Somewhere around the 16th century, Mykonos played smart and harnessed the power of the strong northern winds that blew in the area to grind barley, wheat, and other local agricultural yields. Often referred to as Meltemi winds, these gusts of air coming from the northern Aegean Sea not only helped keep the local economy going (the flour was sold to local bakeries or shipped/exported to other islands), but also enabled islanders to stack up flour for the coming winter season, up until next year’s harvest.
Build to withstand the elements, the three-storey, spherical constructions featured a customary pointed wooden roof and small windows – all made of the finest wood available at that time. The upper floor was used to store the flour while all the weighing and storing of cereal grain was done on the ground levels of the beautiful stone-built Venetian pearls.
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In idle mode since the late 19th century, the Mykonos windmills now stand proud reminders of a once manufacturing wonder. In fact, they were among the very first windmills in Greece, allowing islanders to benefit from pioneering technology (considering the times) to utilise wind energy. The island counted nearly 30 of those modern wind turbines precursors, 16 of which have been renovated and are still well-preserved in Mykonos.
The primary pole of attraction is the seven windmills found in a complex called Kato Mili, an area southeast of Mykonos Town (aka Chora). Whitewashed, like all other Mykonos buildings, the imposing windmills offer a unique and idyllic spectacle to bystanders and visitors as they come in sharp contrast with the azure of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sky! Overlooking the vastness of the sea, they have become a Cycladic landmark, providing breath-taking views. You can’t miss them – they stand in a row atop a hill, watching over the island; like restless defenders and protectors.
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Windmills & Little Venice
Of the seven remaining windmills, two can be visited today, (1) the Geronymos Mill and (2) the Bonis Mill. The first dates back to the 16th or 18th century (opinions vary) and Is the oldest windmill still standing in Mykonos. It produced flour until around the end of the 1960s before it was passed on to the hands of a rich family that renovated it thoroughly while keeping its original equipment intact. As for the second, it has been turned into a second-to-none Agricultural Museum that has preserved the closest to the original condition as humanly possible. Visitors have the chance to familiarise yourself with the entire flour-making process, from grinding to storing. Plus, you also get to learn details about the island’s traditional agricultural methods, and many more. The Museum is open to the public between the months of July and September in the evening hours.
Note: If you happen to be around the Bonis Mill on the 2nd Sunday in September, don’t forget to join the yearly Harvest Festival! Expect lots of treats, folk dancing, traditional Greek music, and storytellers sharing legends and real stories from the glorious past!
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And while experiencing such heart-filling adventures, do consider completing a perfect day with a visit to Little Venice. The charming, picturesque neighbourhood just below the windmills is home to adorable colourful, Venetian-style houses that literally hang over the cobalt waters of the Aegean, with their balconies filled with mesmerising bougainvillaea. Once the swanky residences of sea captains and wealthy merchants, most of them now operate as bistros, cafes, and bars, providing utterly romantic sunset panoramas.