By Sandy Tsantaki
Those who love Myconos and got to know it before its popularity rocketed, and before the crisis, insist that there is another side to this Cycladic island that is very different to the bars, nightclubs, restaurants, luxury villas and super beaches that have made it such a hit with local and international jet-setters.
Their Myconos is one of deserted beaches, traditional tavernas and kind locals, and they argue that the island is not all about paparazzi-style celebrity-hunting on Matoyianni street, sun loungers that cost a small fortune to rent and endless hours of partying.
I sought out this “other” Myconos this summer, a few years after my previous visit to the island, and the first thing I learned from a sailor on the ferryboat there was that the number of Greeks visiting the island has dropped since the onset of the crisis.
Looking for a room, I began to understand why. A regular double room near the sea, though not in town, is priced at an average of 100-130 euros a night, while a so-called “suite” -- as small bungalows are advertised -- within a complex has a starting price of 190 euros. “But this is Myconos after all,” the receptionist said when I questioned whether there was something more affordable available.
I received this response a lot over the next few days when I showed my surprise at some of the prices.
Who is doing brisk business? Souvlaki joints, frozen yogurt bars, creperies, taxis, upmarket fashion boutiques and an Italian-owned ice-cream parlor that has great mastiha and chewing-gum flavored selections, where I saw a blond woman insist on paying in US dollars.
If there is one thing that can be said about Myconos, it is that anything goes and you can find pretty much whatever your heart desires, ranging from hotel complexes with their own churches for wedding packages, spas where little fish nibble away at the dead skin on your hands and feet, to all sorts of other luxuries and amenities. “But this is Myconos after all.”
As far as the beaches are concerned, the island doesn’t only cater to those looking to see and be seen. In Aghios Sostis, for example, the most exciting discoveries to be made are not watersports facilities and masseurs, but small limpets clinging to the rocks, a baby octopus or a sluggish sea snail. In Foko, as I sat ordering at the small taverna which is nestled in a cave there, some boys started crying out that they’d found an iguana. It was just a rather cute lizard.
As far as food is concerned, Matthios, close to the new port, serves excellent home-style food and will also wrap it up for you to take away: tomatoes stuffed with rice and raisins, chicken in lemon sauce with rice, fish soup and moussaka are just a few of the tasty offerings available.
Over in Ano Mera, the main village, Apostolis’s is a family-friendly taverna where the kids can run around in the square while parents enjoy grilled meat with fresh salad.
For desert we went to Sea Satin for loukoumades (fried dough balls) with honey and crushed walnuts, and for aperitifs that were kid-friendly, such as fruit cocktails, we went to Caprice. There we were joined by the sunset seekers -- tourists gathering in droves to take snaps of the setting sun.
On the beach under the windmills there was an artist building and destroying sandcastles as he tried to make his way into the Guinness Book of World Records, while at Kalafatis Beach watersports are all the rage. For live jazz straight from New York, there’s the Astra club.
Despite the hullabaloo, the feeling I has when I left Myconos a week later was that the seashells were hard to find, but those that I did root out were magical. After all, you can always build a tent on the sand with a few long sticks and a sarong on a beach where no one cares what brand your bathing suit is. You can even invite friends.