Text: Christos Georgousis
What’s Paros like today? What was it like in the 1950s and what did it look like until a few years ago when it started functioning as a gold mine, and invaders, miners, gold miners and a host of pirates sailed their way here?
Once, we used to wait for the “Myrtidiotissa” (a large caique boat looking like a steamer in our eyes) to enter the port twice a week. Today, we have private planes and helicopters flying in, and you can set your watch by the arrival of the ferry boats!
All it takes is a bird’s eye view of the island to see it morphing into an inland town. Paros is being congested with residences, legally and illegally erected; it’s being heavily developed from end to end, thus becoming more like a suburb of Athens. There’s still room for yet more homes; we’re not full, we aren’t packed yet, come on over opportunistic real estate investors! We don’t resemble an island any more, we’ve turned into a big city. Irrigation cisterns have been replaced by luxurious swimming pools, stone-built houses by the villas of the moneyed. We ‘ve made the grade!
Innumerable residences, then, kept closed during winter, and excessive expenses for our plutocrats who find themselves in a daze of insolence, arrogance and hysteria. And an absence of accommodation for teachers, employees and seasonal workers.
Tourism on Paros was based on a) the dead ends of the big cities and the escape urge that ensued; b) the relatively short distance from the capital; c) the rare natural attractions of the island, including its flora of about 700 wild flowers and its fauna of insects, reptiles, birds and everything else preserved (hedgehogs, weasels, hares, wild rabbits and turtles) –with their presence, all of the above give a special timbre to the island’s auditory ambience by emitting sounds that can delight and heal; d) the uniquely beautiful and pristine beaches; e) the special importance and value of local archaeology –there are archaic and classical sanctuaries everywhere; on the islet of Saliago, between Paros and Antiparos, a 5,000 BC Neolithic village was uncovered, whereas a 1,300 BC Mycenaean settlement was excavated out of a hill at Naoussa, and tombs containing 2,500 BC Cycladic figurines were discovered under each and every Parian beach.
The sweeping changes brought about by tourism have caused an array of problems: 1) Water is a constant conundrum as islands depend on rainfalls and, when the rain received falls short of the 450mm average, there is a shortage of water and an abundance of concern. 2) Waste and its disposal remains a crucial issue as we’re at risk of oversaturation and contamination of the groundwater. An effective solution is yet to be found. 3) The excessive number of cars causes increased.