The wind blows all around the year on the Greek island of Mykonos. So it’s only logic that on Mykonos you can find one of the most famous landmarks of Greece… So, if you don’t know what things you can visit in Mykonos, the windmills are the answer.
What more iconic postcard from Greece than these windmills? However, did you know that there are traditional windmills on several Greek islands? Many of them were still active and functioning until the early 20th century.
The Anatomy of the Windmill
According to the tradition, windmills on the Greek islands are normally solid buildings, with three floors, shaped in a cylindrical way and made of stone. Some of them also include small windows and a pointed roof, commonly made of wood.
Other than that, there are about twelve wooden fan blades on top of the structure. Each of them has a triangular wing of a very sturdy kind of fabric (the cotton used for sails in boats).
Following the logic of physics, whenever the wind blows (and the Aegean sees some strong gusts), the windmill will carry the movement to a central axis inside the building itself. This will force the grind stones into a rotational movement.
The top floor housed the grinding mechanism to take advantage of the force that the movement would imply.
The flour that each mill produces was stored on the second floor. Finally, on the ground floor, locals kept the raw grain and the resulting flour.
Building a windmill was not cheap, and the construction site needed to be picked carefully. Factors such as exposure to the right winds (usually northern) and the ease for the workers and the donkeys.
The need for strong winds was a key factor, for that reason windmills are often on hillsides or on the edge of capes, but still always close to the main villages.
The northern wind of the Aegean, the Meltemi, helped the windmills with the process of grinding cereals.
Particularly in Mykonos, the resulting flour was either given back to the farmers for them to bake their bread. But also local bakers used to buy that flour for their own business.
Much of that flour, however, was often sold and shipped to other areas of Greece or to other Mediterranean countries.
There used to be more than twenty-five windmills on Mykonos. Ten of them were part of Kato Mili, a complex of mills in the lower area of the island, across from the harbor of Alefkandra. This was such a strategic position that the area was key to the economy and growth of the island.
Once upon a Time
Almost every ship sailing nearby used to stop. Therefore, the flour resulting from those windmills by the sea was the main ingredient to bake the famous Greek rusk, paximadia.
This type of bread has a double baking process which results in a very dry rusk easy to preserve for months.
These were an ideal source of carbohydrates for sailors who didn’t reach the mainland for months.
The mills on the hills
High on the island, there were the Pano Mili or windmills from above. Not so easy to reach, the product resulting from the mills on the hills was mostly for local consumption.
As time went by, electricity brought new advances to several islands. As a result, this traditional method to produce flour gradually came to an end.
Nevertheless, the windmills stand as a memory of the agricultural past of Mykonos and the Greek islands.
The windmills today
There are still sixteen old windmills standing proud on Mykonos’ landscape. Some of them, however, have become exclusive lodges and residences.
The most famous windmills are near the old town, by the sea. Every year, thousands of tourists visit them at the sunset hour, the best moment to shoot one of the many iconic Greek images to take back home.
Visit the Windmills
Unfortunately, travelers can only visit two of the still-standing windmills of Mykonos. The first of them is Geronimo’s Mill.
This structure dates back to the 1700s and it’ the most ancient mill on the island. Active until 1960, there have been recent renovations on the structure while maintaining most of the original machinery for grinding.
Also open to the public Bonis Mill, a windmill that is an integral part of the Agricultural Museum of Mykonos. This mill has been restored in full respect of its original features.
Visitors that choose to visit this structure can access every one of the floors. They can also learn about the process of flour making, from grinding the grains to weighing and storing the flour.
Bonis Mill is open daily to the public during summer afternoons (from July until September), from 16:00 to 20:00.
To contact the structure dial +30 22890 26246.