Pastoral farming of goats and sheep has been a part of the Greek landscape for centuries. Mykonian Tasos Xydakis has always cared for his native island of Mykonos and aims to keep a part of the past in the present.
Owner of Albatross Hotel In Panormos Beach, he rises early each morning to care for his private herd of sheep. I was fortunate to be asked to join Tasos just before the arrival of the New Year. We hopped into his truck traveling inland to Marathi where the fields were a sea of green. The majority of tourists only see the main town of Mykonos and usually only in the summer. The winter rains bring out it’s green side.
He led me to an old stone structure that housed his supplies for the sheep. Tasos picked up a feed mixture, hay stack and hooked cane (used to grab the animals safely by the leg when needed). We walked to one of many pastures contained by stone walls. Calling his herd to him with the repeated word that sounded like “SeeSa” “SeeSa”, they began to make their way towards him.
I was thrilled to see so many baby lambs running playfully within the herd. The mothers were watchful, not used to seeing a stranger with Tasos.
Once they were fed, the herd ran freely through the fields.
We began hiking uphill with the herd. Along the way we observed many purple crocus, wild onions and mushrooms along our pathway.
Our hillside destination was an old dilapidated stone home that served as protection for both a family and it’s animals. Images of what their life must have been like sprung to my mind. I wondered who they were and how they lived.
Two feeding troughs were built into the wall inside one room. A fireplace dominated the family’s living quarters. This one room comprised of a dirt floor, wood beamed ceiling, stone bench one window and now doorless entryway.
The roof and walls were insulated to keep the home warm during winters and cool in the summer. One could imagine the previous owner sitting by the doorway looking out over the peaceful expanse below him.
Mykonos has another face quite opposite to the party scene images associated with this beautiful island. There are many islanders who treasure it’s natural beauty. Tasos Xydakis is one of those islanders. He and many others encourage maintaining the Mykonian cultural roots. They know that the experiences, traditions and values of past generations can only enlighten us for the future.