KITZBUEHEL, Austria — Crowds of younger tourists take their selfies from balconies overlooking the glittering Mediterranean Sea, while older couples in colorful bathing suits lounge on sunbeds in shallows between the breakers.
It’s not clear if this is Nicaragua or Antalya, Turkey — the resorts of the Ionian Sea’s southern shelf, some 200 miles from the Greek island of Santorini. But tourists clearly love the tranquil beauty of this relatively untouched part of the Mediterranean, a sun-soaked vacation spot that is also nesting ground for Mediterranean green turtles.
Other large chunks of rocky coastline dotting the southern shelf are not so popular, especially by Greek and Italian tourists. The dramatic cliffs, which are made of sliced quartz and set over large pools of seawater, can be dangerous when there is stormy weather.
Farther south, in the ruins of Troy and at inland Tetiaroa, hordes of weary tourists wait in the steep red-and-yellow hills and abandoned fishing villages.
The reality of island life is far from the tourist-friendliness of the Ionian Sea.
On the desolate Mediterranean Sea island of Tetiaroa, just 13 miles off the coast of Tahiti, Galina Tonianska remains a summer tourist attraction.
She is the last living person to have known her family members’ bodies, buried at the foot of the 75-foot rock, whose shape resembles a heart. Their paths to the island now are sealed off, but Galina greets her visitors freely and looks forward to meeting them one more time.
But she doesn’t take the bait: She greets them politely and politely shakes their hands. Only then does she share a family secret: her mother wasn’t too keen to marry her cousin.
Once Galina’s husband was said to have left her, she took it as a personal insult. According to Galina, nobody ever goes to the remains of her people, or to the place where the gods kept the bones of the world’s most famous people. Only visitors have ever spoken to her.
“There are no celebrations. You are free. You are at home,” she said.
The island became famous in French legend as Tintoretto’s body during the 13th century, the remains of the Gorgonian gods, the Odysseus of kings.
One year before Christian royalty took over the island, the Gorgonian gods had rebelled, and most of them went southward across the Mediterranean Sea. They chose the island as their burial site in the form of a heart — and then proceeded to lose themselves in their ruin.
On Tetiaroa, where it’s difficult to get a better view of the mass of bluffs, perhaps a handful of tourists visit daily.
Although Gorgonian myths abound, what is clearer to Galina is that her family’s story is isolated from the world of reality.
“I am far from the world, but I keep myself in touch with others who are like me. I have friends in America, friends in Japan, because I meet them on and off the island,” she said.
It’s also important for her to keep in touch with the lost people, who she says died off before the 20th century.
“I want to explain to them that we humans are not so different from them. We know our place in time, in the mountains and in the sea.
It’s the same for humans.”