« Sex in the city » on an Ikarian dance floor
Yes ! I did it again! Yes, I went to an Ikarian panagyri again … in full holiday season, in the heat of an Ikarian summer night. I could not resist. After all these ‚Corona‘ years, all the worries we have on our minds, I gave it another try. Because I just wanted to enjoy a relaxing moment … the company of some friends, their smile, their hips moving on the dance floor. I had some beautiful pictures in my mind and warm feelings were coming up. But there was also this warning voice at the back of my mind. This voice told me: be aware, it might be different. Watch out and don’t be disappointed.
With all the hype in the different media about the particularities of this Ikarian summer and the magic vibes of its feasts, I already had a slight idea that the place I had chosen might be pretty packed with tourists, coming from all over the world to get their share of THE Ikarian experience. But ignoring all of my inner hesitations, I made my way to a small village, which is normally known for its relaxed atmosphere on the day of the panagyri.
But what I experienced when I arrived was way beyond all my expectations. Yes, I could recognize the usual settings of an Ikarian panagyri: the long queue in front of the food stall, was it there? Yes, checked ! It was. The long tables, where people squeezed in? Checked! They were there, too. The musicians, playing the well known Ikarian tunes? Also checked! Positive.
So, what was the difference? What hit me?
The atmosphere was different, there were undefined vibes that were flooding me as I was entering the place. First of all, I could not recognize any familiar faces. Normally, when going to a panagyri,there is immediately a lot of greetings, nodding to the left and to the right, followed by hugs, broad smiles and the question: “How was your winter?”. This time, nothing like this happened at all. I looked at unknown faces and little by little I saw that there mainly tourists crowding the place, who had obviously taken it over to create “their own Ikarian panagyri” – or whatever they thought the traditional Ikarian feast could be.
So I discovered on the one side, well-dressed women, kind of Bohemian summer style, with shiny golden skin, nice make-up, high heels, plumped up lips and pushed-up boobs. Many of them were accompanied by hipster guys, dressed in fashionable shirts and shorts, hair and beards nicely trimmed, precious iPhones and keys to their expensive SUVs clearly visible on the table next to them.
On the other hand, there was a group of “free stylers”, dressed mainly in black clothes of different lengths and styles. And I was even able to spot another group, which appeared half naked, especially men, taking off their T-shirts, exposing their sweaty bellies to the public. Many liked to keep their sunglasses on at 10,pm at night, nibbling on just one portion of chips the whole evening, because money is tight, but this group liked to seize the dance floor, too, twisting their hips and bellies in angular circles, raising their glass of wine or bottle of beer and smoking their cigarette, while stomping some kind of Greek dancing steps.
Ach! the Ikarian dance floor! What a different story, too. It felt like the Ikariotiko was being dubbed in a permanent loop so that even the band got boored playing it. And – not knowing or choosing to ignore – the unwritten rule of the traditional dances, the newcomers took the lead of the dancing groups, exposing themselves, without ever offering this precious position to other dancers. When it came to the special Ikarian Tango the story became a sad one, too. Normally this dance is always causing a sentimental moment and it is beautiful to watch, when the old Ikarians holding their wives tight, shuffling them over the dance floor. But this time, it seemed that neither the rhythm of the music nor the Ikarian couples who were trying to find their way in the crowd, were respected. I felt really sorry for those Ikarians, who had been waitting for this moment and were so badly ignored.
Also the Zeibekiko – a dance never to missed at a Panagyri and representing another dance, where you might get goose bumps – was rarely played …. and if it happened, some of the non-Greeks, mostly drunk, had a great blast, while imitating the moves they might have captured elsewhere.
Overall, it was an irritating picture that I observed at this familiar place: sometimes I felt more like I was in a night club in one of the big cities, where people go to see and to be seen, where they are standing around the dancefloor, not listening to the music, but chatting and waiting for their “Tinder-date” to show up. Here they gave the impression that it did not really matter, whether they were hanging around in a beach bar in Barcelona, San Francisco or Croatia. This time the music is just playing on an Ikarian dance floor and in a pittoresque Greek village – certainly also a box to tick, to have more „likes“ on Instagram, Facebook or Tik Tok.
The scenery left me speechless and sad, because I didn’t know how to digest this kind of “summer gentrification” of a village I love. … And I admired the locals, whom I could spot here and there … for their patience and how they endured that “their tradition” was kidnapped in such a brutal way and being turned into a top selling marketing product that will find its way through thousands of clicks on the social media and beyond.
I am certainly the last person who should give a public opinion on this situation, as I myself am a foreigner and a guest on this island, too. But I dare to say, that I was pretty sad to see this precious place, where the Ikarians offered their food, their place, their recipes, their traditional music to their guests and in return, I could only see very little respect for this offering. Of course the panigyria are bringing in a considerable amount of money to the village and the local businesses and therefore it might be worth the effort of being patient with the guests, but it might also be food for thought, how to ensure that in future, Ikaria doesn’t become the “little sister of Mykonos”, meaning: simply the cheaper version, but instead finds its way to be a different kind of island-tourism.
There are many ways to avoid mass tourism for just a couple of days and certainly there are ways to show tourists how to respect the places they are visiting. Because in the end, it will be the Ikarians, who have to handle the “left overs” of these many “Sex in the City”-like parties which take place all over the island … may it be in terms of the amounts of garbage to deal with, the destruction of nature, the pollution of the sea or bills unpaid by customers.
Perhaps in the future tourists need to understand a certain code of conduct is needed; teaching them again that travelling to other places goes along with respecting the local customs and rules. Might it be on an Ikarian dance floor or might it be a certain dress code on the streets and in the restaurants.
Maybe I am a dreamer, but I strongly believe that tourism is «give and take » – and there should be a balance … above all, for the locals and the local environment …
Let me dream on … and be aware that in my dreams „Sex in the city“-style summer is not happening …