It feels inappropriate to upload photos of the Greek isles now. The greatest human migration since WWII is at this very moment trudging towards Europe. Many of those are lurching through frigid waves in the Aegean and too often do the water logged bodies of immigrants become seemingly in-actionable viral photos on the internet. Yet, the sieve of Europe is a paradise.
While I was there, just before the flood gates of of the Middle East were really pulled open, I could not imagine a more idyllic backpacker utopia. I first spent a week on the island of Skyros - a well kept secret I am tempted to not even mention here. The largest of the Sporades, it is home to a unique species miniature horses (do not call them ponies) that have been there since time immemorial, their existence never questioned or explained. Supposedly the birth place of Achilles, the island has changed very little in the past 2,500 years. The same marble cobblestones line its writing white alleyways, and you would be pressed to find a beach with more than 10 people on it. I never once met another American while there, and only 1 charter jet a week arrives from outside of Greece. I have had actual nightmares that someday I will return and find the same overrun tourist trap that Santorini has become, so please try as hard as you can to forget this paragraph.Next were the Cyclades, were I visited Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos with Agatha Bacelar, who is often featured here. Mykonos and Santorini are beautiful places, but the multitude of tourists and the now deeply entrenched commercialization of the islands made them hard to enjoy after the barren beaches of Skyros and Naxos.Naxos was the clear highlight. A large island in between Mykonos and Santorini, we rented a car and spent a day visiting white marble villages perched on mountainsides, were age old professions still persisted. The people are characterized by generosity and authenticity. We stopped for an espresso in the town of Apeiranthos, and in minutes we had been invited over to a table of old men chortling in Greek, refilling our glasses with an unending supply of wine, and continuously engulfing us in our fill of the local fares. One man in particular, a 95 year old man named Elias, could not have been happier to sit and drink and eat with us, and at one point he explained that of the food the restaurant had served us, his son had caught the sardines, his other son had milked the livestock and made the cheese, his other son had grown and cooked the olives, and his other son had butchered the meats. Astounded, I asked our impromptu translator, how many sons did he have?“Elias is the grandfather of Apeiranthos. He has 11 sons.” In front of me, Elias was indicating to Agatha that it was high time I impregnated her, and that he was very disappointed in me for not having done so already. “Elias has never left Naxos,” the man continued, “Except to fight in the Great War and the Greek Civil War after that. No man is more respected here in Apeiranthos. Do you know how you become like Elias?” He asked me and looked me square in the eyes with a serious expression. Across from me, Agatha was giggling as she lit one of Elias’s cigarettes for him and he gazed across the table at me with mischievous eyes.
The man leaned in close to me and whispered the secret to Elias’ success in my ear: “Fucking every day."
-December 24th, 2015