international drivers license to rent a scooter. Adamas is the main port and a seaside village with about one thousand inhabitants. It was built by refugees from Sfakia who fled from Crete after the failure of the rebellion against the Turks in 1928.

Instead, after a supermarket shop, we walked the 5km back to our studio along the shoreline. Without a car, scooter or bikes, this 5km walk as become very common for us, passing the island's thermal electricity plant and its natural hot springs along the way.

One day we walked into Adamas and caught the local bus to Sarakiniko. Sarakiniko is a tiny beach at the end of a very narrow gully formed of volcanic rock which in places have been worn away by wind and rain. The whiteness of the volcanic rocks wit their unusual sculptured formation and the compete absence of plant life is reminiscent of moonscape. We sunbathed and swam in crystal clear water before grabbing the bus back to Adamas before we got sunburnt.

We visited the island's Roman amphitheater, the site of the Venus of Milos and the Island's catacombs which are, along with those of Rome and the Holy Land, regarded as the most significant historical find globally. The catacombs of Milos resemble a labyrinth around 185 meters long and indicate that Christianity started on the island around the 1st century BC and were used until the 5th or 6th century AD. Sadly the amphitheater was being reconstructed but the catacombs were incredible and the walk along a little used dirt road was lovely too, even in spite of the heat.

While the site of the Venus of Milos was underwhelming, it will certainly provide context when we see it in the Louvre in Paris in a few weeks time (context I (Chris) didn't have last time I saw it): In 1820 an inhabitant of Plaka was digging in his field when he uncovered a small cave and inside it he found half a statute of Aphrodite (Venus). By chance a French officer was nearby and amazed at the find and managed to persuade the islander to search for the other half of the statute which he promptly found. Realizing the artistic value of the statute, the French officer asked the French vice-consul for Milos to arrange to purchase it. While an initial agreement with the French had therefore been reached, when they arrived to pay and collect it, they found that the farmer had already sold it to the Prince of Moldavia. After some significant French pressure, the farmer relented and agreed to sell it to them in the end where it was promptly given to King Louis XVIII before later being put on display at the Louve. We also found the energy to climb up to a tiny whitewashed church built on top of Roman ruins and perched on the cliff top overlooking the entrance to Milos's harbour.

Another day we paid 30 euro each to tour the whole island by boat. It was a lovely way to see the sights of Milos as they are almost all on the coastline. We had am amazing day with plenty of sun and swimming stops. One in particular that stands out because of its caves is Kleftiko and was a hideout for pirates during the Turkish occupation around 1500 AD to 1800 AD. We spent an hour exploring the caves and even swam right through one of them to get back to the boat. At our last swimming stop Chris even managed to get a bit of adrenaline by jumping off the top of the two storied boat into the water, minus his glasses, watch and wedding ring of course!

We also got to see the disused Sulpher mine, the Glassonia (islands made of lava) and some very cute Greek fishing villages. The boat also stopped at the neighbouring island of Kimolos where we walked up to the old castle before having sandwiches on the beach.

As the studio has a tiny hot plate, kettle, microwave, fridge and sandwich press, we have cooked dinner every night while in Milos. It has been nice to be self-sufficient and to have home cooked food too. Also Katerina is an amazing baker and drops of cookies, cakes and cold deserts for us to nibble on, plus there are newly picked tomatoes from the garden here. Katerina, her husband and their daughter Flora were amazing hosts and made us feel so very welcome, even giving us a leaving present (a stunning photo book of the Island)!

About a 10 minute walk up the road is Hivadolimni beach. While it is apparently one of the Island's nudist beaches, it is quite spectacular and given its beautiful sand, clear turquoise water, shade, close proximity and that it is the largest beach on the Island we have visited it frequently.

It barely ever rains on Milos, even in the winter time, and so the whole Island's water supply is generated by a desalination plant and trucked to each house. Very clever but I am glad I don't pay the rates!

By the time we had left we had managed to visit most of the Island's many and varied beaches and historic sites and were very sad to leave.
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