Interview: Vassilis Bonios | Photo: Panayotis Kalkavouras
I learned to love Naoussa of Captain Linardos,
Lefkes of Uncle Artemis.
Coming from Athens and Paris, you have been involved in many projects. You are a designer, successful businessman, researcher, and a writer with an enviable past of travelling extensively. What brought you to Paros and which elements of the island have kept you here?
Ι got to know Paros in 1975 in an era of innocence. I learned to love Naoussa of Captain Linardos, when the port of Naoussa was the most beautiful fishing village in the Cyclades, Lefkes of Uncle Artemis, the last miller of the island. I bought a small house in Lefkes while I was still a student. A lot has changed since then. Paros changed; it became urbanized, together with its people. The dynamic of values on the island is inexhaustible though, and I always try to be close to it. This is what I aimed to describe in my book about Paros in 1997, “A journey into Space and Time”.
Ιn your book about Paros you refer to your connection to the land, which is based on two parameters, time and care, according to the investments one makes. What do you think you have offered to the island?
Μy choice to create the hotel “Lefkes Village” twenty years ago in a well-preserved area, which was then the most remote village of the island was a personal challenge. It was an excuse for me to prove that tourism in Greece could be created not only based on the three S (Sun, Sea, and Sand), but also on quality, environment and culture. What I have given to the island in addition to the hotel is the publication of my book as well as my participation in the public dialogue about the utilization of the cultural gold mines of the island (ancient quarries, gastronomy, wine tourism). All of this has contributed to the general,” food for thought” for a different kind of development on the island.
You are a member of the board of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, former member of the Hellenic Association of Travel &Tourist Agencies and currently the inspiration behind the concept, “Greek Breakfast”. What is your experience from these efforts?
Gastronomy is a big chapter for the enrichment of tourism, but also for the formation of the cultural identity of every country. The “Greek Breakfast” attempts to show hotel visitors not only the taste and variety of local dishes, but also the larger food culture of each country. In my travels throughout Greece for the collection of recipes for the “Greek Breakfast” of each region, I met with excellent producers. The impact it has on the hotels confirms the belief that something new is growing in our country; a belief in quality and local ingredients.
How do you manage to keep the spirit of hospitality going in “Lefkes Village” for your guests?
Besides the typical services of the hotel, my wish is that guests will get to know Paros as well as Aegean culture. The tours that I give myself at the Museum of Aegean Culture and Civilization, the wine and cheese tastings, the cooking classes, the restaurants all offering additional tastes of local flavours, plus the walks in the gardens surrounded with fruit trees, information provided of places worth visiting, and the warm attitude of the personnel, all hopefully create a hospitable, comfortable and family environment.
We would like you to introduce your museum to our readers.
My humble museum is my favourite creation. The visitor has the opportunity to dive inside the traditional civilization of the Aegean islands. The three collections, “The Poetry of Stone”; “The Poetry of Craft”, with artefacts made from wood, iron, and ceramics; and “The Poetry of Life”, with material from the celebrations and cafes of the Aegean, prove that a culture of poverty has some lessons to give to modern man. My biggest joy of course is the visitors’ hour in the museum.
What advice would you give to the mayor of Paros?
My advice to the mayor of Paros is the same I would give to any mayor of Greece, that he has to be the mayor of the entire local society. To use the main dynamic of the land and not try to please only the voters, which seems totally impossible to the Greek mentality. Finally, try to resolve today’s problems by planning for a strong future; or tomorrow’s conflicts will be complex.