The Secrets of Zen Blue Mills

A Journey Through Time on the Island of Kea

The Dawn of an Era (Early 20th Century to Late 60s)

In the era when the 20th century was unfurling its first rays, long before luxury sailboats and yachts adorned the crystal waters of Kea, and long before Koundouros became the coveted haven of peace we know today, there was a bay. Not just any bay, but an isolated expanse on the southwestern part of the island, where silence was only disturbed by the whisper of the wind and the distant lapping of the waves. During this period, when tourism in Greece had yet to bloom, Koundouros was nothing but a wild tableau, an untouched slice of nature, dominated by a few proud windmills.

Among these stone sentinels, two would become the pillars of what is today Zen Blue Mills. In this era, marked by the first decades of the 20th century and extending to the late 60s, there were no paved roads connecting Koundouros to the rest of the island, only winding mountain trails, trodden by foot or donkey back by the few adventurous souls.

These windmills, perched like watchtowers above the bay, were the silent witnesses to the island's slow but sure evolution. They saw generations of Kea's inhabitants live in rhythm with nature, in a harmony nearly forgotten, perfectly integrated into the wild environment surrounding them. It was only many years later, on the dawn of the 70s, that the world would begin to recognize the beauty and hidden potential of this peaceful corner of Greece.

The photo above illustrates the two windmills in the mid-20th century, capturing a moment of tranquility and rural simplicity that seemed eternal.

Join us in this tale, as we reveal how, from this raw and timeless canvas, Zen Blue Mills emerged to become the sanctuary of serenity that many travelers seek today, weaving its story into the rich past of Kea and Koundouros.

The Winds of Change (The 1970s)

In the 1970s, a wind of change sweeps through Koundouros, a hidden gem accessible only by steep trails, the faithful back of a donkey, or the capricious flow of the sea. This era witnesses the first sparks of a community taking shape, drawn by the irresistible charm of the bay. Among the pioneers, primarily Athenians enamored with the wild beauty of the place, some decide to anchor down and build their sanctuaries of peace.

At the heart of this wave of innovation, a particular construction catches everyone's eye: the villa uniting the two historic windmills. Quickly, this exceptional dwelling, then known as "the Twin Mills villa," stands out for its privileged location and breathtaking views, becoming an architectural icon of Kea.

The photographs from that time, capturing the villa's birth and the mills' transformation, are silent witnesses to visionary boldness. They depict an era where innovation blends with respect for the past, where modernity embraces tradition.

The Twin Mills villa symbolizes this pivotal moment when Koundouros begins to gently reveal itself to the world. These years mark the beginnings of what would later be recognized as an extraordinary sanctuary, a place where history, architecture, and tranquility unite to offer a unique experience. Thus, the Twin Mills villa lays the groundwork for what, over time, would become the very essence of Zen Blue Mills.

The Era of Transformation (The 1980s to the 2010s)

The 1980s mark the rise of tourism in Kea, a development facilitated by the much-anticipated arrival of a paved road and the opening of a hotel with stunning sea views. However, Kea, with its insular wisdom, manages to preserve itself from the onslaught of international tourism, keeping its Cycladic soul intact. Koundouros, in particular, emerges as a sanctuary for the Athenian elite, artists, and thinkers in search of tranquility, far from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

The hotel, although closing its doors in the mid-90s, leaves behind an indelible imprint, evidencing the growth of Koundouros. Development continues, but until the mid-2010s, Kea remains a hidden gem, mainly known and cherished by a select few. These "happy few" even go as far as acquiring vacation villas, drawn by the island's authenticity and preserved beauty.

Towards the end of the 2000s, new infrastructures emerge, such as the respectful arrangement of the two bay beaches, demonstrating the island's commitment to preserving its natural environment and authenticity. The beaches of Koundouros, in fact, are regularly awarded the prestigious Blue Flag label, recognizing their exceptional ecological quality.

It is within this context that the Twin Mills villa, after decades of history and shared memories, begins to show signs of neglect. Gradually used less, it heads towards a regrettable state of degradation. Photographs taken in the late 2010s reveal a villa frozen in time, whose layout and decor have not evolved since the 80s, a silent testament to its glorious past and the changes that have reshaped Kea and Koundouros around it.

These images remind us that, even in neglect, the Twin Mills villa remains a powerful symbol of Kea's history, a sentinel overlooking a bay that has withstood the test of time while gently embracing the waves of change.

A Dream Awakened on Kea (2019 - 2022)

Emmanuel's first encounter with Kea in 1995 left an indelible mark, particularly highlighted by the first sea bath of his eldest daughter, Cléo, then just over a year old, in the waves of Koundouros Beach. This simple yet powerful memory deeply embedded in his heart a profound affection for this Cycladic island.

Years later, Emmanuel and Patricia's paths crossed, and together, they began to write a new chapter of their story on Kea. In 2007, deciding to purchase a villa on the island solidified their connection to this extraordinary place. Kea then became their favored escape, a sanctuary where each visit offered a breath of fresh air in their bustling lives.

In 2019, Emmanuel and Patricia chose to settle permanently in Greece, dividing their time between the vitality of Athens and the tranquility of Kea. Driven by their love for the island, they embarked on the project of renovating the Twin Mills house, rechristened Zen Blue Mills, to make it a haven of peace intended to share Kea's unique charm. This ambitious project, started in 2021 and completed in 2022, is a testament to their commitment to preserving the island's essence while providing modern comfort to their guests. Through various photos, the ambition and scope of this renovation project can be gauged, with each image showcasing the meticulous transformations undertaken to breathe new life into this historic site.

Simultaneously, since 2015, Kea has experienced measured tourism development, attracting an exclusive clientele charmed by its authenticity and preserved nature. The island stands out for its conservation initiatives, with a portion of its waters designated as a marine park and half of its territory protected under the Natura 2000 label. These efforts reflect Kea's desire to preserve its unique character while welcoming visitors.

Zen Blue Mills aligns with this vision of Kea, offering guests an experience that combines discreet luxury with immersion in the island's natural beauty. The story of Emmanuel and Patricia, from their first visit to the fruition of their project, is a celebration of love for Kea. Zen Blue Mills is now a place where the past and present meet, inviting the exploration of an island that remains a preciously kept jewel of the Cyclades.

Zen Blue Mills: Beauty in the Experience (Today and Tomorrow)

For Emmanuel and Patricia, the beauty of Zen Blue Mills is not just limited to the architectural restoration of a place; it lies in creating a complete and immersive experience. Eager to share this vision, they decide to open, on several evenings a week, a bar area in the Zen Blue Mills garden. This space quickly becomes a convivial spot where visitors can enjoy excellent wines while being swept away by the magic of a sunset, wrapped in a soothing musical ambiance.

Emmanuel and Patricia's commitment to offering a unique experience doesn't stop there. They also invite chefs from renowned gastronomic restaurants for exceptional dinners, turning Zen Blue Mills into a transient culinary stage where flavors intertwine with the art of living.

The summer of 2023 marks a new chapter with the organization of intimate jazz evenings, welcoming internationally renowned artists. Initiated by Emmanuel and his friends Yvan and Téo, these musical gatherings highlight the couple's desire to make Zen Blue Mills a cultural crossroads, where music, gastronomy, and the natural beauty of Kea unite to create unforgettable moments.

These initiatives, born from the passion and inspiration of Emmanuel and Patricia, lay the groundwork for a tradition that Zen Blue Mills intends to perpetuate. The future of the place remains a canvas waiting for the next brushstrokes, showcasing the couple's ongoing creativity and innovation. Future projects are shrouded in mystery, promising new surprises and enriching experiences for all who cross the threshold of Zen Blue Mills.

Thus, Zen Blue Mills is more than just a place to stay; it's an invitation to experience beauty in all its forms, within a setting that evolves with the seasons and the passions of its hosts. Emmanuel and Patricia continue to write the story of this exceptional place, looking forward to new adventures and future chapters that will be added to the legend of Zen Blue Mills.