Can I just begin this post by saying that moving Gratitude this summer with the Meltemi winds has been a challenge. That said, we have mostly managed to keep to our original plans – plus or minus a few days. Getting from Ios to Schinoussa to Paros with Kelly on board was nerve wracking given that the winds were high and the sea state a little lumpy, but Kelly handled it like an ole salt and we were worried about nothing at all! Even Jack and I opted to take a pill and Kelly didn’t and was perfectly fine! Brava!!!
So, after a several hour passage we arrived in Alyki bay on the South end of Paros.
Something that we just recently discovered is that as the Meltemi is a thermal wind that begins the day as calm and builds throughout the day, until around 1900 when it begins to calm once more. Some bays have a katabatic wind which funnels down from the hills or mountains on the land and pour into the south bay. This is a totally new phenomena for us which we discovered while trying to find a calm anchorage sheltered from the Meltemi. The katabatic winds were gusting in the force 8 to 9 (40-50 knots of wind). Paros winds were so high that we broke our 2nd dynema anchor snubber! Dynema is supposed to be stronger than steel cable and after our first snubber snapped in high winds, we attributed it to wear since we have used it for several years. After putting on our spare we lost it on another windy day. Alec has spliced the 2 broken snubbers and made a 3rd which has been holding up thus far.
Alyki bay seemed to have these katabatic winds since our friends, Kim and Steve on Mimpi arrived shortly after us and anchored in Parikia. Realizing that there was a big difference in the winds they were experiencing on the same island, Alec and Jack decided to move Gratitude up to the port town while I was traveling to Santorini to meet up with Jennifer and Tracy.
The absolute saving grace is that the ground holding here is fantastic. We have set the anchor and held firmly in place for days on end in 40 knots of wind. The amazing holding is the only reason we have been able to be at anchor as much as we have all summer and still travel freely off the boat with reasonable certainty that Gratitude would be safe and sound while we are gone – which is a great thing since Paros is a wonderful island to explore.
And we had the opportunity to explore it, not only with Kelly but also with Jennifer and Tracy 1 week later. So, I’m going to combine both trips in 1 post about Paros.
Taking a public bus from Alyki to Parikia, the main port town, we had explored the main “city” and enjoyed … yep … more great food, and anther very cool old town. Meandering streets filled with cobbled stone roads which have been wandered since the 4 or 5th centuries BC, is at once surreal and delightful.
Paros has become the “new” Mykonos or Santorini with night clubs and throngs of 20 something Europeans arriving (literally) by the boatloads daily. Not since the earlier days of South Beach have I seen so many beautiful bikini clad young people, backpacks slung over their shoulders coming and going on ferries all day. Since we are well past the age of nightclubbing – what follows are the attractions that interest us on Paros. Jennifer, Tracy, and I were amongst some of the new arrivals when we took the ferry to Paros from Santorini.
2 highlights of our time in Parikia include the Frankish Castle, built in 1260 by Venetian Duke of Naxos, it is comprised of “building materials” from the archaic temple of Athena. What has resulted is a fantastically interesting structure, the pictures of which are below. In town, art galleries have photographs and artistic renderings of this iconic building. We did see a similar use of past building supplies resulting in a magnificent old building in Croatia. But despite the frequent use of old building materials through the centuries, these are the only 2 buildings we have ever seen with this unique “style”
And the second highlight of Parakia is the Aghia Eleni – Panagia Ekatontapiliani (The church of 100 doors)
Our first encounter with St. Helen was when we were in Venice last year. We stayed at the Santa Elena Marina just adjacent to the Santa Elena church. Briefly decommissioned and then later re-consecrated in 1928, this church holds the relics of the Christian Saint, Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine. St. Helen was in and out of favor amongst Roman Nobility but while she was granted status as a “Noble woman” when her son rose to Emperor in Rome, and she was granted land near Rome.
According to Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Helena, Mother of Constantine.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/helena-mother-of-constantine-3530253, Among the notable events attributed to St. Helen – she is believed to have found the original cross of Jesus while traveling in Palestine “on an official inspection for her son of the construction of the churches he had ordered.” While having a temple to Venus removed and replaced with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the cross was supposed to have been discovered.
The Panagia Ekatontapiliani (also knowns as the church of 100 doors), was built in the mid 4th century by St. Helen or by her son, Constantine the Great who fulfilled his mother’s vow. According to aboutparos.com, Saint Helen stopped to worship here on her way to the holy land whereupon she prayed to the Virgin Mary that should she find the cross, she would return to build a bigger church. Destroyed but rebuilt in the 6th century, the church has 100 doors but only 99 can be seen. The 100th is closed and, according to legend, will only be open when Constantinople (currently Istanbul) becomes Greek again.
A 30-minute bus ride North from the port town of Parakia and you will arrive in the charming fishing village called Naoussa. We loved it so much while visiting with Kelly, it was at the top of the list to show to Tracy and Jennifer. Nightclubs throb into the early daylight hours here but during the day the quaint fishing village is charming. Winds on our second trip were so high as to make the trip to the old 14th century Venetian Castle fortification impassable but we did get to see it with Kelly. From the North side of the island and on the safety of land, the Meltemi was very impressive.
On both trips we arrived just in time for lunch on our body clocks- or breakfast for the 20 somethings that I mentioned earlier. While we were looking for a place to eat, it was clear that most of the town was still just waking up with young people lounging on chaises drinking bloody mary’s and coffee. But the shops were open while we wound our way around the labyrinth stone paved lanes, and the charming fishing boats were unloading their catch of the day in the noontime sun. Mostly what we saw was octopuses drying in the sunlight, but I can’t take photos of them because I hate to see them endure such a tragic end. Jack and I have seen some hiding under rocks while snorkeling but here they are a mainstay of the local cuisine. Meals we enjoyed on both occasions were amazing. Incredibly fresh ingredients are the star of the Greek diet and for once in my life, I could walk into nearly any restaurant and be delighted with the offering (the exception being strictly seafood).
There is also a town in the center of the island to which we never made the trip. It is purported to be the source of the crystal-clear marble that made the Venus de Milo and the Parthenon.
A short ferry ride from Paros, Anti-Paros lies just to the Northwest of Paros. Known for more upscale shops and rugged hikes, it was the perfect place to spend the day eating lunch and whiling away another lovely day in the Cyclades with friends. Steve and Kim came along for the ride and after a quick change in plans upon finding that the smaller boats wouldn’t make the trip due to the high winds, we took a bus to the larger ferry further south from Parakia and enjoyed a lovely day together.
Kelly and I traveled by ferry to Athens for the end of her time with us and Jennifer and Tracy continued on the Gratitude with the next stop… Poros…
Poros, a totally different island in the Argo-Saronic Gulf has almost nothing in common with Paros, in the middle Cyclades Island chain. But we will keep that for the next post….
Right now, I’m sitting in Didim, Turkey where we have a small mechanical issue with our davit (the crane which lowers our dinghy, bikes, and some beach toys) to the water. The timing of this issue could not be better as we had planned to take some “down time” to get caught up on life admin tasks and I’m able to do some chronicling of our adventures before we get too far down the road in Turkey.