Nikolaos Rokos, the last traditional mailman on the island of Amorgos, Greece, retired in June 2021 after 36 years of walking up and down the steep alleys of Chora, the capital of the island, every single work day.
“It was a tiring job walking up and down the alleys, but I do not complain. With God’s help, anything can be achieved,” he tells Greek Reporter.
Chora is situated in the interior of Amorgos at an altitude of 350 meters (1,148 feet) near the center of the island. It is a protected village with white Cycladic houses, narrow alleys, and churches. Chora surrounds the castle, which was built in the 13th century.
Rokos has just now retired, marking the end of an era for the island. His replacement uses a car to deliver the mail.
Since 1985, when he started on the job, he has delivered thousands of domestic and foreign letters to the 400 permanent residents of the village. These were letters containing good news or bad news. They were letters from relatives living on the mainland, migrants to the USA, Australia, or other places, as well as merchant mariners traveling the oceans.
“Everybody knows me on the island. They were expecting me at a particular time of the day,” to deliver the mail, he says.
Amorgos is one of those Greek islands where literally everyone does know each other, so sending a letter does not require adding a street address or postal code. “In many cases,” he says, “there are not even street names. But I know the recipient and where to go just by looking at the name.”
Rokos admits that, nowadays, there is less mail to distribute. The internet has largely supplanted physical mail now. “With electronic mail, people get instant communication, but we still get letters from the diaspora and from Greece,” Rokos says, adding that he also had to distribute lots of advertising mail.
Mailman experiences changes at Amorgos
The last traditional mailman of Amorgos has seen firsthand the many changes on the Aegean island over the last 36 years while doing the job.
Tourism has changed the island. “Now, almost all the locals are involved with tourism. They rent apartments and rooms to make a living,” he tells Greek Reporter.
Amorgos became a tourist attraction in the late 1980’s when the island was the backdrop for the film The Big Blue, the retired mailman explains.
The film, which became one of France’s most commercially successful films when released in 1988, is about a heavily fictionalized and dramatized story of the friendship and sporting rivalry between two leading contemporary champion free divers in the 20th century.
Over three decades after The Big Blue, Amorgos in 2020 was again set as the alluring background of a new international co-production. German director/scriptwriter Nana Neul’s feature length movie Töchter (Daughters), based on the best-selling novel by Lucy Fricke, was the basis of that film. This was one of the first international co-productions to resume after the first lockdown in Greece.
Tourism is slowly taking off although the island’s geographical features prevent mass tourism, as it is also accessible only by boat. The three main tourist accommodations are located in Katapola, Aegiali, and Chora.
But what does the future hold for Rokos himself? He says he will not be involved in tourism. “I own a small piece of farmland near the village. That’s where I will devote all my energy,” he tells Greek Reporter.