Tracing old Paros

Text and photos: Petros Alexiou

How about a short trip into time? Our starting point will be at Lefkes, the queen of Paros’ mainland. A beautiful mountain village, with scattered neoclassical strokes of the brush, that enrich its known Cycladic character with the labyrinth narrow streets, the shady arches and the chaotic game of the white volumes of the houses.

In old times, when
the Aegean Sea was ploughed by pirates, Lefkes was the protected capital city of the island and a network of cobblestone roads linked it to the other villages in the island as well as the ports. A taste of such a distant past, a taste of another Paros, difficult to be found on the crowded beaches, can be savoured on the «Byzantine Road», the best known and best preserved section of the island’s old stone paved roads.

The Byzantine Road links Lefkes with the small, traditional settlement of Prodromos. It is said that it was constructed in Byzantine times, about 1,000 years ago, and was part of a central road traversing the entire island, joining Parikia with Piso Livadi, as well as the Parikia Castle with that of Kefalos. It is a route lasting about an hour and a half, within the virgin Parian landscape, pleasant, short and accessible to all.
To find the Byzantine Road, when in Lefkes, you can start at the sharp turn where the bus coming from Parikia stops. Followinig the wide central road that goes inside the village, you will arrive at the beautiful central square, where a clearly legible sign will direct you to a typical Cycladic narrow street leading to Agia Triada, the largest church in Lefkes. Just before the church, at a crossroads, you will have to turn towards the direction shown by a smaller and not so clear sign, and after about 100 metres you will reach the south-easternmost point of the village. There, a sign saying Byzantine Road and a white stone mark the start of the route.

Just a soil path at some of its parts today, but mostly a wide, stone paved and well preserved road, the Byzantine Road goes downhill lazily towards the east, traversing terraced slopes with olive trees, myrtles, wild flowers and herbs. Loosen up and allow yourselves to inhale the intoxicating aromas of sage, thyme, oregano while walking in the peaceful landscape. Let yourself travel in time, if only for moments, to older times when peasants, merchants and sailors walked along…

Half way along, the road traverses a dry stream bed with a little bridge, going slightly uphill on a slope and reaches the mountain top with awesome views of the eastern part of the island. Next, go downhill northeastern bound toward Prodromos, a village very different from Lefkes, but equally beautiful and special, typical of a fortified Cycladic settlement, where the houses used to form walls protecting their village from pirates and other invaders.

You won’t need special hiking boots, maps, difficult to use GPS devices or heavy backpacks to walk along the Byzantine Road. Still, don’t forget to get your suntan lotion and of course water or even something to eat under the shade of a tree at any point during your hike. Alternatively, finish your walk at one of the taverns in Prodromos, Marpissa or Piso Livadi. The most adventurous can continue towards the hill of Kefalos to visit the monastery of Agios Antonios and the ruins of the Venetian castle at the top, later heading to Kalogeros beach for a refreshing swim.

As you will notice for yourselves, there is no litter on the Byzantine Road. Make sure you help it remain so!