Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Corfu In Decline

The Irish author Richard Pine, who lives on the island of Corfu, wrote this devastating piece in the Ekathimerini: "The destruction of the real Corfu". Pine blames primarily unchecked tourism for what he calls the island's destruction.

Having just spent 10 days over Easter on Corfu, I can confirm the destruction but I am not sure that it is tourism, at least not tourism alone.

There is one word which, in my opinion, describes today's Corfu (particularly, but not only, Corfu-town) best: decadence. Wherever one looks, one sees decline: run-down buildings, roads in terrible condition, huge garbage piles all over the island, etc. In between, of course, one runs into 5-star luxury resorts here or there.

When one asks people in the Old Town of Corfu about this situation, one gets a uniform answer: it is all because of UNESCO which does not allow any structural changes. That may well be the case but I am sure that UNESCO does not disallow the maintenance of substance. In fact, there are a few traditional buildings in the Old Town which have maintained their original character to the fullest extent and, yet, they have been maintained and kept up (banks, for instance).

The impression one gets on the entire island is that its residents simply don't care about the inherited beauty of landscapes and structures. I have come to Greece for over 40 years and I have seen many places, above all villages, which seemed medieval 40 years ago and which are now very nicely maintained towns. The last time I was in Corfu was over 25 years ago and there has been a dramatic deterioration since then.

Our 10-day stay was overshadowed by the shame which my Greek wife expressed about most of the things she saw. That was not, that could not be 'her' Greece, she felt. Sadly, it was.


  1. It is sad to see that the first island in Greece, which developed a flourishing tourism industry, is now in such a situation. Every now and while in the last few years, we read reports in the press about the waste management problem of Corfu. But nothing seems to improve. The Governor of the Ionian Islands (supported by SYRIZA) was elected in 2014 with the promise to stop the contruction of a new waste disposal site in Lefkimi (in the south of the island). Five years later, the only alternative presented by the Regional Authorities is the transfer of the garbage to ...the neighbouring (and much poorer due to lack of mass tourism) Region of Epirus, where a new wasτe management unit has been built.

    I don't know about UNESCO regulations, but the Medieval City of Rhodes is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is in a much better condition.

  2. In Portugal, and coincidental with your posting, just two days ago a new law was enacted on "devoluto" (empty, abandoned, uninhabited) homes. Either the owners (heirs or successors) repair those homes and inhabit them, even if temporarily, or the municipalities will start levying a special tax and after a certain time, expropriate and auction them. The alleged explanation given is that emigration is the cause. Then, turning to my wife's island of Terceira in the Azores, its 15th century capital city of Angra do Heroismo -- a UNESCO Patrimony of Humanity -- was leveled to the ground by way of a major earthquake 1st January 1980. The original plans for the city along with the architectural blue prints of the time were dug out from some dusty catacombs in the Azores and in Lisbon and the whole city was reconstructed exactly as it was centuries ago with a difference, which is invisible built-in electricity cables and piped water. The only eyesore in the central plaza of Angra these days is the steel and glass mini-tower of a bank that rushed the reconstruction of its building before the government / municipality took over control.

    Therefore, I suspect that there is more to Corfu than just being a UNESCO site and a major tourist spot. Food for thought...

  3. occasionally I watch Austrian and Swiss public channel news via our SAT3. On the Swiss SF1 or SF2 no idea which one they choose, I recently saw a short report about a Swiss community that seems to have decided to have its own tourism concept. Maybe it was this:


    That's the type of tourist project I would love. And strictly I am often in both Austria and Switzerland as basically southern German more northern now. I love the Alps.

    But the type mass tourism you describe keeps me as far away as possible.