Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mykonos: Shame on You.

Mykonos reservoir about to run dry. More photos below.

A half-dozen years ago, one of the fictional characters in my debut novel, Murder in Mykonos, said, “I’m like a Mykonian: I’m used to living in a bordello—filled with police.”

Just the other day I heard a Mykonian say, “Mykonos is a brothel run by police.”

I guess you could call that evolution.

Frankly, I’m not sure who’s running it now.  Certainly not its elected officials.  The new mayor does not take office until September, so none of what I’m about to say is directed at him, except of course to point out what I trust he already knows: Mykonos is in desperate need of order.

Those with influence build as they wish wherever they want—beaches and building codes be damned; all drive and park with reckless disregard for each other and pedestrians; garbage and construction materials are dumped with impunity wherever convenient; noise regulations are disregarded if it stands to make the right folks money; and municipal licensing and tax laws selectively ignored or unenforced.

And why, pray tell, is all this done?

For the benefit of the tourists is the answer, or rather the benefit of those who profit off their presence—for one could hardly say the lack of pedestrian walkways, taxis, and public bus transportation benefits tourists.

Yet, it’s incontrovertible that tourists love it here.  At least a certain kind of tourist does. Why wouldn’t they?  Amid its beautiful beaches, heavenly weather, and pristine sea they can behave in a manner utterly unthinkable back home, for Mykonos has evolved into a place where rules are not enforced nor statistics made public that might shock some into clearer thinking on the downsides of unfettered personal freedom amid a place literally immersed in natural (and artificial) intoxicants.

It’s a three-month open party. One that Mykonians once treated as a harmless tourist tsunami—sweeping in each June and receding by September—providing what they needed to keep their treasured island alive for the balance of the year. But the tsunami now carries away far more than it contributes, draining away the very spirit and identity of the island.

It is a place for profiteers unconcerned with the long-term health of the island. The businessman who avoids paying the fees and taxes he legitimately owes is not a colorful character beating the system, he’s a villain wrecking the future of every Mykonian child in the island’s underfunded schools, damaging the year-round quality of life for every Mykonian who must suffer with bad roads, understaffed public health facilities, and garbage polluting every vista, every nostril, every day. 

And it is a place where thousands of fish are about to die as one of its two municipal reservoirs runs dry because of poor municipal planning.  There is an old adage that “a fish stinks from the head down.” In this case I think there are thousands of heads to blame.

Views from the southern foot of the reservoir moving north.

All that's left.
Welcome to September, Mr. Mayor, we’re all rooting for you.


PS. Happy Birthday, Barbara my love.


  1. Jeff,
    We've heard many of your warnings and caveats about Greece with great concern. This one,because it is so shocking and - may I use the word bitter - leaves a taste of hopelessness. We are a greedy, thoughtless species. And against this background we are "taking on" global warming?

  2. Hi Jeff,

    A very well written and factual article by one of Mykonos's most ardent and supportive proponents reflecting the reality of what is sadly happening on the island today. I have been quite shocked to recently read in the local Myconian newspaper that the outgoing city council can't even form a quorum in their scheduled meetings to address their legislative responsibilities and the apathy that has apparently set in since the local elections in May.

    Mykonos and the wonderful people who make up the citizens of this beautiful island both deserve and are capable of far better. Having last left there in May and personally witnessed the downward spiral of Island, we had hoped to find a noticeable change and a much improved environment when we return there next month. Alas, from reading your blog today, it would appear that won't be the case..

    Let's hope the new administration and the locals will rally together in September and correct the long overdue neglect and mismanagement that has been wrought upon the island in the absence of effective leadership in order to preserve their own economic future and that of their children. Hedonism is fine in moderation, but the long term aspirations of follow on generations of Myconians - and those of us who frequent the island year after year out of our love for the place - won't be well served by the civil neglect that currently prevails.

    N & C

    1. Very well said, N &C! And all on Mykonos who care for the future of the island share your hope that, come September, the local administration will care as well.

  3. Michael, I sadly see this as a variation on (my recollection of) the theme of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," where no one in power possessed a sufficiently objective perspective on a badly deteriorating situation to prevent the only one speaking sanely from being silenced by a lobotomy.

    By the way, I'm not in fear of a lobotomy for two reasons: One, I'm far from the only lover of Mykonos speaking out on this, and, two, I had mine years ago when admitted to the NY Bar.

  4. Jeff: Was it a lobotomy, all those years ago? Or a "bottle in front o' me?"

    Seriously, you're seriously depressing. You should go on a vacation, chillax a bit. I'm doing some research right now, and I'll get back to you... as soon as I can locate a nice locale far from human predations, news sources, and any members of the Kardashian family. Hold your breath.

    1. Well, I followed your advice, my friend, and went to my favorite spot on the island, an idyllic setting with a terrific taverna in an "almost" virgin cove (play with that image at your peril, EvKa) that I hadn't visited in three weeks.

      Trouble is, it roused me to a worse state than before. Why? you ask. Because the ride took me out past Mykonos' second (and only other reservoir) and it looked in worse shape than the first one! The drop in level in just three weeks is frightening. I understand that's because water is being piped out of it and away from the more rural central town of Ano Mera to sustain the busier coastal areas of Mykonos town. A classic borrow from Peter to pay Paul.

      From the way this crisis is playing out, I'm getting the sense that municipal planning for this looming, long predicted crisis boiled down to, "Don't worry, be happy, God will provide."

      We shall see.

  5. A sad, sad story, seeing a place that you love deteriorate due to greed, corruption, stupidity and human frailty. I hope Mykonos can pull itself back from the brink.

    1. Hi Lisa. Yes a shame, but to be honest, until I read Mykonos in your last sentence, I thought you were talking about our US government in Washington. :)

    2. That too, Jeff!

      Gotta say, I'm so happy to live in California, which has its problems for sure, but where things are actually getting done.

  6. Jeff, how can the wild abandon allowed to the tourists not then color what the permanent residents expect of themselves? Suspending all rules of decency for the visitors and then expecting the locals to behave with propriety toward each other and their environment? That seems a pipe dream to me. Periods of temporary lawlessness followed by periods of great civic virtue? Can this be a reasonable expectation? Or a sane avenue to long lasting prosperity?

    1. I have to admit, Annamaria, that the contrasts of Mykonos long attracted me. Formally dressed priests crossing paths with the barely dressed without a blink by either, black-clad island grandmothers exchanging morning nods with glitter bedecked transsexuals returning home at sunup, simple nakedness on the beaches trumping the pretentiously overdressed, etcetera, etecetera.

      As lacking in "propriety" as that may sound, there was a simple innocence to it all that I fear's been lost.

      There's always been an inherent, deeply sensual draw to the island, but now it's being commercially exploited to the hilt as a place of "free will in all things." Such a message and what it necessarily entails cannot help but alter the basic fabric of any society embracing it.

      How can you expect your children to listen to your preaching that behavior such as they see all about them every summer is wrong when they watch you--their parents and role models--tolerate, if not encourage it?

      Order is necessary. Otherwise, as a Mykonian told me yesterday, "I sense we're on the verge of ending up like Delos." A bit dramatic--Delos went practically overnight from a hedonistic center of the ancient world to a pile of ruins--but I got his point.

      Let's hope those who can make a difference don't miss it.

    2. Unfortunately, it seems to be the fate of all human societies that they swing from extreme to extreme, first one way, then another. Few (if any) societies have managed an "even keel" for more than a few lifetimes. Most don't manage to hang on to any form of stability for even one lifetime. Our lives sometimes seem like we're trying to ride a bicycle across a high wire with no balancing pole and in the midst of a a flurry of tornadoes. If a little is 'good,' then let's push it as far as we can! Who cares if the system breaks in the middle of our act?

    3. You're right EvKa (I actually said that ??:)), balance is the most difficult state to attain and virtually impossible to maintain in the presence of uneven external forces. And Mykonos is all about external forces of the odd sort. Structure helps though.

  7. Living on that "god forsaken rock" in the late 80's, I noticed one clear different between Tinos and Mykonos. Simply the roads. How can Mykonos, with it's millions of tourists, have roads like the moon, while quiet Tinos has the quality of the Autobahn?

  8. Anonymous, I think the answer to that question can be found in my fourth book, "Target: Tinos." The Holy Foundation responsible for administering the famed church there uses a portion of the contributions from the million plus pilgrims each year toward municipal purposes, such as road construction and improvement. That's only a partial answer of the category for some of "God will provide."

  9. Thank you Jeffrey. I would have done this long long ago but don't have the platform. We've been going since 1969 and 1978. Mykonos has been deteriorating for some time now. One can't expect to have the charm and simplicity of the old Mykonos. That is lost with popularity and tourism. But the worst aspect of Mykonos currently is the out and out avaricious greed of this next generation. Sadly they seem to get away with it, although I have heard rumblings from at least a dozen regulars in the past month or so. Quad bike prices going from 20Euro per day to 60 in season. Ergo you get four youngsters trying to ride on one when it can barely support two - ergo more accidents. Coffee hiked from 2.50 to 4.24 Euros for two people to sit on the beach! Clubs that refused to close at 3am, striking until they got their way to open until 6am with no regard for the aunties who remain in their original houses in Chora. The rest have moved out. The soul of Mykonos is dying with the oldsters. It's greed. And the island is suffering badly. It can't sustain the number of tourists it is getting - the rubbish piles up in the street, the water has run out, the pavements are filthy and frankly the Mykonians become less and less friendly as the season progresses - they themselves cannot sustain the heavy tourism. But they love the money. We've begun asking for receipts for everything we pay for. If receipts are issued, tax must be paid. However, I am told by a Mykonian friend that the taxes paid do not get allocated to the schools or medical facilities and they aren't happy either. So who is happy? The Lexus and BMW drivers...the new generation. They've never known 'want'. And they just think they can keep on taking. We still adore Mykonos and the special people we know there, but to be honest we're taking a look at Naxos. Greed isn't pleasant. H&S

  10. Thanks for your observations, "H&S." The only criticism I received thus far for my post--and it came privately--was not about it's accuracy, but "How could you make all this public? it could discourage people from coming." I said it already is public and discouraging people. it's just being ignored by those in a position to make a difference, especially in a summer when Mykonos and Greece in general is experiencing record shattering tourism numbers.

    My answer to that, folks, is found in Greece's very own Aesop's Fables: Read "The Ant and the Grasshopper" aka The Cicada and the Ant."