Some of the choicest moments.
This perhaps: “They scream, they sing, they fall down, they take their clothes off, they cross-dress, they vomit,” Malia’s mayor, Konstantinos Lagoudakis, said in an interview.
Or this: “I’ve never seen anyone get stabbed the whole time I’ve been here,” said Chris Robinson, 21, speaking outside the Loft bar, which had a special deal: four drinks and two shots for $8.
MALIA, Greece — Even in a sea of tourists, it is easy to spot the Britons here on the northeast coast of Crete, and not just from the telltale pallor of their sun-deprived northern skin.
They are the ones, the locals say, who are carousing, brawling and getting violently sick. They are the ones crowding into health clinics seeking morning-after pills and help for sexually transmitted diseases. They are the ones who seem to have one vacation plan: drinking themselves into oblivion.
“They scream, they sing, they fall down, they take their clothes off, they cross-dress, they vomit,” Malia’s mayor, Konstantinos Lagoudakis, said in an interview. “It is only the British people — not the Germans or the French.”
Malia is the latest and currently most notorious in a long list of European resorts full of young British tourists on packaged tours offering cheap alcohol and a license to behave badly. In Magaluf and Ibiza, Spain; in Ayia Napa, Cyprus; and in the Greek resorts of Faliraki, Kavos and Laganas as well as Malia, the story is the same: They come, they drink, they wreak havoc.
“The government of Britain has to do something,” Mr. Lagoudakis said. “These people are giving a bad name to their country.”
They are also hurting themselves in the process. A recent report published by the British Foreign Office, “British Behavior Abroad,” noted that in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, 602 Britons were hospitalized and 28 raped in Greece, and that 1,591 died in Spain and 2,032 were arrested there.
The report did not distinguish between medical cases and arrests associated with drunkenness and those that had nothing to do with it. But it did say that “many arrests are due to behavior caused by excessive drinking.”
So it would seem. Reports of scandalous incidents rumble on regularly here and elsewhere, helping to cement Britain’s reputation as the largest exporter of inebriated hooligans in Europe.
Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling “I need some fresh air” attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane’s emergency door open at 30,000 feet. The plane diverted hastily to Frankfurt, and the women were arrested.
In Laganas, on the Greek island of Zakinthos, where a teenager from Sheffield died after a drinking binge this summer, more than a dozen British women were charged in July with prostitution after taking part, the authorities said, in an alfresco oral sex contest.
More alarmingly, a 20-year-old British tourist partied with her sister and a friend into the early hours in Malia also in July, then returned to her hotel room and — although she had denied being pregnant — gave birth. Her companions say they returned later to find the baby dead; she has been charged with infanticide.
And in Dubai, also this summer, a British man and woman who met during a drinking bout were arrested and charged with having sex on a beach, after repeatedly shouting abuse at a police officer who ordered them to stop.
All of which leads to a natural question: Why?
“I think that in their country, they are like prisoners and they want to feel free,” said Niki Pirovolaki, who works in a bakery on Malia’s main street and often encounters addled Britons heading back to their hotels — “if they can remember where they are staying,” she said.
David Familton, a Briton who works in a club here, said that it was a question of emotional comfort. “It’s because of British culture — no one can relax, so they become inebriated to be the people they want to be,” he said.
Worried about the increase in crimes and accidents afflicting drunken tourists, the British consulate in Athens has begun several campaigns, using posters, beach balls and coasters with snappy slogans, to encourage young visitors to drink responsibly.
“When things do go wrong, they go wrong in quite a big way,” said Alison Beckett, the director of consular services. “What we’re trying to do here is reduce some of these avoidable accidents where they have so much to drink that they fall off balconies and are either killed or need huge operations.”
As much as they depend on the tourists’ money, the resorts are balking at their behavior. Last year, shopkeepers, residents and hotel owners in Malia held an angry anti-British demonstration. Now, 20 officers patrol the notorious 1,000-foot-long strip of bars and clubs catering to tourists in the center of town, keeping the peace, breaking up fights and making arrests.
Local officials say the blame lies not just with the tourists themselves, but also with the operators of package tours promising drinking-and-partying vacations, and clubs offering industrial-strength alcohol at rock-bottom prices. For about $50 in Malia, tourists can go on unlimited-drinking pub crawls.
“British tour operators present them with these packages that promise a wild holiday in Malia,” said Brig. Fotis Georgopoulos, the police chief of Iraklion, which takes in Malia. “This predisposes them. They are automatically put into a wild and lawless mind-set that is beyond them.”
On the strip late one recent night, downtown Malia felt like a nonrainy version of downtown Birmingham, as young Britons in skimpy clothes moved in herds from bar to bar, drinking, boasting and shouting as they went.
The tourists confessed to drinking a lot. One 21-year-old man from Essex, for instance, said that his consumption the night before had been five beers; six specialty drinks combined with Baileys, tequila, absinthe, ouzo, vodka, gin and orange juice; five vodka and lime drinks; and then five cans of Stella Artois, all of which, he said, emboldened him to pick up a woman to spend the night with. But they said that the lurid stories are media exaggerations.
“I’ve never seen anyone get stabbed the whole time I’ve been here,” said Chris Robinson, 21, speaking outside the Loft bar, which had a special deal: four drinks and two shots for $8.
Similarly, Eleanor Seaver, 20, said that she had been in Malia for two months, working in a club, and that she had never once been in a fight. On the contrary, she said, people are comradely and helpful. “If there’s a girl being sick in the streets, you see people helping her out,” she said. “We watch out for each other here.”
Paul Fisher, a 49-year-old Welshman who runs a bar and a motorbike-rental shop, said the stories both depressed the tourist trade and, perversely, drew the sort of visitors for whom drunken anarchy is an attractive prospect.
“We don’t like you lot coming in and ruining the place,” Mr. Fisher said, referring to reporters. He opened a drawer and produced a copy of the celebrity magazine Closer. An article inside featured a young female British tourist’s “booze-fueled orgy with four men” in Malia.
Things like that give Malia a bad name, Mr. Fisher said. “This is wrong and it’s overexaggerated,” he said.
On the other hand, he conceded, “for 10 weeks, this place is littered with kids being sick and unconscious in the streets.”
Just then, several young men who had the pale, queasy look that suggested the end of hangovers not yet muted by new infusions of alcohol, passed by, and Mr. Fisher asked them why they drank so much, night after night.
“It’s what everyone wants to do,” one young man said.
His friend said: “We have stressful jobs, and we don’t get much time off, and we like to enjoy ourselves and have a good laugh. And we love a bargain.”