Naoussa – one of the fishing ports and towns on Paros. Yes it really does look that good, even in late Autumn!
Ah yes. The Greek Islands. 17 years ago (1990), when I was an exchange student in Germany, I took a two week trip to Greece with a friend. We took a 36 hour bus trip from Stuttgart, via Munich, Austria, Czechoslovakia (as it was at the time), and down thru Greece. This was all pre-EC days, and it was interesting to see that, even then, the only person on the bus who got any grief at the borders was the lone american on the bus. It was an interesting ride tho – no aircon during the night, police in communist countries being paid off with coca cola etc. Quite an eye opener for a 16 year old kiwi kid.
Once we got there, we took a ride down to Pirieus (the port in Athens), and then a boat out to Patmos. Nico, who I was traveling with, had been there many times with his family, so I just stuck my head down and went for it. It was fun. We spent a week out on the island, then hooked up with some friends of his in Athens and spent a week on Marathon beach, which was fun – slept on the beach, ate at the bar on the beach, drank at the bar, rinse, repeat.
This time was somewhat different. I wanted to take Leonie to Patmos, however I found it was a 6+ hour ferry ride from Athens, and as I dont do boats well (and we dont have too much spare time), we decided to try Paros, which is around 2.5 hours from Athens. Rich and Gil had been there a few months ago and loved it, so we took their word for it, and headed out there.
To say it’s lovely is an understatement. The whitewashed houses, tiny winding streets, friendly people, great food, fantastic coffee (especially after south east asia, which is almost as bad as the USA for coffee), and while it’s been nice and warm (it’s 6:30pm and I’m sitting in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, drinking ouzo), it’s not hot like it would be in summer.
In Leonie’s words “it’s everything I dreamed of!”. For me, it’s bought back a lot of memories, all of them good.
We got in on thursday morning, after getting on a 7:30am ferry. Finding the place we are staying at was a bit of fun – I did mention “maze” is a synonym for “streets” here, right? – but it only took us about 15 mins. The apartment we have is lovely, situated at the back of the port town. It’s very “cycladic” – the small rooms, stone/slate floors, white washed walls etc. Once we dropped our bags, we headed into town to find some food. We only got about 100m before we found a lovely cafe and had some breakfast/lunch. After that we walked around town a bit, and had a bit of a siesta before heading into town for another walk around dinner time.
One thing to remember here at 2pm, everything closes. EVERYTHING. It all opens again at 6. Nice to assume that everyone goes home and hangs out with their families, tho I really dont know what they actually do.
The town – Parikia – is basically a whitewashed maze. It’s not very big, but the streets are very tight and windy. It would be very easy to loose your way or sense of direction, and thats why it’s like that – as a defense against invaders. Once we worked out where the main street was, and where the water was, it was quite easy to navigate. It’s a load of fun walking around a town-sized maze :)
The next day – yesterday – we hired a car (we would have got motorbikes, but as I dont have a drivers license at the moment – thanks, Bangkok pick pockets – I can’t hire anything). Aside from the bike option, I think this is the best way to get around the island. It’s about 10k’s to the north end of the island, and if we did it non-stop on the main road, about 40k’s around the whole thing. We had a little fiat, which was ideal for getting around the tight roads and lanes, tho a little more ground clearance would have been good at times.
We started with the top of the island, stopping in Naoussa for a look around and a snack – before heading to Ambelas beach, the small towns of Kostas and Lefkis, a drive to the highest point on the island, and finally back for a wee siesta before dinner, which started with a glass of bubbles looking at the sunset, and finished with some lovely tzatsiki and calimari.
Today, we headed back the way we came back yesterday, looking in the Marble Caves (last used to make something for Napleon) before heading to Marpissa, a “short” walk up to a monastery (there are a lot of small monasteries and churches here), before coffee in Dryos and lunch in Aliki.
After lunch, we tried to go to the scorpion museum, however it was closed, so we continued our drive around, heading inland a bit – on some roads which would be called “back country sheep tracks – with added concrete” in New Zealand – before heading back to Parikia to drop the car off.
We have one and a half more days here before we head back to Athens. Tomorrow is “No” day (Ochi Day), a national holiday. It is in celebration of when the then-prime minister Metaxas said “Ochi” to Mussolini when he was asked for Greece to surrender in 1940. There is a parade thru the middle of town, which we will be trying to see. Other than that, it’s time for some exploring of the town and surroundings, and some relaxing time. It’s been lovely here so far – the highlight of the trip for me, and the realization of a dream for Leonie. Greece, the Greeks and Paros have not disappointed.
[BTW: We stayed here, in the Aegean Village Hotel. It’s lovely – recommended.]