Do the glorious Greek islands get deserted over winter?
During my 34 years on this planet, people have always been amazed by the fact I come from such a tropical place. I immediately correct them by saying that Greece gets the full four seasons, and during winter can get freezing cold. I then take a second look at my audience and realise they come from northern countries with colder climates, and to them, 13 degrees Celsius is characterised as spring.
Greece has long been associated with its hot weather over the summer months and glorious islands that spread across the Aegean sea. It doesn't help that most of the movies filmed for or in Greece, are all about the sun, blue deep water and seaside fun. i.e. Mamma Mia. Therefore, in order to justify my “cold weather” statement, I have to also state that life in the Greek islands is nonexistent come October.
I know that you probably think of me as an ignorant, posh, Greek that doesn't look past it's inner circle. To my defence, coming from the Greek capital, Athens, this is the common perception of the Greek isles during winter. Is it as we think of it, though?
I recently took a trip to Tinos, one of the lesser popular islands for foreign tourists in the Cyclades island complex. However, it’s very popular to Greek tourists, mainly for its religious tourism. The island's busiest time is right in the middle of August, when finding a room to stay at less than €150/night is a real challenge.
Going in the middle of December seemed to be way out season. So I decided to make a short film about life on the Greek islands during winter.
It was a cold winter morning when the boat departed the once buzzing with people, but now lonely, port of Rafina. There were hardly any cars around, with just a few commercial vehicles having to do the trip. The lonely coast guard at the port was waiting patiently for his shift to finish and go back home to his family and cozy living room.
The trip itself was good. The weather played nice and we had a smooth ride. The bar onboard was open and there was no line for a change! That meant as many runs for hot coffee as I wanted!
We arrived at Tinos around 10:30 on a Thursday morning. A few stores were open for business, but the main road to the Great Church was deserted. The small shops selling all short of stuff on both sides of the street were closed. Popular coffee shops and restaurants were also closed for the season. The only living souls I initially came across were stray cats crossing the empty roads, and a few inhabitants rushing to go to their destination.
To my surprise, things dramatically changed over the next couple of hours. The main streets might have been empty, but you could see people “hiding” in big groups inside all sorts of different shops. And then I realised. People don't flee the islands, they just stay inside. You could see older people gathering at the local coffee places in their villages and youngster as fancy cafés in the main town.
After briefly talking to one of the two taxi drives in town I could find, he told me that life on the island is very different during winter. However, life on the island is still very lively and vibrant. At the end of the day, Tinos has just short of 9,000 inhabitants.
Going back to my initial question. Is there life on the Greek islands over winter? Yes! You just have to look past the common perception. People are still warm and welcoming. It's the cold weather that masks all this away.
What is your perception of Greek islands over the winter period? Have you travelled to one recently? Do you live there and could share some additional insights? I would love to hear your thoughts and view on the subject.
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