The remnants of the latest earthquake upon harbour gate E1 flit past the triangular windows of the swift speedboat. Within minutes, Piraeus’ cement structures are behind you. The Aegean sea surrounds you already, bathed in the strong slanting morning light of the serene summer sun.
Just a few hours before you arrive at Mykonos, new tales unfold, starring happy and excited tourists, lovers of this land, faces full of hope. The Mykonos legend, the stories, the innumerable photographs hosted in the rambling little alleys and the golden-blue beaches, the cosmopolitan jet set, the beautiful people, the parties and the loud music, the lies and secrets of this island: every year they attract more and more people from literally every corner of the planet.
It’s an open secret. Upon arrival, the island’s borders vanish, along with visitors’ passports. Visitors at Mykonos are akin to pilgrims. They come to see, to taste, to smell, to touch, to tan, to shop, to stay up all night, to tire, to sleep in a marvellous orthopaedic bed. They come to coexist, to meet each other – and, perhaps, to recognise each other. The countless selfies, the billions of megabytes hover invisibly in the sky, taking on the role of a promoter.
Shortly before arriving at the New Harbour, with the stress-inducing announcement ‘the ship will depart immediately…’ shooting forth from invisible loudspeakers, the first whiff of suncream spreads in the cool air conditioned room. It is milky white foreigners that spread the invaluable cream on their arms and smiling faces, revealing a certain satisfaction, the triumph that they have finally managed to be here, in the middle of the Archipelago, to expose themselves to the scorching sun that deepens wrinkles, in the most beautiful corner of the world.
The harbour at Tourlos is ample. Paved. Orderly. The frequent ships, the cruise ship pier nearby exude order and security: the first impression a voyager gets is devoid of any inconveniences to deal with, leaving them free to think about more pleasant matters on their first day.
It’s early in the morning, and check-in at the hotel is still some hours away. Time for a wander.
Through the eyes of an eternal Mykonos lover
A vespa and a bag with the bare necessities. From the very first moments, energy floods the body, the senses receive countless stimuli. Green-blue waters in every direction, an open invitation to dive in literally anywhere. Delos and Rhenia on the right-hand horizon, the Aegean’s brightest spot. The sea surface, wrinkled and dotted with white: the meltemi, the local northern breeze is here, clear and cleansing. Passing through Chora, the main town, between gorgeous houses, mansions with amazing architecture and blooming bougainvilleas, signalling the islanders’ aesthetic taste and ages old quality of life: streets are clean, the few potholes are hardly worth complaining about. The rooftops at Chora on the right (seen from Rochari) gleam like a single work of art, interrupted only by laundry on clotheslines and the tops of eucalyptus trees: a cinematic view worthy of parkour or rooftop chases with Jason Bourne.
Imagination and the expectation for the unexpected are king. Beauty is everywhere, anywhere the sun’s rays and the moonlight’s shadow can reach. The luxurious polished black vans with opaque windows have learned to safely and comfortably manoeuvre through the narrow streets, protecting their passengers from curious, insidious eyes, flaring up the exciting feeling that you, a mortal, are in the same place as those immortal Hollywood stars, music legends, revolutionary entrepreneurs, artists of any direction and origin, journalists and photographers, boys and girls of all ages. All become one under the blue heaven of fine living.
Mykonos is a paradigm of travel experience. And it is constantly changing for the better. It is a comfortable embrace, a little salty, with a sweet aftertaste. An international village with exceptional customer service almost everywhere nowadays, from the rich coffee at the sidestreet to the multicoloured grocery, the gas stations, the shop assistants, the janitors, the waiters, the concierges, those working in hospitality, the year-round citizens. It is the island where ever more people drink espresso freddo without using a straw, where pool and bath temperature control is already starting to be environmentally friendly, where seawater desalination is growing, where food is flooded with Greek and Cycladean aromas, where cocktails are a science of taste and quality.
It is the island where you want to shop, to dress up, to sparkle up, to perfume yourself – yet, just as easily, to take your clothes off. To get the soles of your feet black, your skin sunburned and covered in salt, to beam with smiles no less charming.
Mykonos is the island where the myriad beaches host the beautiful, the posers, the others, the ‘normies’, the athletes, the old fashioned and the nature lovers in its incredible sapphire waters and the golden beaches with the thick sand. It is the island that offers isolation, if you crave that, buzzing commotion, if that attracts you, the chance to stretch your body to the limit, if you want that, indulgent revelry, personal victories and the healing of the winter’s still open wounds.
It is the island of marvellous architecture, both old and new; sparing Aegean lines; the symphony between white and shades of blue; the dreamy structures (with a few exceptions, of course).
Cycladean Mykonos, of pristine beauty, fields, tradition, real people, nature.
Yes, Mykonos is all that as well.
Constant changes and transformations
Driving my vespa beneath the scorching sun towards the beach of Agios Sostis, a personal pilgrimage at every visit, I wonder: what is it (apart from what has already been mentioned) that makes this place so adored by tourists, so despised by haters, simultaneously so beloved and so loathed? What is it that brings industrial spies from other tourist destinations all over the planet, to sneakily look around for ideas they can use back home? Is it the countless entertainment options? Is it the sense that, just walking round the alleys and beaches, you are part of an important event? A friend once told me that in New York, walking between the 42nd and the 43rd Street, you feel like you are part of something important. Like you are in a novel. It is the city and its mythologising that gives you this feeling. I always feel like this at Mykonos. It is also its constant changes, its transformations. Only in the world’s great places does this feeling occur.
Mykonos generously hands around its energy, which has been bestowed on it by its geographic position, the Archipelago, the centre of the Aegean, the meltemi breeze, Delos. Mykonos constantly renews its energy by partly absorbing the joyous mood of its myriad visitors. And, in turn, Mykonos gives it back. It is where revolutionary entrepreneurs dare invest in their ideas and, if they are honest, if they respect the good fortune their presence on this island offers, they are rewarded. And they are promoted to the next round.
As I dive in Agios Sostis’ cool waters, breathing in the odours of freshly grilled food from the picturesque taverna, with a leisurely dive beneath the surface, I recall that here is the only place where I was turned away from a wonderful entertainment venue without feeling sour or offended, because I had neglected to make a reservation and because I was turned away by one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Totally worth it.
Mykonos changes, it evolves and progresses, with conscientiousness and great effort, for the locals are among the most hard-working people I have ever met. But also with the respectfulness, the business competence, the professionalism and impeccable taste of non-local entrepreneurs.
We who have visited or keep visiting all remember Mykonos. Memories? Yes. Nostalgia? No.
So, let’s make some memories.