So off we went on a huge ferry transporting trucks and holiday makers going to Mykonos for the last weekend of the summer holidays. We tried booking a place online, but the only available budget space was for USD 50 per night for camping (!), so we opted to let our new motto of "letting life surprise us with what we need" do its work.
Off the boat and into the arms of Michael and Vassos with welcome drink to boot (more on that later). A beautiful little guesthouse on the coast albeit with a 15 minute walk into town, but we figured we were saving about USD 5 for every minute we walked and Mykonos isn't exactly an eyesore, so once again Mother Life did her job better than we could have planned it.
Mykonos is party central for loads of beautiful young things looking to get smashed. It's also the most gay-friendly island as well as being the playground for all of Europe's rich and famous. So you end up with an extremely cosmopolitan feel as handsome men walk hand in hand while bejeweled sunbaked (and dare I say a little bit crusty looking) old(er) people chain-smoking their way through the dozens of mazes selling designer fashion wear and chic bars and restaurants line the little streets everywhere you look.
So what brings two semi-broke South Africans looking for cheap travel spots and authentic experiences here? Mykonos is the closest island to Delos, the best preserved ancient city in all of Greece and therefore probably the world as well. You can't stay on Delos, so you need to do a daytrip. Also, it has to be said that of all the Greek islands Mykonos is the one you think of as postcard pretty. So we decided to bite the bullet so we could see Delos and soak in some European glitz (while keeping the Euros close to our pockets).
Delos was awesome and the photos don't do it justice. At one time there were 30 000 people living on this extremely small island and it was seen as the centre of the world for trading with the first tax free ports. We couldn't help but think of Hong Kong as a modern day version.
You have to do the beach thing in Mykonos. But it's a very difficult choice as one beach is for celebrities, one is for nudists, one is for family (which means you need to wear bottoms…), party with young people, party with older people, rich people, take a boat, take a car… the choices are endless. Unfortunately no choice for poor people like us, but undaunted we boarded a EUR 5 per person boat thinking happily that at least we score a boat ride along the beautiful coast as well. Five minutes later and the boat captain tells us that this is our stop - about a 10 minute walk from where we started! You live, you learn and Mother Life had some very illuminating things to show us so we turned the frown upside down and got off on Paranga beach. Beautiful beach, crystal clear water (you can open your eyes underwater with no stinging sensation, just like in the movies!) and a packed lunch and drinks to keep costs down. Problem is that all the beaches in Mykonos are filled to the brim with beach beds and umbrellas, and no, they're not there as a public service. On the far left side we spot a few metres of open beach and make our way there looking for a spot on a beach as God intended -no umbrellas and beds.
I don't know who saw them first, but the first time you see people totally nude lying there for all to see it's a bit of a culture shock. Turns out the left side of the beach is where you can free yourself from the slavery that clothes and society force on you. So as "world travelers" we amble by trying not to stare and search for a spot where you don't have someone's unmentionables staring you in the face. We settle down under some trees and then try to get the lay of the land as it were. To the left we have two guys rubbing each other with suntan lotion making sure not to miss all the nooks and crannies. To the right we have 65+ grandma and grandpa walking hand in hand down the beach, happily "swinging" along. We're one of the few with clothes on.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that to go au natural you have to have all your body hair removed… all of it. So grandpa looks very dapper and grandma as well. As long as you don't see your grandma but someone else's, it's probably OK. The Brazilian wax is apparently a Greek island invention.
Anyhow, as with most things in life you adapt and very soon you find yourself not noticing bums and balls staring you in the face. You stop seeing it as weird or perverted and you somehow feel that there is enough space on this beautiful round planet of ours for everyone after all.
Having passed Mother Life's lesson we decide to venture to the other beaches. Mykonos has a beach called "Paradise" and another called "Super Paradise" (hey, Paradise was taken, what should they have done?). We have heard of these beaches from internet sites claiming them as the best party beaches in the world. We decided to take a quick look on the Monday after the official end of summer holidays. Super Paradise was a beautiful beach and if it wasn't for the wind howling through Mykonos for the following 2 days we would have gone back there, but you still got a sense of the loud beats of music from the night before humming from the concrete below your feet.
Paradise Beach - rated (apparently) as the best party beach in the world. Here things were still going strong and the techno beats thumped while young things shook their stuff trying to keep up with two professional dancers on two separate stages on the bar. It was 3pm and almost time to go home for our afternoon nap. Until we saw him…
As the central crowd dancing on the bar parted a bit you first sensed and then saw that something was extremely out of place. You know that thing in the movies when the actor pans across a field of vision and then snaps his/her head back to something they missed? So it was for us when we saw Cock-ring Charlie. Seventy five to eighty years old, tanned like the old Charles Atlas posters (unfortunately without the supporting muscle structure) and wearing a wind-swept loincloth that he kept lifting up to reveal the Piece-de-Resistance, a bright metal c*** ring chained to his middle (I think/I hope?). And to complete the picture, a toupee and chained reading glasses. There he was surrounded by young bobbing "great grandkids" doing a shuffle from an era long forgotten. Some people were staring in shock as we were, others were just dancing around him.
I think it was a Paradise Beach for Charlie, but we respectfully declined and went home for that nap. It seems that age has nothing to do with where and how you shake your family jewels.
Last day in Mykonos and the ferry is leaving to go back to Athens. We have about 2 hours left and we feel a bit miffed that we haven't been able to get an "authentic" Greek island conversation/experience with some locals (although there was a restaurant we had a beautiful cheap fresh lunch on the far side of the island with the only Fisher-woman called Flora in all the Greek chain of islands. She is part of a group of fishermen that go out every day, come wind, rain or sunshine. Other Greek people call them the "wild ones").
We sit down in the courtyard of the guesthouse and along comes Michael (pronounced Mi-gh-ael). He walks into his bar, pours himself a double whiskey and asks if we want to drink anything. We ask for coffee, I hear him mutter something in Greek. It's 12h05. We finish the coffee, what the hell, we ask him for two beers. He lights up like a Christmas tree. Gets the beer for us, finishes off his whiskey, tells us he'll be back and then takes off on a 250cc Vespa like a bat out of hell. He comes back, pours another whiskey, we order another beer and then he remembers the welcome drink he promised us. Ouzo - a liquorice tasting drink that you either shoot or mix with some water that turns it from clear to milky white. You've seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The "hopa!!!" scene where the groom's parents need to down shots of ouzo came to mind as we talked and drank beer and then had shots in a viciously spiraling cycle.
Michael spoke with us about his life, his job, his kids, his wife, Athens, Mykonos, business etc. It was the conversation we had wanted. And here we found it right under our noses (literally) waiting for us to have it. It ended with a slightly tipsy Michael speeding an almost drunk us to the ferry with a few minutes to spare. Throwing open the door of the car and saying "you're good people" as a last goodbye and off he went.
We'll remember some of Mykonos for the wrong reasons, but miss it for all the right ones.