The Trashiest Beach in Athens

By Nikos Christofakis

The characterization "worst" might be a tough one, but it is nonetheless accurate. It doesn't refer to its natural beauty or have anything to do with whether the place has clean seawater. The B Voula Beach has been abandoned for years. A small walk around is all it takes to realize the magnitude of the disaster. In which country do you find a beach in such a horrible state, just 11 miles from the city center, in what is supposed to be a lively coastal zone?

I stand and look at the sign in the entrance. Written in green spray paint are the words "Open Public Beach”—but inside the sight is heartbreaking. Tons of trash and debris, abandoned ghost buildings, and an unbearable smell make you forget you’re on a beach. As I walk around I look at the beach facilities—the toilet, dressing rooms, dining rooms, bars, and some parts of the building, which were never finished. Today the homeless live there—their personal belongings are scattered around.

Last March Vari’s mayor, Spyros Pannas, opened up the public beach, which had been closed for more than a decade—a symbolic gesture through which the town expressed its desire to put the beaches under the management of the municipality. "We'll be here every day, to care, to preserve, and to make this the most beautiful beach in Attica’s plateau,” the mayor said. But two and a half months later, nothing has changed.

I called city hall and talked to their PR manager, Georgia Koutri. "Unfortunately, the beaches are privately owned and are not under the jurisdiction of the municipality. They are owned by ETAD. We do not have the right to perform any kind of actions on the beach," she said.

Despite my repeated attempts to communicate with someone in ETAD, I ultimately couldn’t get through to anyone. The question, of course, remains: Why does the second Voula Beach continue to be closed, while nearby, in privately owned beaches, bathers are stacked over one another? And why has this beach been abandoned and allowed to become a zone of contamination due to the trash and storm water?

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