Overpriced and overcrowded — yet Myconos still has a tarnished allure

“I’m sick of Myconos» is a phrase that springs to the lips even more often than that other well-worn cliche, «I’m bored with PASOK governments.» As with the Socialist movement, which has been elected and re-elected – with a small break – for some two decades, so with the narrow alleyways of the small Cycladic island that is crammed with more people every summer than Kypseli or Tokyo. The crowds exceed even those at the huge pre-election rallies at Syntagma Square that gathered to hear the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou pronounce the slogan «Change» – change that came about, finally, on Myconos. In the old days, it was the rich and famous, even members of the international jet set, that would flock to the island’s truly magnificent beaches incognito, hidden behind huge, dark sunglasses. Today, Myconos swarms with the poor and unknown. At the same time, politicians, entrepreneurs and local stars dip in their swimming pools, shielded from the eyes of both the masses and scandalmongering mass media. Migrants, superintendents of their homes during the winter, double up as air defenses during the summer: They are ready to shoot down any passing helicopter that may have talk show hosts Makis Triantafyllopoulos or Tatiana Stephanidou at the controls. It’s these shows that have infected the average viewer and traveler with a sense of social injustice. «Why can so-and-so go to Myconos and not me too?» wonders each of life’s toilers, watching the beautiful and damned dallying in that old perennial, the Caprice bar (woe betide anyone watching the sunset), or the newly set-up Nobu (the bill there is equal to the daily pay of Robert De Niro, co-founder of a sushi restaurant chain – Nobu will be appearing soon in Trikala) and the traditional Philippis (that proffers a heavy supper capable of producing ulcers, with a view of actress Vana Barba and musical accompaniment by a singer of popular music who happens to be unknown all over the country). According to a spring study by the Finance Ministry, the income of the average Greek family permitted it to have a one-week holiday in summer, following the introduction of the euro, with its concomitant rounding-up of prices. On Myconos, a working couple would with difficulty scrape through a weekend. A bottle of water and a souvlaki cost as much as a lobster pasta and a bottle of Dom Perignon in Capri. A drink at a bar at night is almost out of reach. Hence most of the patrons of the Astron will cool their heels at the well in the yard, chewing on peppermint-flavored gum in a show of drinking daiquiri with lemon (Hemingway’s drink, after all). Plebs, and Kolonaki For 48 hours, the plebs and Kolonaki patricians are one. Social consensus is accelerated in front of the Cafe Aroma, where 10 privileged human beings sit on sofas and enjoy their cappuccinos. The remaining thousand point them out as curiosities, who were able to capture the reserved tables and park their distinguished behinds on the silken cushions. Naturally, nobody relaxes for a moment. They all sit upright, as stiff as ramrods, preening over having penetrated into the club of bizarre tourists. The rule on Myconos is: «Don’t relax.» Ever. You can’t scratch your nose or, in a fit of absence of mind, have a good dig up your nostril. The danger is of forever suffering from the resulting social stigma, as the man or woman «who developed allergic rhinitis at Super Paradise.» Despite the posturing and the pose – vital – of someone afflicted with a bad smell, everybody is at home on Myconos. That’s why they keep coming back. Because seated on an arty, whitewashed stone bench, you can watch unfold an entirely believable serial, with Greek society playing the leading role, a cross between «The Bold and the Beautiful» and «The Penthouse.» Before one’s eyes parade adventurous youth, who are realizing the Greek dream, and lower middle-class parents, who abhor the Sodom and Gomorrah of Myconos but came out of simple curiosity to find out who their offspring are hobnobbing with, as well as to see government officials mingle, in the flesh – live from Myconos – with entrepreneurs and publishers. With them are the New Democracy moneyed classes who have always spent their summers there, following in the elder Karamanlis’s footsteps, intellectuals and former Communists, who have seen the error of their ways, entered the state mechanism and, now free of guilt, break the taboos of the past one by one (first the suburbs, then the expensive restaurants and clothes, finally Myconos). Albanians, Serbs and Bulgarians are permanent residents, who get married, have children and keep Myconos’s economy going during the winter – there are even punks and rockers, who sleep on the beaches, fed by the remnants of the provisions they bought on the previous island, and looking in vain for some decent music.

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