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Thread: Mama Mia! Skopelos Gets Flooded By Fans

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    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    Default Mama Mia! Skopelos Gets Flooded By Fans

    This article is thought provoking and hilarious at times. When I was reading it, I had some real LOL moments so I'd like to share. It's from July '09, so it's old, but I found it while researching the Sporades islands of Greece. I've never been there, but they're described as wonderfully green and peaceful.

    Skopelos never really had many tourists, without even an airport and less than 5,000 residents. Now things have completely changed in an instant as a result of the film.

    Mamma Mia! How the feelgood movie of 2008 has ruined the Greek paradise island of Skopelos

    By Jane Fryer
    Last updated at 11:12 PM on 31st July 2009

    From a distance, everything looks just as it should. The teeny, white-washed Agios Ioannis chapel is perched 202 steps up a winding path on top of a rocky outcrop that juts into the sea. It appears windswept, isolated and beautifully peaceful.

    But close up, things aren't quite so tranquil. For starters, the concrete car park below is overflowing. Cars are backed up down the dusty lane and the nearby cafe is doing a roaring trade.

    The steps are alive with a constant stream of visitors, huffing and puffing, and singing Abba songs rather badly.

    And the church? Well, on closer inspection, it isn't quite up to scratch either. Indeed, something's so wrong that the moment most visitors pass through the heavy wooden doors, the singing stops and the recriminations begin.

    'It's very pretty, but it's all wrong,' says Carla Stone, 23, from Australia.

    'There are no pews, and the altar's weird.'

    'It's tiny!' says Sophie Goodson, 15, from Godstone, Surrey. 'There's barely room for Meryl Streep, let alone the three dads and all the wedding guests.'

    'We've seen the film eight times and have come all the way from Warsaw especially, so this is very upsetting,' says Karl, 28. 'They must have used a film set for the inside.'

    Even the visitors' book is brimming with disappointment.

    'A very nice place, but not the church from Mamma Mia!' reads one entry.

    Oh dear. Perhaps I should explain. I am on Skopelos, the tiny Greek island once known for its scented pine trees, olives, dried white plums and peace and quiet... but now more famous as the place Mamma Mia! was filmed.

    Just in case you've been shut away in a wardrobe for the past year, Mamma Mia! The Movie is a film based on the fantastically successful West End show of the same name, and stars Meryl Streep, Piers Brosnan and Julie Walters.

    The premise is simple. A raft of Abba hits worked into a cheesy plot about a girl who tries to uncover the identity of her biological father - her mum (played by Meryl Streep) was quite a goer in her day - by secretly inviting the three candidates to her wedding on the un-spoilt fictional Greek island of Kalokairi.

    It is just over a year since the film was released and, despite a steely determination that their island will 'never do a Captain Corelli' - nearby Kefalonia, where Captain Corelli's Mandolin was filmed, was mobbed in the wake of that film's release in 2001 - it's clear that life will never be quite the same again for the 4,969 Skopelites.

    The islanders' official policy has always been maximum friendliness and minimal Mamma Mia! publicity - so there are no Mamma Mia! T-shirts, postcards, fridge magnets or bus tours. There is no Hollywoodisation of the island, in fact, no tasteless tat at all.

    The only exception is the desolate Mamma Mia! bar, run by a lugubrious man called Demetri - who was Brosnan's driver during the filming - and dismissed as 'tacky' by many locals.

    Oh, and a smart signpost at each sacred stop on the Mamma Mia! trail - the church, the bay where the cast danced on the jetty, the trees where Sophie enjoyed a picnic with her three 'fathers'.

    Skopelos is about more than Mamma Mia! - we don't want our island to change because of a film,' says mayor Hristos Vasiloudis, who is sitting in his sunny office in a pink, short-sleeved shirt and jeans.

    'We have culture, architecture, ancient history and pride. A film comes and goes, but we want our island to remain the same.'

    This all sounds impressive and, had it been any other film, he might just have got what he wanted.

    But as well as being horribly cheesy, Mamma Mia! is Hollywood's most successful musical, and the highest-grossing film and fastest-selling DVD of all time in Britain. It has also spawned millions of fans around the world - an awful lot of whom seem to be making over-excited pilgrimages to the island.

    Despite the fact Skopelos can be reached only by a choppy 50-minute ferry ride from the airport in Skiathos, visitor numbers have skyrocketed.

    Hotels have been booked up months in advance, the bars and restaurants are buzzing and every couple of hours an enormous ferry disgorges another batch of Mamma Mia! fans on to the quayside in picturesque Skopelos town, often in full song. Until they realise it's not quite as it was on the big screen.

    'It was a bit disappointing at first,' says Diana Staveley, 40. 'In the film, they arrived at a pretty bay in a tiny boat, but we came on a giant ferry into the port and there were people everywhere.'

    While increased custom - even by Abba fans - sounds like good news, it's had a big effect on the island's much-prized tranquillity. The narrow roads are teeming with cars reversing and spinning tyres in the dust. And there's barely room left to sit down on some of the beaches.

    'We've been coming for years and this time it's different,' says Christina, 34, from Athens. 'There used to be four, maybe five, people on some of the beaches and now they're completely full. It's so busy you need to be there early to get a spot, so we don't bother.'

    And then there are the weddings... For months, fans have been flocking here to get married Mamma Mia!-style in the minuscule church on the hill - only to discover it's off limits unless you happen to be Greek Orthodox.
    Instead, they're tying the knot in the town hall, on one of the beaches or on a yacht and then diving into the clear blue water in their wedding finery.

    'There was one Swiss couple who were going to convert to Greek Orthodox and come back,' says Marion Fester, who works for Thalpos Holidays. 'Given that you'd fit only about six people in the church, it seems a bit extreme.'

    A bit? Just how silly can you get? Very, it seems, judging by the stream of fans traipsing into Marion's office to pay homage to a pair of Piers Brosnan's flip flops - 'They're only size seven, which was a bit of a surprise' - retrieved from his villa and now firmly nailed to the wall and draped in fairy lights.

    'At first, it was just a few children and women with their daughters, but two days ago there was a whole group of British tourists - all here to see the flip flops. The men looked embarrassed.'

    And does anyone try them on? 'Oh no! They're nailed down. Though we'd love him to come back and prise them off.'

    It is credit to the Skopelites' determination and lack of greed that there is still only one organised Mamma Mia! boat trip from Skopelos a week - because there must be ten times the demand.

    Competition for the 58 places on the Odyssey is feverish and, occasionally, bordering on the violent. Jonathan Stone, from London but resident in Greece for seven years, leads the trips.

    'They are unbelievably obsessed. We had one Swedish woman who'd seen the film 198 times. And she was upset when we didn't play it during the trip.'

    And music? 'The moment you put on the soundtrack, everyone starts dancing, so thank God the engine makes the CD slip so we can play it only when the boat stops. If it didn't, we'd have to listen to Abba all blooming day. They get disappointed that they can't drink in the beach bar and jump off the jetty [which were built specially for the film].

    'I swear they expect Meryl Streep will be there waiting for them, sunning herself on a sun lounger.'

    It might sound like harmless fun, but the film has had a more worrying effect on the island. Prices have shot up in the bars, tavernas and even supermarkets. 'Taverna life is being eroded,' says Neil Durham, 64, from Bangor, but now a resident.

    'The Greeks...Read more

    Near the end of the article there's this:
    Speaking of which, back up at the chapel, things are less civil as an elderly couple from Macclesfield are shooed out of the way by an Indian woman brandishing an enormous camera.

    'Old lady - get out of the way, please! I've come from India for this picture and I don't want you in it.'
    Oh man

    You'll find a couple more photos and more to the article at the link.

    Last edited by MidtownGuy; April 8th, 2010 at 08:23 PM.

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