Traveling Classroom Foundation
Saturday November 18th 2017

Around Paros

Lying in the center of the Cyclades cluster, Paros is the equivalent of New York’s Central Station for Greek ferries. Located at a distance of 95 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus, the island has about 11,000 permanent inhabitants and it plays host to more than a half million tourists every summer. Arriving at peak season (all Europeans begin vacations on August 1st), we were fortunate to have friends on the island.

As usual, we have a small house by the sea near the villa of our friend Lambis, the local butcher. It is about a kilometer walk along a seaside path into Parikia and the agora (shopping area). Every day we have walked to town (rental cars were absolutely unavailable when we arrived), and sometimes we catch a local bus to take us to some other villages around the island … Naoussa, Piso Livadi, Aliki, Dryos, Lefkes.

Naoussa is a town very familiar to us, but also mysterious. Like Parikia, Naoussa was designed and built in the form of a maze to confuse raiding pirates, who plagued the islands for many centuries – even into the late 19th century. No matter how many times we have visited the town, we can always discover something new as we become lost in the back streets of the maze.

The same is true of the inland towns, though not to the same extent. For many years the town of Lefkes served as the capital of the island, since it was perched high in the hill country and far from sea raiders. However, even this town maintains some of the same protective maze designs that are seen on coastal villages.

Aside from the flood of tourists, which we try to avoid as much as possible, Paros is about to have the biggest celebration of the year … the religious festival of the Assumption. Here on Paros the festival is grander than almost anywhere else in Greece because of the Byzantine church of Ekatontapyliani (Church of 100 Doors). This church may be the oldest continuously operating Orthodox church in existence. The original part of its structure (it is actually formed of several integrated churchs) was built in the 4th century.

We are looking forward to the festival. In the meanwhile, there are many other things to see. In addition to the archeological sites, Frankish ruins and Byzantine buildings, we have attended several cultural events, art shows and gatherings of foreign residents (many of whom are painters, poets and novelists).

It is good that we have many options because the beach is not a big attraction just now. The meltemi winds have dominated the weather since our arrival. Although this moderates the effects of the hot sun in a clear sky, it also whips up a heavy surf that makes casual swimming almost impossible.

We hope that the wind will die down before long.

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