Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mykonos Was Different Then.

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.

In two weeks 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. Great pix Jeff. A Greek bolthole! I envy you enormously. Looks like a great place to go. Hopefully Mykonos still holds fast to some of its old traditions, as shown in those fascinating photos.

  2. So many 'Mykonians' need to remember where their roots are and to 'be real Mykonians' - not 'pseudo Mykonians' who come and go with the seasons!!!!!

  3. Just a wonderful "trip" to your fascinating island. Too often, we only see the tourist picture, and miss the solidity and character of the folks who live there.

  4. Lil, it is my pleasure and purpose with pieces such as this to present that very perspective on "my island." Thank you for making me feel that my efforts are worthwhile.

    And thank you, too, Anonymous, for a thought provoking comment (and Mykonos 55 for seconding it). You raise a dilemma confronting Mykonos that every special place discovered by the world has faced: to change or not to change, that is the question—though I think it more the nature of the change that matters most, for change has shown itself both desired and inevitable.

    As you suggest, differentiating the “real” from the “pseudo” Mykonian is not simple. Yes, one could draw the line at place of birth, but I think a better measure is not in how long the “roots” have set in island soil, but in their likely beneficial yield to their host over time. Wouldn’t you think that those who view their island simply as a place for short-term seasonal profit without regard for its future should be judged as “real” or “pseudo” based upon that standard and not some happenstance of progeneration?

    After all, native Mykonians have not been around all that long. One hundred and fifty years ago or so, the island population was so decimated by starvation and disease that the Church had to draw settlers from other islands to save it. As you suggest, commitment is what matters, as it should be.

    And yes, Dan, I share your hope and hasten to point out to those readers who might wonder what you meant in referring to Mykonos as “a Greek bolthole,” that most certainly it was in the context of English slang for “a place of refuge.”☺

    One to which I shall return in a matter of days!


  5. Jeff - you are a lucky lukcy man. I am looking forward to your next posts.