Alley in the village of Lefkes.

View of Lefkes.

The alleys around the Kastro of Parikia whitewashed by the inhabitants.

Pisso Livadi, view of the beach and the picturesque village.

The old port of Naoussa, in the background the Venetian castle.

One step closer to the blue
By ship or by plane

Text: Danae Tal

“To Paros” … said the sign at Omonia station. I turned my head right and left, like a cartoon. I read more carefully. “To Piraeus”. Oh, ok. How you could get to Paros by train, I thought. At least not yet. Still, you can get to the island by ship or by plane.

And it’s pretty close. And the ferries are superb. At least I travelled most comfortably. I’d hired a car before getting to the island. Sweet Marietta was very obliging. The people had already won me before I even got to the island. All is simple and easy here. Is this an exaggeration? Not at all! If man chose the place to settle as early as Bronze Age, I must be right.

The ship docked at Parikia late at night. I was welcomed by the windmill and the Kastro surrounded by those little houses (dating since 1260, the time of the Venetian Dukes). When reading about Parikia I got the impression it was an open museum, but now, in the heart of the town, with the crowds, the sounds, the shops and shop windows I’ve come to realise it’s a “museum-town”. It all mingles, and the whitewashed alleys make me want to play hop-scotch, just like a little girl.
The little car I’d hired was there waiting for me like a loyal dog. I headed for my friends’ place. Instructions proved correct and I got really lucky. With enough time in my hands I thought I’d rather make a stop at Naoussa. I drove in the dark on the safe road, but experience proved right once more. Beware of local drivers and the way they take over. They drive fast.

The house I’d been invited to is at Profitis Ilias. The breeze got me to sleep and the next day was a glorious one. Do visitors know that all chapels dedicated to Elias the prophet are always built on top of hills? Sipping my coffee, I can’t stop gazing at the wonderful view.

On one side my sight basks in the blue of Molos and on the other the Antikefalos hill seems to be just a dot of land in the distance, just apart from the Tsoukalia bay. My hostess wonders: “Looking at Antikefalos? Oh, come on! Can’t you see Kefalos?” The Venetians built a huge castle up there and today, on your way uphill, you can see large stones. You may take them for rocks, but no, they are the ruins of the castle. Agios Antonios monastery is there, too. The Venetians knew how to choose a place. All southern Aegean Sea is visible from there. The slightest vessel approaching would be immediately spotted.

Where shall I head for first? The Venetians had defeated all the vessels and my imagination now gave way so I could get organized. The first route is always the most difficult. Should I head south to Ageria past Aliki or north towards Naoussa? Should I drive along the coast or inland to admire the changing Parian landscape? My hostess provided the solution. “The weather will lead the way” … It was true.

How could I move away from the coast in this weather? I make for Piso Livadi as if hypnotised, the picturesque port is really welcoming and Agios Nikolaos in the east reminds me that sailors used to set off from here for long voyages. Logaras beach is just the beginning. Next comes Punda, famous, cosmopolitan, with just a few tamarisks, reminders of what it would have been like before being “conquered”. After that…too many beaches to count. Luckily, Chrissi Akti (Golden Beach), old and new reward me. How can you forget a beach like that?

I was all set, but Drios wouldn’t let me go! The village, so rich in water, its impenetrable freshness, all so well-looked-after, a real oasis. A full moon-lit night at Apostolis’s bar on Drios beach can make all look possible. If the Cyclades were the Sahara, then Drios would certainly be the oasis. I was lucky to finish my first day like that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have many left. Half a day, tomorrow and then back to Athens, back to the grindstone.

There’s a place I’m very particular about on this island. It’s Lefkes. I know that each village on Paros is unique, Prodromos, Marpissa, but, for completely unknown reasons, my heart is set at Lefkes. So, I got there on my own. On the way I kept the window open to let the thyme scent come in and drove smoothly uphill through the olive groves, just after Lagathitis rock, unable to take my eyes off of the ruined windmills. I remembered that there is a windmill in Lefkes and, knowing a bit of its history, I could imagine a Parian Don Quixote waiting for me at the village entrance.

I was hurrying to get out of the car and get into the village. I wanted to become one with the scene I could see from afar, the whitewashed houses, the trees, and the lush vegetation. I walked past the school and the old Xenia Hotel, now the Literature Centre, organising various activities and events every year. The village was serene and bright. I hadn’t been here for a long time and didn’t remember much. The little streets soon took me to the Café Square. There must have been many cafés there in the past. I discovered the village barber shop, tacked away in a little corner round the square. It opens at weekends and is a real attraction. The first time I’d felt jealous of a man’s moustache. The old chair and the barber’s equipment took me back to the time when the village had 2,500 inhabitants.

I said good morning to the lady dragging her wheel-cart as I was going past the bakery of Mr Antonis. It was written on the sign: “The bakery of Mr Antonis 1929-1969”. This is what we mean when we say “been a baker for 40 odd years”. The lady going shopping confirmed that. He was an excellent baker. Her house was just across and her face had something of the freshly baked hot cross – buns. This healthy! The elderly lady took me to the most fertile part of the village, talked to me about the river that used to run there, how she used to play with the other kids in the orange and lemon groves and how the women used to chat while doing the laundry altogether.

The road took me back to where I’d set off. The scent of a freshly baked pie reminded me I was getting hungry by then. The scent led me to Chryssoula’s place, “To kafenio tis Sintrofias”. It was a leek-spinach – cheese pie made by her, granddaughter of Antonis the baker. If that wasn’t a coincidence… With Chryssoula at the kitchen, Voula at the service, good souma, splendid view, the windmills up on the hill, the village at my feet, Kanela coming and going, and the breeze whispering in my ears how beautiful life can be…

“Hey guys, I don’t want to leave, I think I’ll cry”. But friends never let you down, “Have a bit more souma and you are sure to be coming back…”

Summer 2015