Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mykonos: A Place Much in Need of Order


This is an update to a post I wrote five years ago. I wish I could say nothing has changed. But a lot has changed—carrying the island full throttle in a direction most likely to end in tears.

A 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.”

Five years ago I heard a Mykonian say, “Mykonos is a brothel run by police.”

Today what’s heard is, “Mykonos is a brothel—abandoned by police.”

I guess you could call that evolution, but if you want to know who’s running it now, read my latest, The Mykonos Mob. That’s not meant as a commercial, but as a reality check.

The newly re-elected mayor has a lot of people rooting for him to take charge and address 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; vehicle rental operations and private van services have clogged the island’s narrow roadways with LA rush hour type traffic; most 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; and municipal licensing and tax laws selectively ignored or unenforced. And I won’t even get into the ready availability of whatever may be your vice of choice, and its consequences to the public at large.

And why, pray tell, is all this done?

“For the benefit of the tourists.” is the answer often given, though in reality it’s for the benefit of those who profit off their presence.  That anything goes attitude has drawn hordes of a new breed of privateers flocking to the island—the “profiteers.”

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 wide-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, unaffordable housing, and garbage polluting every vista, every nostril, every day. 

And it is a place beginning to draw negative press.  The island’s warning “canary in the mine” is badly staggering, Mr. Mayor.  It’s time to rally the Mykonians around your mandate, take charge, and restore much needed—and desired—order to a place we all love.

We’re rooting for you.



  1. Sounds like where I live...without the beauty and culture. I wish you the best in things improving. In the meantime, enjoy the greatness that remains and surrounds you.

    1. That's a very good attitude, Tonette, though I sense it's one you've developed through first hand experience.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm hearing that a lot these days ... and Naxos should take heed. :)

  3. Wall Street Journal today had five islands featured, among them, Naxos. I just saw two other tourist publications touting Naxos, . . .sigh. . .it may not be long and it too will be sounding a bit like Mykonos. Didn't you say, Kaldis is already going to work there?

    1. Yes, Kaldis next stop is Naxos. As for its future, who's to say, but it has several things going for it other Cycladic islands do not. It's economically self-sustainable without tourism, has an active and (at times) successful indigenous opposition to ill-thought out infrastructure projects, and a newly elected mayor who's vowed to lure tourism by focusing on what Naxos has to offer with its storied past, and working with that, rather than trying to emulate Ibiza or Miami Beach.

  4. Jeff,
    In order to change what's happening on the island you'd have to change the mentality of the people who live there and of many Greeks. My guess is if you talk to locals they'll tell you the island and the people have survived thousands of years and this is just a time to be lived through. Sadly, they'd be like the philosophers of ancient Greece who might've said or thought the same thing but were unable to change the mentality of the people. I believe they live knowing the island will survive any onslaught, as it has done, and will live on maybe not as the glorious vacation spot it now enjoys but as an island with people rooted to its history.

    1. I agree completely that it's up to Mykonians to shape and preserve their future. As for what locals say, I respectfully disagree. The reason I wrote this post, and indeed my very premise for writing "The Mykonos Mob," is because virtually every Mykonian bemoans its beloved island's current which has attracted hordes of off-island profiteers who come to recklessly mine the island's rich three-month-long tourism season for all that it's worth, leaving those who consider Mykonos home to live with the consequences.

  5. This kind of breaks my heart. I had an enchanted couple of weeks there back in the Pleistocene, and nothing good lasts forever, or even for very long. As one who has lived in Thailand, I know that the worst word in the world is "impunity." Awful people have it in Thailand, too.

    1. Yes, Tim, Mykonians still talk in reverential tones of your visit.
      "Impunity" is the perfect word for summing up the essence of the problem. Thank you for that. Now it's up to the Mykonians to come up with the appropriate antonym.