Our second island is Paros, a mere one hour ride from Syros, but bearing no resemblance to it. We emerged from the ferry at 10.30pm to a wild seafront, with waves slapping over the harbour walls, palm trees bending in the wind and low sized buildings strung out along the water in both directions. We were in Parikia, the main town of Paros, with homes and business clustered around the ferry port. Paros is a ferry hub for the Cyclades, lying right in the centre of the island group, and in our three days here we saw countless ferries coming and going.
Our time in Paros was overshadowed by the weather – it has been incredibly cold and windy and we could only manage a few hours outdoors at a time, before returning to our apartment to warm ourselves. This morning as we left it was 0 degrees, but with a northerly wind, it felt more like minus 5. The wind is incessant – no surprises that windsurfing is a big draw here in summer.
On our first day here, we headed inland to see a monastery a few kms away, walking uphill along country roads past olive groves, citrus orchards, tiny churches and white-washed villas.
From our viewpoint at the monastery we could see Paros’ fertile plains, backed by hills.
Afterwards, we explored the coast north and south of Parikia, seeing some of the Paros beaches which attract thousands of visitors in summer.
Dotted all along the coast was evidence of the economic crisis, with dozens of unfinished homes in various stages of completion. Some looked to be just missing glass in the windows, while others had only a frame in place. A very visible (and ugly) reminder of Greece’s tough times.
Our favourite place to explore was the old town of Parikia, a maze of narrow streets and alleys, with white-washed houses neatly painted with blue doors and shutters.
Every street revealed something interesting, either a cute church, or a marble fountain, or the remains of an old fortress.
After losing ourselves in there for an hour to two we realised that what seemed to be a narrow strip of houses from the seafront is actually a densely packed town, mostly pedestrianised, and blessedly sheltered from the interminable wind. Many of the houses are holiday homes or rentals, and the streets were quiet in this season. Most too had beautiful outdoor spaces, roof terraces, or shady balconies and we could almost, almost, imagine it being a nice place to relax were the mercury 30 degrees higher.
Apart from its lovely beaches, Paros is famous for its marble quarry, from which marble has been extracted and exported since the 6th century BC. Because of its high translucence, its marble was highly valued and used in many famous structures including the Acropolis in Athens, the temple of Zeus in Olympia and the temple of Apollo in Delphi. In more recent times it was used for Napoleon’s tomb. It is also often seen in the streets here, with whole pavements done in marble. More mundane uses include the bed side lockers and the floor in our apartment – a flourish of luxury for sure, but damned cold in this weather!
Paros’ charms seem better suited to a different season, and as a town, Parikia lacks the polish and pizzazz of Ermoupoli in Syros. We left this morning, content to move on and see somewhere new.
Unsurprisingly, it was blowing a gale as we reached the port, and we were happy to be boarding a huge ferry to take us to our next destination, Naxos.