The villages of Mykonos (horia)

On Mykonos what the locals call villages (horia) are actually the farm complexes found scattered all over the island. Built among the rounded grey-hued rocks – so as not to occupy any arable land on the property – and surrounded by dry-stone walls and prickly pears, they were the typical self-sufficient unit of farmers everywhere.

In the centre of the ‘village’, the rooms where the family lived usually take the form of an L or Π around a paved courtyard that is usually shaded by vine-covered pergola. The kitchen, with its suspended tray where cheeses were stored to keep them out of reach of mice, wood-burning oven, cooking area, wash basin, windows with large sills sunk deep into the walls where food and utensils were kept, and moutoula (two tiny openings above the windows, one in the north, one in the south, to provide cooling cross ventilation) was the kingdom of the farmer’s housewife.

Nearby were the outbuildings: the hay barn, the shed with the farming tools, the stables or pens for the animals – the donkey, pig, cows, chickens – the dovecote, the troughs for watering the animals, and sometimes a wine press, a waterwheel/pump and a threshing floor. More often than not you would also find a chapel, which can be distinguished from the other buildings only by its brick dome. The family pig would be fattened in its pen and slaughtered before Christmas, in time to make louza, chops and sausages. A bit farther out was the vegetable patch, a collection of vines, and pasture where the cows could graze without need of supervision.

The villages of Mykonos are wonderful examples of vernacular architecture, marrying the grey of the rocks with the white-washed sculpted volumes of the buildings, the various greens of the prickly pears, the grapesand the climbing vines were the trademark of rural Mykonos, as they symbolized another culture, the culture of dignified poverty and the inventiveness of necessity. In our day, when the landscape of Mykonos has been swamped by villas and maisonettes, the few remaining farm complexes are there ready to proclaim by their simple presence the values of moderation and humility.

 

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