Living Large with No Money in Mykonos

1995 © Stephanie Glaser

Upon arrival, it’s easy to believe you have money in Mykonos in 1995 — especially when you’ve just found a gorgeous whitewashed pension with cobalt blue trim for $13 a night. It’s got a view of the Aegean Sea, a pool and a toilet. Goats even roam the hills in the background for a quaint, rustic feel.

Where is Robin Leach? “I’m ready to be interviewed about my champagne and caviar lifestyle!”  In reality, for my friend Indira and me, it was more of an airline size bottle of Ouzo and a street side gyro lifestyle.

Frankly, Indira and I were just happy to have made it to the island, finally, and to have gotten off the ferry. Three hours earlier, we had actually been to Mykonos, or, at least, the main dock. However, we were still rookies at traveling to the Greek isles by ferry. Otherwise, we would have known to get up to the front and launch ourselves out as soon as the ferry docked. Ultra efficient, the Greek island ferries did not mess around with arrival and departure times.

The view of Mykonos that kept us on the ferry                            © Stephanie Glaser 1995

Starting the day out on the island of Naxos, we had already missed our first ferry to Mykonos, because we were on the wrong side of the port. Not a problem since, really, where is the sense of urgency when you’re in the Greek isles? We boarded a later ferry to Mykonos. Then, once we approached the Mykonos shoreline, Indira and I were captivated. The vantage point from the ferry was ideal for photos, so we clicked away.

Instead we should have disembarked. Passengers streamed on while we still admired the view. As we moved to get off the ferry, the new passengers told us it was too late. While we were snapping photos, the ferry door had already lowered to let out passengers and then went back up. We ran to the door, but the ferry pulled away with Indira and me still on it. Wait! Seriously? We had waited for hours in Athens for the main island ferry to depart— how could this ferry be so efficient?

Tinos © Stephanie Glaser 1995

It didn’t matter; we were off to the next island. “Time to read about Tinos,” Indira said taking out her Lonely Planet guidebook. After a lovely two-hour stay in Tinos (there was  even time to sit down and eat bread and drink orange Fanta — our favorite) we got back on a ferry to Mykonos. We were determined to live large on the infamous island.

To avoid another missed ferry, we arrived at the departure dock early. After some time, a huge cruise ship is already docked. We watched it. Hmmm it’s 5:40 and no one was lining up for the 6 p.m. ride. Well, maybe no one from Tinos wanted to go to Mykonos. Finally, we saw the ferry. It was jamming — so much so that it looked like it was not going to stop at our dock. It didn’t. Hell! We were at the wrong dock again. Hauling all our bags, we raced to the extremely far away dock. Tinos isn’t even that big so how could it be so far? We made it, almost collapsing after we found seats up on the top level.

Finally on the ferry
© Stephanie Glaser 1995

Having learned our lesson, several times, we were among the first passengers to get off the ferry. Then pension owners bombarded us on the dock. “Rooms?” “Rooms?” They held us captive, bargaining and showing us photo albums with beautiful images of the lodging options.

Indira found an especially reasonable one. The pension representative took us to our new digs. We were living large — complete with a bathroom and toilet in our room. Prior to the Greece excursion, I had been traipsing around the Netherlands, updating a guidebook and staying in various hostels some of which were questionable. Having my own room was a luxury, let alone having a toilet that wasn’t down the hall or stairs.

© Stephanie Glaser 1995

After our somewhat stressful day of missing ferries, we took a rest by the pool. Then, of course, it was time to get ready. After sitting by the pool, looking at the amazing setting sun and freshening up, we were ready to party.

We took a bus into town and marveled at the beauty and layout of the town. Wandering though extremely well-kept alleyways of Mykonos, we noticed pricey stores and restaurants. Our first reality check was seeing all the jewelry and diamond shops. Hmmm…Cartier.

Eventually, we found a cute sidewalk café. Again, in our delusional thinking, we believed, indeed, we could afford this café. After looking at the menu, it was abundantly clear that sharing a meal — a cheap meal — was the option. The owner was not pleased by this prospect, and he promptly told us we could not order the cheap gyro on the menu.

© Stephanie Glaser 1995

I get that he wanted to make money, and I’m sure tourists are annoying — especially broke backpackers. But dang! We definitely felt bullied into ordering more expensive meals. The owner practically stood over us while we ate.

Bummed about dinner, we decided to move on to the nightclubs. We ventured into one and saw more discouraging menu prices. What?! How could it be that a drink was as much as one night at our pension?  All of the bars were expensive.

Enjoying our cheap beverages
© Stephanie Glaser 1995

During our quest to find a reasonable club, we walked by a convenience store. It was a score; we bought little bottles of Ouzo and big Heinekens for the same price we would have paid for one shot at the bar. We then shamelessly drank our bargain beverages outside and watched all the people clad in gold go by.

Feeling victorious, it was time to dance. Finally, we went into a nightclub. We tried bust a move to really bad techno (here’s a sampling of the “inspiring” English lyrics: “Put your pussy on my face” and “Suck my dick”). Leaving the dance floor seemed like a great idea when, to our delight, we heard Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69” from the bathroom. (That is how badly we wanted to hear a different genre of music.)

Before long, we were dancing with these guys from Barcelona. I was thrilled. Not only could I practice my Spanish, but I could talk to them about soccer. During lulls between Bryan Adams and more bad techno, I told them about seeing Barcelona play Real Madrid at Camp Nou in Barcelona. (Watching that game was the highlight of my European sojourn at that point.) Perhaps it was because I was shouting in caveman Spanish, but essentially, they didn’t care. Their response (in English) was: “I like your tits.”

Indira and I tried to get them to buy us drinks. The Barcelona Boys ordered some shots, paid for theirs, taking the Ouzo and then leaving two other shots for Indira and me to cover. Fair enough. But that broke the bank. Plus, with the bad techno and tedious talk of our “tits,” Indira and I were over the club.

We started walking back to our pension. The drunken Barcelona Boys offered to give us both a ride on the one moped they were driving. They kept asking Indira to marry them as well. Somehow we ditched them. Then, our homing pigeon instincts kicked in because we found the way back to our pension in relative darkness.

Ultimately we scaled a cliff to get to our pension. We roamed through goat territory, for sure. Back in our room, we crashed on the spacious beds. And we could use our own bathroom. Luxury. Indeed.

Indira checks out the view from our pension window
© Stephanie Glaser 1995

2 thoughts on “Living Large with No Money in Mykonos

  1. wow crazy story about the ferry system, can’t believe how many times you missed your stop! Just went to the greek islands this past summer and can understand how someone could miss their intended stop. But hey, all the Greek Islands are gorgeous, aren’t they?

    • Hi Jessica, yeah — the ferries are very efficient traveling to and from the islands. And you’re so right — they are all gorgeous and it doesn’t hurt to be stuck at one you didn’t mean to get to. Hope your trip was a good one! Thanks for the comment! Cheers, Steph

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