SI Vault
Horace Sutton
August 22, 1955
They are an almost undiscovered tourist treasure, beautiful beyond compare, awash in relics of ancient history and art, set like jewels in a smiling sea
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August 22, 1955

The Isles Of Greece

They are an almost undiscovered tourist treasure, beautiful beyond compare, awash in relics of ancient history and art, set like jewels in a smiling sea

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In the soft curve of the harbor the orange hulls of fishing boats skitter through the blue. Fishermen sit on the flagstone stretching their nets between teeth and toe, repairing the knots. Low-slung handbags and bright striped shirts with bandannas to match, made on Mykonos for island visitors, are hung up for sale on the hulls of old barques pulled up on the beach. And in the village square, inscrutable in white marble, is the bust of a lady general who led the island forces in the war against the Turks in 1829.

There is a small beach in the harbor, but a ca�que will take you in 15 minutes to the great sand crescent of St. Stephanos, one of the best beaches in Greece. There are lockers to change in, soft warm sand to sleep on, an incredibly buoyant sea to float in, and a tiny taverna where you can sip an ouzo and munch anchovies on coarse bread before the ca�que splutters back to the harbor.


Mykonos has a delightful new hotel called the Lito, and as you sit on its harborside terrace at sunset surveying the huge oleander bush that erupts on the lawn like the pink spray of a Roman candle, the fishermen pull up in their orange hulls and wade ashore with a string of fish. Gulls cry, and nightingales that live on an island without trees are yet happy enough to sing. A waitress presents dinnertime's handsome fish, and when you ask the patroness what it is called she smiles and says, "One of the most noble families of the sea—the synagrida."

Up on the hill the windmills are motionless in the windless evening. Down along the harbor guitar music and song well up from the waterside tavernas. From the tiny, white back alleys come the shouts of the Greek children who have eyes like Greek olives. Out on the horizon the masts of schooners bob gently against the gray ridges of the islands beyond. Mykonos is a hard place to leave; but I left it in a row-boat, paddling out to the Semiramis in the placid, blue-green lake of a bay, with the music of the tavernas reaching out over the water until it was drowned by the heavy heartbeat of the ship's motors, and all that was left of the island was a glow on the horizon.

A few days later I tried Greece by yacht, sailing out from Turkolimano harbor on a brilliant Sunday morning aboard the 87-foot ketch owned by John Goulandris, the young Director of the Greek Line. Built in Scotland and designed to sleep five in cabins and three on sofas in the dayroom, the Zephyros had been adapted by Goulandris to fit Greek waters and Greek hospitality. We were making for the Peloponnese and the Greek theater at Epidaurus with a guest list of 23.

The 50-year-old ship, winner of Atlantic sailing races, takes the Goulandris clan each summer to the family birthplace on Andros, a verdant isle of lemon trees and mulberry bushes in the northern Cyclades. The crew spread a white awning over the deck, and a bouillabaisse boiled in a great cauldron in the galley as we slipped south and west towards the harbor at Nauplia. Schools of porpoises played across our bow; and when it grew hot we stopped to swim.

By late afternoon yachts of all descriptions were storming the harbor at Nauplia, including the two-starred powerboat of an American admiral. We rowed ashore in the dinghy, boarded a bus to Epidaurus and rode through the groves of lemon trees and slender cypresses. At Epidaurus, the Greek theater rose steeply out of the stage, and was filled to its hilltop brim with 14,000 spectators—a sprinkling of Wehrmacht hats here and there on peregrinating Germans, Americans popping flashbulbs, Englishmen in khaki shorts. Just as the sun dropped behind the gray circle of mountains, a fanfare sounded stridently; and presently the Greek chorus marched out in their hesitating cadence, and Katina Paxinou came on to moan the dismal tragedy of Euripides' Hecuba.

Back at Nauplia after the theater, the Greeks bought broiled intestines skewered on sticks and ate them as an appetizer. We rowed back to the Zephyros and had dinner by lantern light. Then we wrapped in blankets and fell asleep on foam rubber mats laid out on the deck. Through the long night the ketch slipped out of the Peloponnese harbor, then veered north towards Athens. When I awoke the next morning the sky was light, but the sun had barely began to rouse itself from its bed below the horizon. The water was still as tea in a cup and soft as corn silk to behold. Athens loomed off the portside and to starboard fishermen were spinning a wide circle with their seining net around a school of fish. Synagrida, probably. One of the noblest families of the sea.

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