The Market of Parikia
back in time
Text: Christina Fokianou | Photos: Dimitris Vranas (A.I.F.)
Have you ever wondered what some places were like 30, 40 or even 50 years before we were there? Walking along the narrow streets of the traditional settlement of Parikia, more specifically inward from the market, at the settlement extending from Mando Mavrogenous Square to the Frankish castle of the town…
At that very well hidden, prehistoric, Cycladic, geometric, archaic, classical, hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish-Venetian, Ottoman, current and deeply Greek, still traditional settlement of Parikia. With a finesse different from ancient to modern times, with incessant inhabitation.
When you get into its first narrow street, you embark on a journey to a different era. I did that myself, assisted by Mrs Koula, whose brother is still the keeper of one of the oldest grocery stores in the market of Kastro. Leaving behind the Mando square and the branches of the big banks, we arrive at the first crossroads. On the left, the little narrow street will take us to Our Church, Kyra (Dame) with its 100 gates, Ekatontapiliani or Katapoliani. Up the hill directly in front of us the street will take us to the market at the castle, whereas the little street on the right sports the first volto (arch).
There! It’s welcoming us.
It is the Kato Pyli (Lower Gate) of the castle at Agios Athanassios.
We opt to go uphill, the street where the first organized market of the island was established, comprising 16 grocery and green grocery and fruit shops. The first grocer’s would be immediately to our right and the first greengrocer’s immediately to our left. Under the arches all sorts of trade activities would have taken place: coal, wooden structures, displays of all sorts of products. Can you hear the hustle and bustle of bargaining and the “good mornings” echoing full of the joy of life?
Next, where today is the “Protaris” shop, there was a little tavern where you could play backgammon and taste interesting mezedes. On Sundays, just outside, there was a bazaar for farming tools. The ironmonger from beautiful Lefkes would be waiting for us a bit further up. We are now outside “BLACK & WHITE”, where there used to be the first travel agency “Bizas-Kavalis” and the newsagent’s. There is also “LA STREGA”, which used to be the barber’s shop. The barber used to entertain the neighbours with his clarinet. Next door was the fishmonger’s and across the greengrocer’s. “MARCOS BOOKSHOP” used to be “Emporaki” the general store, one of the three existing then. “OLIVE TREE” was “CINE REX”, the local cinema.
Right next to that, the water fountain of Nikolaos Mavrogenis. Leader of Moldovlachia and benefactor of Paros, uncle of the heroine Mando. Because there was a natural source of water next to his house he undertook the construction of a public fountain, the first to be made in 1777, as we learn from the relief inscription. Two more similar fountains followed. These provided the old settlement with fresh water. Young girls would carry the water inside clay vessels, while travellers would stop to freshen up. Later they were used for the cleaning needs of the village, with little children helping by carrying water in their toy buckets.
The ochre painted building used to be the Tax Office and its first floor housed the Town Hall at the time of the German occupation. Here is the “Maydani” the square with the well to get water for the household chores and the fresh drinkable water tap. Across the steps of the ATE Bank, on the ground floor, there used to be Katsouros’ Gallery. The blue building was a greengrocer’s and also housed Tsoukalas’ pharmacy, with the butcher’s right next door. The jewellery store used to be an ironmonger’s also selling nautical equipment. Across from Fragoulis’ pharmacy, by the tree, there used to be a shop with two warehouses. All counting took place out in the street.
Here was the “Asteria” (stars) restaurant. Opposite the grill houses and at the far end the garden with the palm trees and the dancing floor. Above the restaurant there was a dance school and right across from there, a shop selling traditional Greek costumes. On the right the grocery “O DIPLOS” (the double) still exists. One of the oldest general stores together with “Mourlas”. Here Mrs Koula shares her childhood memories with the passers by and the place becomes filled with nostalgia.
The huge mansion opposite, is an old noble house still basking in its glory through its wonderful mosaic floor. It was the house of Sergeant Kortianos. The horse and carriage would stop right outside so that the young ladies wouldn’t step on the street. Right across the other barber’s shop and behind it the gun shop for hunters. Paros was known for its excellent game with hunters arriving from all parts of Greece. Outside the barber’s you could hear the guitar and the accordion echo in the market and the girls listening from their windows, daydreamed.
Next comes the shoe maker’s. Paros’ leather sandals were very popular with the early visitors of the island. Later it was converted into a café. The quilt maker had his workshop opposite, under the arch. Next to the shoe maker’s was another greengrocer’s and a wood warehouse. The balcony with the blue shutters was initially the Italian Military Police and then the German Kommandantur. Then it was turned into Dr Aliprantis’ surgery, who also was a member of parliament for the Cyclades and later the surgery of Panagiotis Dervos, the dentist, also mayor of Parikia.
A beautiful mansion dominates the space next door. It belonged to the Arkoulis family. It had a water jug on the dining table and a chest of drawers. It’s really worth taking photographs of the living quarters upstairs. Pictures from a time long gone. Right across from here was the second general store belonging to Eugenia Mourla. “Her husband”, Mrs Koula tells me, “was taken by the Germans, his name is mentioned on the memorial monument”. The shop was divided into two sections, one with shoes and one with glassware. Opposite was the workshop of the Fine Arts School, which had once been the lamp maker’s of Santourieris. He was called that because the owner played the zither (santouri in Greek). He came from Lefkes and also made musical instruments. A road full of melodies even today.
The railing opposite used to be the National Bank and the “SUN & SAND” used to be a carpenter’s and later butcher’s. Right next to that was New Popular Training, a pioneer form of Adult Education for those who had not finished school because of the war and wanted to get back to it. The arches that follow have names, Damiana, Matsa, today Ikonomidis and the third Taxiarhis. The church of Taxiarhis is the old parish church. Out there, were the estate agencies. The square served as estate trading place and any new sale was publicly announced by a town crier. “ Nikolaos Perantinos bought a plot of 3 acres…” calls out Mrs Koula forming a cone with her hands and I recall the time. Opposite yet another barber shop. Next a middle class house. “Nikos Ragousis’ the baker’s, grandfather, lived here” Mrs Koula tells me. Opposite was the tailor’s. Barbaris made shoes here and his wife belts and buttons. ‘‘ECSTASY’’ used to be a sewing school. Let’s have a rest at our parish church of Taxiarhis. Here is the other gate of the castle. Across, towards the sea Panagia Eleoussa, a little church, where Christmas and Easter mass takes place. There is also Agios Nikolaos of Psaras and another tailor’s opposite. The little café housed the representative of the Commercial Bank, who received the royal couple of Paul and Frederica as mayor of the town, when they visited the island. Behind there used to be a grill house and tavern.
The building with the grey windows was an art shop selling paintings and embroideries. Across from that Fragoulis’ grocery, “father of St. Fragoulis, the ex-mayor” Mrs Koula informs me. “Athina” was the traditional wood burning oven of Polos. The shop behind with the accessories used to be the lamp maker’s of Kandaris. Women used to sew fishing nets sold by the kilo. Natsios jewellery store used to be a barber shop, then jewellery store. The owner was an apprentice of the old goldsmith at Parikia.
Opposite the shop with the embroideries there used to be a cleaner’s owned by Afroditi Akalestou and above that doctor Haimadas’ surgery. Teacher Mr Skylakos’ house across the street became a cleaner’s and then travel agency. ‘‘SOHO’’ was the second butcher shop. ‘‘LE SAC’’ used to house the power company and the ‘‘Chinese shop’’ was the third general store owned by Vasilis Fokianos and later by Polos. Above lived the family and today it belongs to Dimitris Fokianos, judge. His brother died in the bombing of the school in 1944.
Τhe ‘‘T-shirt shop’’ was the lobby of the Cairo Hotel, today “Dina”, one of the most historic hotels of Parikia with a grocery store and souvenir shop on the ground floor. Another barber shop opposite from there. ‘‘ANGEL’S’’ was the only bookshop on the island belonging to Rozakaias.
We’ve just arrived at the end of the Old Market and in front of us lies Kato Gyalos, the town by the sea. ‘‘FRANCA SCALA’’, now a restaurant, marks the entrance to a different settlement, the Venetian precinct, where we are welcomed by the third water fountain of Nikolaos Mavrogenis.
The arch of Agia Triada and Agia Paraskevi stand next to each other over there. The ochre painted door was Kondaratos’ notary and the first woman to work as a cashier lived at “FRANCA SCALA”. The ground floor housed a barber shop. The bar “O Piratis” (the pirate) was the mansion of Dr Patelis and the ground floor was his surgery. At the Apollon Hotel was the olive press, powered by a donkey. Greek state monopoly products of the time could be purchased here, such as petrol, matches and salt.
The street on our left leads to the Public Library and it’s really worth visiting its archives. Right in front of us used to be the “gyftica”(gypsies’ workshops), that is, all the blacksmiths’ workshops. The well at the end of the road marks the end of the Venetian section. Here was the Farmers’ club, which also housed the Red Cross seminars. “CAMOMILLA” was the health centre for sailors, also being looked after by Dr Patelis, whereas on the first floor was the local council office.
«Wandering around the old market of Parikia has just come to an end” whispers Mrs Koula. It was early afternoon. The village was having a siesta and I was thinking of life in those days. Lots of difficulties, but the streets were filled with an enthusiasm for each new day. If you want to share this feeling of optimism, don’t hesitate to visit the old market at Kastro, where people like Mrs Koula can make you travel back in time and space. Happy wandering!