Mykonos’ harbor is less active than I expected, a few small fishing vessels darting out to sea, a flock of pelicans searching the beach for snacks. A row of large windmills overlooks the harbor, the blades turning at a leisurely island pace.
It’s off season for the holiday hotspot. My friends and I are staying across the island on Paradise Beach, normally an alcohol-infused party destination, but now the area is completely dead. Our room costs €100 less a night than high-season prices, and we have the beach almost completely to ourselves. The only downside is that we’re stuck taking taxis or the infrequent bus between the beach and the town, Chora. There are endless fields of rocks and lizards on the dusty road to Chora, but not much else.
In the town, it’s almost all locals, and many shops are closed for the season. Some townspeople are taking advantage of the tourist lull to repaint their houses and businesses the brilliant white so indicative of Greek architecture.
One white wall has been vandalized by thin, black words: “You lika da Greek?”
The beach bar is closed, so we try to find some drinks in town to take back. A corner grocer is stocked with giant, used water bottles that some clever person has refilled with homemade wine. There are two options: white or red. Why not? We get one of each.
We crack into the wine back at the beach. It’s…not good, but we press on regardless. That night, we sit next to the water and stare at the stars while locals hold a party lit by torch light at the other end of the beach. It is so good to just relax.
The next day we go swimming in the warm, blue sea. Several yards out there is a coral shelf that I sit on while my friends continue to swim. The waves knock me around against the breaker, and I enjoyed letting the water sweep me forward and back again. It’s not until later that I notice the coral has scratched the hell out of my thighs and wrists. Soon, giant, painful welts have risen all over my body. (I’m sure you’re disappointed, but I didn’t take a picture of the fiendish things.) When I take a shower, the pelting water against my skin brings tears to my eyes.
Back in town, I try to explain to a pharmacist what has happened, but he doesn’t speak English. (And, to my infinite shame, I don’t speak Greek.) I show him the red bumps on my wrist. His eyes widen as he immediately hands me a tube of hydrocortisone. The bumpy return ride to the beach is excruciating as the seat bangs against the back of my thighs. When I am finally able to coat my skin with cream, I almost cry in relief. (The stinging will eventually go down, but the patchy redness will not fade for more than six months. I find out much later that the culprit was fire coral, which is not coral at all but rather a relative of jellyfish. Beware the coral shelf at Paradise!)
We are all disappointed when our time at Mykonos comes to an end. Despite new lesions and the lingering effects of bathtub wine, the island undoubtedly was the highlight of the trip.
“You lika da Greek?” I guess I do.