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Many on Mykonos Weary of Boozy, Partying Hedonist Heaven Image

For people who prefer partying till dawn, watching half-naked young women dance on bar tabletops and can afford to swig champagne at 1000 euros ($980.20) a bottle there’s no place like Mykonos for a vacation.

But a lot of the locals have had it up here (eyeballs) with the fuss and noise and ravages to the environment and infrastructure despite the revenues tourists bring, needed even more after COVID-19 lockdowns and slowdowns.

The pandemic is still going on, if waning, and so too is interest in some quarters about continuing to lure visitors to an island also known for tax evasion and gouging tourists, everyone looking the other way.

In a feature for the British newspaper The Guardian, Athens correspondent Helena Smith, a long-time journalist veteran in Greece, said some businesses are offering a Mykonos that existed before the hordes began arriving.

That’s what Nikos Zouganelis is doing with his farm called Rizes – roots – a metaphor for getting back what used to be there before it was overwhelmed with so many people that elbow soup could have been on the menu.

“At Rizes we want to live the Mykonos of our roots,” he said of the farm that offers cooking classes, breadmaking and horse riding. “We don’t do champagne, we don’t do music, we don’t do crowds,” he said.

He said he turned to it after decades of helping his father in the construction business keep building up the island with villas and hotels that turned into a kind of Disneyland or Las Vegas imitation of life.

The rich and famous flock to Mykonos for the high life though and it’s a tough task for anyone who wants to reverse that, especially with so much money on the line, even if one day it ruins the island for good.

“We have gone astray,” he said. “Mistakes have been made. We have all contributed to them,” he added.

It’s too late for this year to do much more than sigh and accept the windfall even if one day it brings a downfall because people are continuing to pour onto the island in what could be record numbers, even into the autumn now.

In July an estimated 220,000 visitors were recorded in a single week with at least 30,000 employees – three times the resident population – staffing restaurants, hotels and private villas. “Everyone wants to live their myth in Mykonos,” a happy Mayor Konstantinos Koukas told the paper.

GOING AWAY

“Mykonos is a miracle. It is just a small rock in the Aegean Sea and it has managed to become an international tourist destination that brings in billions of euros in revenues,” he said, the damage not spoken of.

It’s going to get better and worse – more money and more people coming in, so many that even the riches won’t be able to keep Mykonos from becoming a kind of caricature of a Greek island.

He said more airlines are lining up to bring people directly, including from the Middle East, as Mykonos’ reputation – bad or not – has preceded itself and tourists are arriving like lemmings following each other.

They aren’t shy. The piece noted that they’re partying, drinking, yelling, carrying on at all hours, spending like drunken soldiers at high-end stories and tourist shops alike, and the gay crowd adding to it.

They walk by and through locals happy for the money but dismayed at what they see, generations of churchgoers bewildered at the constant cacophony, glamor and glitz crowding out everything else.

Unseen and often unreported is that the island is seeing a proliferation of drugs, money laundering and protection rackets, evolving from once dirt-poor to dealing with dirty money and gangsters, the police no match.

It was discovered in the 1950s but it’s only in relatively recent years that it has become too popular for the tastes of many residents who have to put up with it because it brings in the cash to sustain them through the winter.

“Our island is full, it has exceeded its limits,” Marigoula Apostolou, President of the local folklore museum told the paper of the dilemma.

“Our natural environment has been destroyed, our water and sewage infrastructure cannot cope, and that is before we even talk about the threat to our lifestyle by being branded a party isle.”

Even Mayor Koukas is worried. A bit.

He said he’s anxious about the New Democracy government that’s pushing for foreign investment giving approval for another massive hotel and a project backed by Middle East investors would create a village for the rich and their superyachts.

“Mykonos has had its best year ever, tourist arrivals are up by at least 20 percent, but sustainable development is our biggest problem,” he added, worried that once people have had their fill that the island will be discarded.

And that they’ll go to nearby Delos.

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