Ready to Ride a Mule?
Is this not a happy picture in the day of a Greek muleteer? I was told his name was Marcos but I was not successful in talking with him as he always seemed busy leading trains of mules through Fira, capitol of Santorini and the most popular island for mule rides. That and my zero knowledge of the Greek language!
Mules as pack animals have long been a part of the Greek culture. The rough island terrains and narrow streets of many of the islands are better suited for mules than cars. In fact, the island of Hydra still does not allow cars. Mules, a cross between a male donkey and female horse are smaller yet sturdier than their parents. It is believed the mule gets its athletic ability from the horse and its intelligence from the donkey.
While I was in Greece, I had the opportunity to ride a sweet mule up to the acropolis ruins at Lindos on the island of Rhodes. The wooden saddle was fairly comfortable for the short ride however I wouldn’t want to spend all day in it! These mules seemed happy as they were kept in the shade and were munching grass when not being used as transport.
Mules and muleteers have long earned their living hauling materials off and onto boats and up to various locations on the islands. Way before cars appeared, the mule was the main mode of transporting goods and people around from town to town. Although tourism has been a boon to these muleteers, changes in how the mules are used and treated have become a popular focus especially among animal rights organizations who are now asking that tourists stop riding the mules in Santorini and take the nearby cable cars up instead.
Each of the Greek Islands has its own profile. I visited eight while I was there. Watch for more stories here.