october 11th - 17th, 2014
Renowned in antiquity for the quality of its marble, the Cycladic island of Paros has a decidedly two-faced past. Despite literally providing the stone with which the most representative Athenian monuments (the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and the Temple of Apollo at Delphi) were constructed, Paros sided with Darius and Xerxes against the ancient Greek city-states in both Persian wars. After years of vengeful taxation by the Athenians followed by centuries of neglect from the conquereing Turks, Paros has lately come back into its own as a vacation destination.
After a marathon travel itinerary consisting an overnight train from Granada to Barcelona, a hurried taxi to the airport, a flight to Athens and a bus to the port of Pireaus, by the time our ferry departed the sun was already sinking. Fading into night, the seemingly endless Aegean brought to mind the same melancholic longing for home mixed with an irrational elation of the unknown that Odysseus and countless other Greek mariners must have felt.
Having arrived at night, our first impression of Paros was the white light of morning filtered by linen drapes. We were delighted to find a small garden of fig trees in the yard and eagerly began picking fruit for breakfast. Fortunately we chose to slice the figs first, because doing so revealed they were fully organic- which in this case happened to mean infested.
Our accomodation was in the style typical of the Cyclades, thick walls of stuccoed stone punctured by deepset windows and niches. The mass of the structure paired with the white coloring keeps the interior cool and allows for carved out storage.
Upon venturing out, we were greeted by radiant wildflowers and a sapphire sea. A nice way to wake up.
A pleasant stroll took us to Piso Lavadi, once a minute fishing village enlarged a bit today on account of increasing tourism. Still, tourism in the Cyclades is dominated by Santorini and for the gliteratti Paros' immediate neighbor Antiparos. If the reactionary title 'Antiparos' appears to lack creativity that's befitting of the island itself, which isn't particularly spectacular compared to other Greek islands, but has recently become a haunt of American and British celebrities due simply to the fact that it wasn't popular before. This competition as well as that provided by some 1400 other Aegean islands means that Paros is very quiet in the off season. All the better for us, because though prices rise in summer at the time of our visit in mid-October a substantial meal of fresh seafood and ouzo on the pier for set us back less than €8.
Lunch. Octopi drying in the sun are nearly as emblematic of Greece as is the flag.
Despite an economy leaning more and more toward the service sector, fishermen still take to the waves in small boats like these docked in the harbor of Piso Lavadi.
Water does wonders to rock. These pebbles prompted recollections of stealing stones from the beach as a kid and rexamining them later only to find the luster had evaporated entirely. Funny how some disappointments end up fond memories.
It's no Parthenon, but it'll do. We commandeered this fortress, so can't honestly take credit for the architecture.
Greece is profuse with small chapels like this one, quaint enough to compliment the landscape.
The clarity of the water made conditions ideal for observing aquatic life. Of course, the creatures can see you just as easily.
Inspired by fresh experiences of Gaudí, Michael set about designing this drip castle.
Cleaning up after a hard day's work.
Lefkes, perhaps the most attractive village on Paros, is crowned by the Church of Aghia Triada built shortly after the end of Ottomon occupation.
This cemetary is the resting place of many Greeks killed opposing the Axis in World War II. We happened to be in the country on October 28th, the anniversary of the then Greek Prime Minister Metaxas' rejection of Mussolini's ultimatum demanding Greece allow Axis forces to occupy certain unspecified territories, or else face war. Legend has it Metaxas replied with a righteously curt "Ochi!" (No!) and Ochi day has been celebrated ever since. History has it his actual response was "Alors, c'est la guerre" (Then it is war), an equally iconic, if less laconic, rejoinder.
Our time expired, we climbed back aboard the ferry and set sail for the next paradise.