23/5/90

DAY TRIP TO PARIKIA We walked up to Marpissa to catch the bus over to Parikia and, in true Greek fashion, we had to wait 1½ hours past its posted arrival time for it to come along. Once we had reached Parikia we set off up the street to the main area of shops to buy some jewellery. After a bit of browsing, we settled on a Sterling silver Russian wedding ring¹ which I paid for with my Visa card. A bit later on we bought a silver and turquoise bracelet, also on the plastic. The ring was 3,700DR (£14; $40NZ) and the bracelet was 4,800DR (£17; $50NZ) so it was quite a reasonable price.

After that shopping spree, the first jewellery buy-up we’ve done in 3 years, we went and sat for a couple of hours over a lunch of tzatziki, moussaka, burger patties and chips, served with cold beers, then found a cool and shady spot to sit and watch passing poseurs, semi-naked bimbos and white, blubbery Germans while we sipped iced coffees and cold Cokes.

Later on, we wandered out along the marina and looked at the sickening opulence of the fat German yacht owners as they swilled wine and videoed each other on the decks of their yachts.

We caught the 6:00pm bus back to Piso Livadi and after a shower, we walked down to the village for drinks and tea.

¹Linda still wears that ring to this day,

22/5/90

We had planned to climb the hill behind the camp to have a look at the monastery on top but by the time we got up and got going it was 10:00 and after a fruitless search for the road leading up to the hill, we gave up and went in search of less strenuous activities.

We walked down to town and spent most of the day lying on the beach but in the shade of trees rather than in the sun. The beach was mostly deserted except for a fat lager lout and his bimbo girlfriend.

Later in the day we went back up to the camp and sat on the balcony of the [closed] bar looking out across the low brown hills to the bleached white houses of Piso Livadi and the choppy blue sea beyond. After 5 we showered then drifted down to the Flotilla Club where great excitement was afoot amongst the locals as a ship appeared to be sinking out on the horizon. A few drinks in the warm late afternoon sun set the scene for a huge meal at one of the restaurants followed by a lazy walk back up to our camp.

21/5/90

After a large dose of sun yesterday (Linda’s back was bright crimson!) we decided to give the beach a miss and go up to the hilltop village of Lefkos¹ for the day.

After an hour or so of waiting, during which time a mad old lady, talking to herself ten to the dozen, came past and gave us some stale bread which we pretended to eat then threw away, a bus came along and we made the 10-minute trip up to Lefkos. It is a true Greek village with a maze of narrow, white-washed streets, most of which led to the church standing on a point overlooking the valley. 

Most of the village is closed to traffic which lends it an even more quiet and peaceful air and the only sounds to be heard were those of the wind and hidden conversations in Greek echoing down from the open windows.

We sat on the steps of the church debating whether or not to go in but then a party of Germans stomped in so we decided that it must, indeed, be open to the public. I picked up the words “Renaissance” and “Napoleon” amongst the speil of their guide so they probably pertain to the history of the church, but how I don’t know.

Before we entered the church we walked around its outer walls. Beyond an iron gate, a graveyard ran steeply down into the valley behind the church. Many of the graves were ornamented with photographs of their occupants. The church is built from glittering white marble and the main door is set below the twin bell towers, each tower containing several bells. Above the door, the date 1845 was carved into the lintel, perhaps the date that the church was either built or rebuilt².

Inside, in the cool and quiet, an old man, barely able to see, gave us each a small candle to light and place in a small stand. I gave him 100DR for the upkeep of the church. The interior was exquisite. Although not very big, it was full of paintings, chandeliers, ornately carved wood and marble friezes. The ceiling was decorated with paintings of the life of Christ and on the wall near the door was a picture of the 12 Disciples beside the body of Jesus woven from threads of gold.

Leaving the church we wandered the streets, now quiet for the siesta, and ended up at a small square where we had drinks and watched a bunch of German tourists – some of them dressed in knickerbockers, knee socks and mountain boots – shoving cameras into the faces of passing locals.

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Lefkes, Paros, Greece. (photo supplied)

We bought some bread and chips in a couple of shops and set out to walk back to Marpissa (the town overlooking Piso Livadi) via the ancient Byzantine pathway running down the valley. The sun was blazing hot by now but there was a cool breeze blowing which made walking quite pleasant. 

The path was paved with cobblestones of hewn marble in places and led down the valley on the right-hand side then gradually climbed up over a shoulder running down from the hills behind Lefkos. The way led through olive groves and tiny fields marked out with stone walls. The opposite sunny side of the valley was entirely cultivated but on the shady side where we were walking the fields were scrubby and disused. None of the rocky creek beds we crossed had water in them.

We stopped for a snack in the shade of a gnarled olive tree then carried on up over a rounded ridge which led down to flat land and the sea. We had passed several stone huts on the way down from Lefkos and I had a look into one built right on the ridge. It was only a few feet square inside but would have offered shelter from wind and rain to a farmer or a shepherd when it was in use.

The path was almost entirely paved with cobblestones down to the plain which made walking easy and we arrived back down at the island’s main circular road after about an hour. That only left about a mile to walk to get back to camp.

In the evening we once again headed for the Flotilla Club and had a meal of fish for tea. We were the only guests there and the waiter shouted us a glass of Ouzo each. Linda couldn’t drink much of hers so in order to please the waiter I downed mine then finished hers. We paid the bill and began walking back up to the camp but after about 5 minutes the Ouzo took my legs from under me and Linda had to half carry, half drag me all the way back!

¹I misspelt the name of the town in my diary. It is actually called Lefkes.

²The church is actually called Agia Triada and was built between 1830 and 1845. The stone used to build the church is a semi-translucent marble known as lychnitis and is only found on Paros.

20/5/90

ISLAND LIFE We got up around 8:30 and after a breakfast of yoghurt and oranges we drifted down to the beach through the quiet Sunday streets of Piso Livadi. We found ourselves a nice spot at the very end of the beach amongst some rocks where we had some shelter from the wind and couldn’t be crowded out by Germans.¹

It was quite cool on the beach at first but we had a swim in the cold, clear water then settled down to watch the antics of the people who slowly began to arrive at the beach, select their spot and take all their clothes off! We laughed at one couple who had a small boy with an inflatable dolphin which was promptly blown out to sea by the strong offshore wind. The father had to swim after it in his clothes while the mum stood on the shore with her bare tits jiggling with laughter!

By 1pm the beach was full of people, most of them Germans and all of them either topless or completely nude. We left our spot to be claimed by the slavering horde and walked back up to the camp, stopping for a rest under some trees on one of the other beaches. Back up at the camp, we sat out on a deserted balcony drinking wine and reading. Later, after showers, we wandered down to the Flotilla Club for a few beers followed by tea at another restaurant. 

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On the deserted balcony at our own private camping ground, Piso Livadi.

¹There were a lot of German tourists at Piso Livadi and we found out two things about them: 1) they spent a lot of their time completely naked and 2) they would arrive en masse and squeeze you out of the nice spots by sheer blubbery weight of numbers! 

19/5/90

We got up fairly early and broke camp. We had a spot of luck when we checked out when the lady in the office only charged us for one night (400DR) instead of two. I sat at a café drinking a carton of milk and writing up a few lost days while Linda went shopping for a few provisions. We had a sticky bun and a drink in the town square then caught a bus over to Piso Livadi which cost us 180DR (about 40p). The camping ground was deserted and we selected a secluded site for the tent and suddenly remembered…the little backpack with our provisions in it was still on the bus!

I spent 3 hours sitting up at the corner waiting for the bus to come back (it followed a circular route around the island), during which time Linda pitched the tent then decided that it was too close to the road and shifted it up to the top terrace, right out of sight. Eventually, the bus came back and I retrieved the bag, amid profuse apologies from the bus conductor (even though it was in no way his fault that I’d left the bag behind) and we spent the rest of the afternoon in deep siesta.

After a hot shower (solar heated water) we wandered lazily down to the village and sat on the terrace of the Flotilla Club Bar, Linda with a Tequila Sunrise and me with a beer, and watched the sun set over the hills as another day drifted slowly to an end.

We had a pizza for tea then walked bac

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Our camp at Piso Livadi. Doing a quick critter check before retiring!

k up the hill to find another tent had been set up in plain view of the road. Whoever was living in it also had a blazing fire going to further advertise their presence. Some people are too thick to know when they are onto a good thing.

 

18/5/90

A8832713-90C4-4FE4-A77C-5B70543C4B4A_1_201_aWe walked up the street from the camping ground to one of the many places hiring motorbikes, mopeds and cars. The slimy little Greek who ran the one we had chosen had been friendly enough yesterday when we enquired about the cost of hiring a motorbike, but as with all salesmen of his ilk, important details had been left out, the price had gone up and, once he had our money, the friendliness vanished as well. He told us to fill the tank at a petrol station but luckily the last person to use it had filled it up, thus saving us from doing it.

We set sail with me doubling Linda, out of town and over the hill towards Noussa, 5km away. After a brief period of stuffing around finding which way was “off” for the choke, we cruised into Noussa about ¾ of an hour later. It was obviously a tourist trap and we only stayed long enough to buy some oranges and pay twice the price for two bottles of yoghurt.

D919BCFD-5C39-4783-9BEA-6985AF40D71D_1_201_aBack on the bike we followed the coastline round through the harsh, dry farmland, the fields marked out by hundreds of dry-stone walls until we reached the tiny fishing village of Piso Livadi.

The camping ground, about 1.5 kilometres from town, which we had come to look at was closed but a lone German camped there said that he was camping for free. As we were leaving we ran into the owner’s son who said we could also stay there for free.

We had lunch on the beach at Piso Livadi then carried on round to Golden Beach where we spent a couple of hours swimming, sun-bathing and watching the nude Germans!

Back on the bike and it was the middle of the afternoon and very hot. We retraced our route back to the turn-off which led up to a village called Lefkos then down the other side to an old quarry where we had a poke around before carrying on back down to Parikia again.

With several hours to fill in before the bike was due back we followed the coastline to another little village where we sat on the wharf looking down into the crystal clear water.

Back at the camping ground an hour or so later we showered and changed then took the motorbike back, telling the owner that the tank was full before escaping before he could discover otherwise.

16/5/90

ATHINA The Hotel Palladium cost 4,000 DR1 (£20-00) but it was worth it to get 8 hours’ sleep and after a shower we packed up and left our packs downstairs.

The streets of Athens are wide (they have to be with drivers as bad as the Greeks seem to be!) and clean. Our first stop was at a bank where we changed £100-00 for 26,000DR. We walked up to the main square near which most of the travel company offices are located and after a bit of a look around we went to an office and bought tickets on a ferry to Paros Island2 in the Cyclades group for 4,200DR each. The ferry was due to depart from Pareus (Athens’ port) at 5pm which left us most of the day to fill in so we walked up to the Acropolis.

What a beautiful and awe-inspiring place it is. Sited on a hill overlooking the centre of Athens it stands as a testament to the building technology possessed by the ancient Greeks at a time, 2,500 years ago, when the tribes of Britain were still living in grass huts and using primitive iron implements. 

The approach to the base of the hill led through a maze of narrow streets lined with souvenir stalls. Once out of the built up area we walked to the right, under the cliffs upon which the Acropolis is built, then up a series of flights of smooth marble steps to the first part of the Acropolis complex: the Amphitheatre. Dropping away steeply below us the original amphitheatre has been rebuilt and is still used for performances today. Down on the stage some ballet dancers were rehearsing in the blazing sunshine. Further round the base of the hill the partially buried remains of an even older amphitheatre were being slowly uncovered by archaeologists. 

By using our YHA “student” ID cards3 we gained access to the Acropolis for ½ price and climbed the steep and slippery marble steps between the huge marble columns through which, thousands of years ago, berobed ancients passed on their way into the temple.

There are three main buildings on the windswept top of the hill, in a reasonable state of preservation, but still undergoing a complete rebuilding programme at present. There is a museum with some beautiful examples of early Greek sculpture and a lookout with beautiful views of the city and the surrounding hills.

We spent about an hour up there then followed another maze of back streets down to the main square and back to the hotel to collect our packs. The travel agent had told us that the best way to get to Pareaus was by train so we plotted a route to the station, swung up our packs and began walking. It was siesta (2:30-5:00) so there weren’t many people around but the trains were crowded with people going home. The trip took about 20 minutes and after another 20  minutes of searching at the port we found our ferry: the Golden Vergina.

We had an hour to fill in before sailing so we had a beer at a sidewalk café then boarded the boat and found a comfy place on our 3rd Class deck to sit on.

The voyage, which took 5 hours, landing us at Parikia at 10:30PM, was pretty boring although we did see our first Greek sunset while sheltering from the cool sea breeze which sprang up in the late afternoon. The sun, a brilliant crimson orb, left hazy images on our retinas as it dipped slowly behind a small island and darkness followed quickly.

As we were waiting to disembark at the stern of the ship, a lady came up to me and asked if we were looking for a room. She wanted 1,500 DR which isn’t a lot, £5 or so, so we accepted and made our way off the ship through a crowd of touts offering rooms to the other passengers and walked up to the town’s main square about 150 metres from the wharf. 

The lady’s house was up a narrow, white-washed side street and the room was quite nice, with a double bed and adjoining toilet and shower. We left our packs there and went out into the warm night to find a place to have tea which wasn’t a hard task at all. We had a salad and a beer each then wandered back to our room.    

1 The Drachma is the Greek currency.
We chose Paros quite at random. Linda closed her eyes and placed a finger on a map of Greece. Paros was the island she pointed to and it turned out to be amazing!
3 We used this ruse successfully throughout our travels: pretending that our YHA cards were student ID cards in order to gain discounts.