The Cycladic island complex is by far the most famous of the Greek islands. The white washed cubist houses have become as iconic as the Parthenon. And that’s saying something in a country whose long lasting legacy as the cradle of western civilization is embodied by the glory of the Sacred Rock. Having arrived in Mykonos, famed Swiss architect Le Corbusier once remarked that “whatever architecture had to say it said it here”. The father of modern architecture wasn’t far off, either.
The northern slope of the Acropolis, the Anafiotika area is a replica of a Cycladic settlement. Built by stonemasons from the island of Anafi, they constructed the parliament house amongst many other contemporary edifices in the neo-classical style. It is a village inside a city. With approximately 40 odd houses left standing, the last remaining residents are raging against the dying of the light that is Airbnb.
The Cycladic magic is nowhere more evident than in the smaller and lesser known islands. As a rule of thumb, the harder it is to get to an island the better it is. And by better we mean less people, less developments and less designer sunglasses.
Islands such as Amorgos, Kythnos, Sifnos, Kimolos have all retained their character due to reasons pertaining to transport. The island of Hydra (in then Saronic Gulf island complex) for instance has a blanket ban on all automobiles, meaning that no new hotels or rental places can be built, thus protecting the rights of the islanders and the island itself from over tourism.
In Andros, the residents have long resisted the lures of mass tourism, partly due to the island being a wealthy ship-owning hamlet. The island has strong artistic and cultural credentials what with the fabled Goulandris collection being permanently housed there and several other institutions maintaining the islands character intact.
Sifnos is another island that boasts the magic of the Cyclades, sans the masses. As a culinary destination that is only rivalled by Naxos or Crete, the islanders are fiercely protective of their identity. Sifnos is a potter’s island. Famous throughout for its quality ceramics the residents have also turned lowly fava beans into a combination of delectable variations. Even though tourism is welcome in Sifnos, residents don’t rely on it and so are quite content to not cater to every whim or fancy.
The Cycladic essence is about enjoying what’s in front of you, living in the moment and making the most of your time right now. This is encompassed in the local’s eating habits, behaviours and life attitudes. They are human-centric and humanistic. Be more Cycladic. Be happy!