Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mykonos of Old


Tomorrow, I return to Greece where I shall remain until returning in October for Bouchercon in Toronto.

I've been away from Mykonos for far too long, and can't wait to get back. I understand much has changed over the winter on the island.  It's said to have doubled down on solidifying its reputation as the Mediterranean playground for the rich and would like to be famous. But I've already written that book ("Mykonos After Midnight"), so addressing what the island has become will not be the subject of my new work. I'll spend the five months on something else.

And speaking of something else, six years ago I started off a blog on the eve of my departure to Mykonos with this sentence..."Mykonos wasn’t always like this."

That opening line is even more pertinent today, so I thought I'd reminisce a bit by rerunning that post on the eve of this departure. I can use the reminder of times past, in preparation for the present.  So here goes...

Mykonos wasn't always like this.  There were hard times, make that very hard times.  The island once was among Greece’s most impoverished places.  Mykonians literally starved to death during World War II.  Then came the Greek Civil War.

Monday I’ll be back on Mykonos and promise to share with you as much as good taste will allow of present day life on that international jet set summer destination.  But how did it came to pass that a community still guided by centuries-old church traditions and deeply held family values so effortlessly coexists amid the unstructured, freewheeling lifestyle of visiting summer hedonists?

I think the simplest way of telling the story of that transition is out of the archives of Dimitris Koutsoukos.  As I described an earlier piece, Dimitri is a native Mykonian who has amassed a fascinating collection of photographs capturing the essence of the island, many of which are posted to music on YouTube videos available through this link.
Dimitris Koutsoukos amid the old and the new.

Dimitri, the photographs please…

These were the days that set the island’s modern day roots, when all Mykonians had was each other.  It was the turn of the 20th Century.

Naturally, many lived off the sea and learned their skills from childhood.

Others survived as farmers.

Some depended on both.

Then came regular boat service linking the island to the mainland.

And with that tourists looking to experience traditional island life.

But one day a very famous visitor stepped ashore and forever changed the image of Mykonos.

International celebrity Petros the Pelican arrives with friend.

And glitz began to flock there.

Turning fishermen into guides.

Bringing energy to quiet beaches.

And, of course, making nice with the locals.

In the process each learned much from other.

Tourists how to dance...

...locals how to dress.

And they became friends.

It is a life to which I long to return.
Mykonians tolerating tourists
And for a musical understanding of the draw of Greece, check out this YouTube Video.



  1. All the best for your travels and travails, my friend. And give Barbara a hug for me. Who would you be without her? And without you, who would we be? The chain is long and incredibly tangled.

    1. Thank you, my friend, and I shall. You have never spoken truer words...I think.

  2. enjoy the summer Jeffrey... see you in September; I'm there for 6 weeks 😎

  3. Terrific, Lawrence! By then the island should be all ready for you! :)

  4. What a lovely retrospective! The winds of change are blowing across Greece, some not quite hurricane force like those that have struck Mykonos, but change all the same - slow and subtle. I also touched on the changes in a blog I wrote this week about finding a luxury hotel with a 53-page wine list tucked away in a teeny-tiny village on a hillside in the Deep Mani. Yet in a neighboring village the burros used for hauling things were tied to a fence post. A small breeze, but change is in the wind here as well.

    1. That was a wonderful post you wrote about the hotel! It sounds as if a significant plot point of "Sons of Sparta" became true. :) There truly are some wonderful gems in that area of the Mani, including the stone Kyrimai hotel on the water in Gerolimenas, a half a dozen miles or so south of your terrific find.

  5. Whatever else, I love the photos with the pelican fitting right in with the local people.