When Manos Magkos smashed several plates over a beautiful young woman’s head (as he often does to patrons of his fish restaurant on the island of Symi when spirits are high) he had no idea that she was a Victoria’s Secret supermodel.
It was only when Karolina Kurkova, on holiday on the island, posted a video of the event to her 600,000 followers on Instagram, wryly captioned ‘Angry chef’ that he discovered her celebrity status.
“She loved it and wanted me to break more!” Magkos told Greece Is, referring to his habit of smashing plates atop the heads of merry, dancing guests as a ‘baptism‘. “Famous individuals from all over the world are baptized here. Singers, actors, heirs and heiresses, even princesses. Why should they go to Porto Cervo or to Majorca? They have become so touristy. Here they find authenticity and Symi is an oil painting!”
The truth is that while Symi has more than its fair share of charms, the tiny, sleepy island on the edge of the Greek archipelago is not the place one would expect to bump into someone who has graced the cover of Vogue over 25 times.
Yet with ever more Greek destinations offering the high quality services demanded by the world’s elite, combining them with the authentic experiences and fantastic weather and seas that delight celebrities and mere mortals alike, these days you never know who you might bump into on the beach.
From Scarlett Johansson to Hugh Jackman, here are some of the celebrities who visited Greece in 2017 and where they went.
Mykonos: A star-studded world unto itself
More than any other island, Mykonos of course has a long been a summer playground for celebrities and 2017 was no different.
This year the island of the winds played host to the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Bon Jovi, famed Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, Kendall Jenner on holiday with supermodel friend Bella Hadid, Lindsey Lohan and many, many more.
“Here, they can anchor their yachts, stay in luxury suites eat everything from caviar to bluefin tuna and go to the best parties,” Lambros Panagiotakopoulos, the deputy mayor of Mykonos told Greece Is. “Additionally in contrast to other places, on Mykonos they can holiday in peace. Aside from the paparazzi, people here are used to celebrities, they don’t go crazy when they see them or start hounding them.”
Of course, while during the high season the island has more than its fair share of stars, many may still regard with nostalgia the days when the island was visited by the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly.
After all, today Mykonos regularly attracts clusters of Kardashians and many a celebrity visitor is as likely to sip 2,000 euro champagne as spray it about with abandon (as Usain Bolt memorably did during a night when he reportedly racked up a 88,000 euro night club bill).
Are today’s star visitors keeping the Mykonos myth alive? “Certainly,” says Panagiotakopoulos, although he acknowledges that things have changed. “When the first stars started making an appearance it was an almost virgin place. Now conditions have changed and there are so many [of them] that no one single appearance will stand out. But without that affecting the quality of the tourists, nor the services on offer.”
Star power from Antiparos to Antipaxos
Of course, elsewhere in Greece the sudden appearance of a celebrity can still make significant waves. One widely reported story took place when Will Smith’s daughter, Willow Smith was holidaying with her family on a yacht in the Ionian and posted the following on Instagram:
Being so far away from what I perceive as a polluted metropolis, I couldn’t stand seeing these beautiful beaches in Greece littered with trash. I saw seagulls, dead on their backs from choking on tiny slivers of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials; They even die from eating fish who have ingested these particle-size slivers. 4 beautiful humans accompanied my mom and I in gathering 22 trash bags full of plastics and urban debris off of 3 small beaches in Antípaxos, Greece. When we see these things on our TV’s or phones it seems far away for some reason; But when it’s right in front of you I feel as though it is humanities responsibility to do as much as we can (in the moment and long-term) no matter how small the action is. As we all start to do our part, we gradually make a difference. Hopefully today we were able to elongate and preserve the beauty & existence of the local sea life.
The post was widely shared and commented on, and initially the local authorities bristled when images of the dirty beaches shot around the world, feeling they were being unfairly targeted. As the deputy mayor Giorgos Lychnos told us, keeping many of the beaches clean of washed up debris is difficult as they can only be reached by sea. In fact, in order to do so the mayor himself sets off by boat with a small group every few days to collect the trash.
Yet the municipality has since clearly seen the benefits a young star with a popular Instagram account can bring. The local authorities have now written a letter to Willow thanking her for her efforts which they have released to us. Below is the text in full:
Dear Ms Smith
Following your recent visit to Paxos (the 7 small islands of the northern Ionian) we would like to take this opportunity to express our grateful thanks and appreciation for your initiative in cleaning some of the small beaches on Antipaxos during your stay. Your actions were instrumental in highlighting not only a problem that many areas of coastal Greece face due to lack of funding for personnel by the state, but the greater problem of rubbish pollution in the Mediterranean in general. Hopefully more people locally will be inspired to take a active role in the future by donating some hours of their time to volunteer groups who clean the harbours and beaches not only on our beautiful island, but also in other areas of the country.
We would like to extend a standing invitation for you to visit our small island again the next time you are in Greece so we can have the opportunity to show you more of it’s hidden delights, and to contribute your own thoughts and ideas on how to retain (and improve) this very special paradise that we are so fortunate to live on.”
Another small island that has felt the benefit of star power is Antiparos, located opposite Paros in the Cyclades. Among the island’s biggest fans is Tom Hanks who has a villa on the island and has helped put it on the map for many an international visitor. Married to Greek-American Rita Wilson, Hanks is a noted philhellene and has been baptized in the Greek Orthodox church. Hanks has also taken his star power to Sifnos where he is known to frequent the restaurant Omega 3.
Thank you @tomhanks and @ritawilson for the love you’ve shown to us all these years! Thank you for appreciating all the hard work being carried out by our team! The magnificent #RitaWilson & #TomHanks at #Ω3 #omega3 #fish & #wine #bar at #PlatiYialosSifnos #Sifnos #island #Cyclades #Aegean #Greece #Mediterrannean #summer2017 – Season5
And this year he was not the only Hollywood A-Lister to eat fresh seafood at the restaurant’s tables, located directly on the beach. Scarlett Johansson was also pictured with the Omega 3 team.
Back on Antiparos, Hugh Jackman also made an appearance in the early summer. And how did the locals react on seeing Wolverine in the flesh?
“Most of the time the locals learn that any given famous person was on the island after they’ve left, from the media,” laughs the President of the Antiparos Tourism Committee, Artemis Triantafyllos. “It isn’t easy to identify the guy with the glasses, the hat, and bermudas with the person you see in the movies. But the fact that people here don’t recognize them is also what enchants them.”
Triantafyllos goes on to recount one wonderful story from Antiparos in 2011 when Bruce Springsteen was on the island and drinking a beer in the island’s famous rock hangout, The Doors.
Thanasis, the bartender had not recognized him. At some point by chance, the DJ put on a Springsteen track. “Nice song,” Springsteen said playfully to Thanasis. “He’s good but he’s American,” Thanasis said, just a few moments before lifting his eyes to see who he was talking to…