“Where’s the Mamma Mia! island?” asked an Australian tourist in reference to Phyllida Lloyd’s 2008 blockbuster musical that rocketed its location, the island of Skopelos in the Northern Sporades, to international fame.
At dusk, somewhere among the bermuda-clad Americans and stylish Italians, the same Chinese couple would make their appearance, the woman wearing a wedding gown, the man sporting a white or dark suit, for what would be their Greek moment in the Chinese version of romantic luxury.
The fact we were actually on Santorini was a clear indication there was some kind of confusion. When I explained to her she couldn’t just hop from the Cyclades to Skopelos, the Mamma Mia! island paradise, she seemed very disappointed. “I thought everything was close by,” she said, “and the islands are interconnected.”
Just before embarking on a conversation regarding Greek coastal navigation, our attention was caught by some kind of commotion: a large number of cameras had been facing the sun, which was playing hide-and-seek behind the clouds on its way to setting, suddenly changed direction, turning their backs on one of Europe’s most celebrated sunsets.
The Chinese bride was radiant as she took the arm of the groom, an equally glamorous Chinese man with dyed hair.
As her wedding gown’s train spread across the narrow Santorini street, Chinese photographers, tourists and cameramen seemed busy. Given that the sun was poised to go down shortly, the cameras turned to the “blood-drenched” sunset once again, leaving the bride alone, if only for a little while.
Daily life To the Australian tourist who was frantically taking pictures of the Chinese couple against the Cycladic bell-towered backdrop, the scene seemed noteworthy; for the town of Oia, however, it was just another moment in daily life.
This is because the same thing would happen the following day and the day after that. At dusk, somewhere among the bermuda-clad Americans and stylish Italians, the same Chinese couple would make their appearance, the woman wearing a wedding gown, the man sporting a white or dark suit, for what would be their Greek moment in the Chinese version of romantic luxury.
After asking around and doing some research online, I realised Asians and many Westerners dream of having a symbolic ceremony in Greece.
“Mamma Mia! has played a major role in all this, especially the wedding scene at the romantic little church,” noted a friend who had dealt with this issue
But even well before the movie, dozens of couples coming from North and Latin America, Europe and Oceania have been photographed in their nuptial attire somewhere in Greece. “Quite often, they repeat the ceremony at a Cycladic church, an event that has a symbolic character,” he said.
“In the eyes of thousands of couples, getting married in Greece is the ultimate romantic thing to do.”
Various Greek and travel agencies organise ceremonies, which are complemented by a pleasant and civilised stay for the couple and their guests. The couple’s arrival in Greece is combined with an extended stay, and this kind of vacation, as a rule, means a lot of money for Greek businesses.
“This is a specialised category of thematic tourism,” I was told.
“The kind of tourism that is accompanied by all the peculiarities, demands and requirements that comprise every special travel category.”
Fashionable The Aegean Sea has become fashionable among engaged couples from numerous countries around the world, especially with well-off Asians and Latin Americans citizens. Affluent Indias, South Koreans, Chinese, and Brazilians, among others, show great interest and a love of Greece and are willing to spend considerable amounts of money to visit the Aegean.
This is evident mainly on Santorini, Myconos and other Cycladic Islands and, of course, Skopelos, which many foreigners now seek out on the map to experience up close.
This was first published in www.ekathimerini.com