“Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.” Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac.
My reason for coming to Mykonos was to get to Delos. Delos is a small island off Mykonos and it’s one of the most important mythological and archeological sites in Greece. It is an island cultural center full of ruins and a great museum where overnight visitors are not allowed. For the average traveller the only way to get to Delos is by day-tour from Mykonos.
In stark contrast to quiet and scholarly Delos lies crazy, party-dude Mykonos. Introduced to the world by Jackie O. in the 60s, Mykonos is now THE party island, drawing throngs of sun worshipers who arrive by the hundreds in ferries, planes and private yachts. It’s funny how we tend to love our favorite places to death.
Mykonos Town is the main point of entry. It consists of a labyrinthian center whose street design, the tour books say, was made purposefully confusing to slow down marauding pirates. Now it slows down tourists who empty their pockets at some of the most up-scale shops in the Mediterranean. Surrounding the spaghetti mazed streets of the main town are a few thoroughfares where eager beach-goers and partiers race along in trucks, cars, quads (ATVs), scooters and anything with an engine that will go fast! Pedestrians beware!
Squeezing between the masses of tourists through the tiny streets I noticed that the place is actually quite beautiful. Cubist-style whitewashed buildings, accented in bright primary colors are clustered along the narrow streets. The streets themselves are all painted in white reticulations, I guess, to indicate that this is the street and not someone’s private walkway. There had to be a reason Jackie loved this island.
My advice to those like me who tend to shun crowds; get up well before sunrise. If coffee is not yet served and you are an addicted caffeine hound, bring your own. Having learned that Europeans don’t dump mass quantities of java down their throats like Americans, I pack my own Starbucks single-serve instants and a plug-in water heater element. You can make coffee in a water glass.
Properly fueled, I grab my gear and clunk my way through the hotel. Do I disturb some of the guests? Maybe, but they didn’t put the lid on their revelry until 3am, so it’s payback time. When I emerge to the street in the predawn dusk, I have Mykonos Town to myself. The only folks awake are busy delivering supplies to shops or so partied out they don’t notice me.
Ghostlike I can set up my tripod and compose a photo at my leisure. Out along the harbor, fishermen prepare their nets. I can pantomime the request to photograph a person in several languages. Most will agree and I get some good shots.
In the early morning I’m in another world; one that is much more like my image of the Greek Islands, quaint, quiet and rural. Ironically this is the image of Mykonos that you often see in the guide books..windmills in early light, few tourists. There are other islands where this somnambulant scene plays out all day long. You can find that old Greek flavor here too but not at first; you have to get up early to get a glimpse of it. I promise you will be rewarded.