From Mykonos the Flying Cat 4 takes fifty minutes to get us to Paros, the third and final island of our trip. Compared to our arrival at Mykonos two days ago, things at Paros are pretty low key. There’s no crowds on the port, and by the time the ferry is pulling away we look around to realise that we’re the only people still about. Best be on our way then.
A short walk gets us to our hotel and as we check in the friendly clerk hands a hand drawn map and points out the key sites to see as well as the best local restaurants and cafes. After dumping our bags in our room, and now armed with local information, we head off on a walking tour.
First up is the ‘Church with 100 doors’. The church’s oldest parts dates back to Byzantine times and we notice that it has almost as many doors as its name suggests, but not quite. It must have been rounded up. Interestingly too is that its built with exposed stone and terra-cotta tiling making it look very different to the whitewashed houses and other churches which we have become accustomed to
Parikia old town, Paros
seeing on our trip so far.
From the church we stroll around the corner into the old town. Similar to Mykonos, Parikia’s old town is a maze of narrow white washed streets and we have great fun taking random turns and seeing where we end up. Somewhere near the middle we stop to enjoy some Greek coffees before making our way back to the waterfront, which is in effect Parikia’s main street.
Next up we visit the Venetian Castle. The castle doesn’t have many remains, but easily the best bit is its walls which were built in hast using remnants of previous Roman buildings. The result is an odd mix of cylindrical and rectangular blocks which look to be of questionable durability, but have been here for 800 years, so they obviously doing a fine job so far.
It’s now late afternoon so we decide to head down Parikia’s seafront cafe strip for a look. Choosing a funky looking establishment we grab a seat and order a couple of ice cold beers to enjoy while we watch the sun once again sink into the Aegean.
Just before dark we return to our hotel to freshen up
before we stroll down the road to the local seafood restaurant recommended by our hotel. Lachlan is committed to enjoying some good fresh fish and orders ‘whichever is best of the two grilled mackerel specials’ and Ariana orders prawns. After bread and (Greek) salad our mains arrive and Lachlan can’t believe his luck when his grilled mackerel has been upgraded to a plate of baby snapper!
We’re given our chance to rave about how tasty everything is when the restaurant owner comes to check on our meals and obviously happy he heads back into the kitchen to send out one of the waiters with a fresh carafe of wine and desserts, ‘On the house’. It can’t get much better than this!
On Friday morning, with our time on Paros almost up, we have time for another short walk through Parikia’s old town. We stop again at cafe for Greek coffee, before swinging by a local bakery to pick up some tasty looking snacks for our journey to the mainland.
Our last and longest ferry ride isn’t on the Flying Cat 4 either. Instead we’re on the Nissos Mykonos, a hulking car carrying beast which we discover has
two flights of elevators (yes elevators) to get passengers from the boarding point up to the seated areas. Upstairs, just past the onboard ATM, the stewardess tells us that our economy class tickets would normally have consigned us to the outside deck, but, to our relief, there is also a indoor lounge area which we’re allowed to sit in. Phew!
Avoiding the side which smells of sea sickness, we find a pair of seats and get ourselves comfortable for our four hour journey. As we pull out of Paros harbour we find that the monstrous Nissos Mykonos is quite steady in the water and consequently we drift off to sleep, waking up about 30 minutes short of our destination of the port of Piraeus.
At the port we catch the bus which takes us from our ferry terminal to the main exit where we follow the signs to the metro station. Track work means that we have some random, unexplained in English, changes (train to bus then back to train) but all goes well and about 45 minutes after landing on the mainland we pop out of the underground metro station into Monastiraki square in the centre of
Athens. Looking above the square’s surrounding buildings we can see ancient Roman ruins and sitting proudly beyond them, we get our first proper look at the Acropolis.
Luckily, our hostel is only a short walk from the square so we check in, drop off our backpacks, and excitedly set off on walk around the Acropolis. Lit up by the late afternoon sunshine we get great views of the Parthenon and we stop along the way to get a closer look at the amphitheaters and ruins which are built into the base of Acropolis’ rocky outcrop.
After a good three hours, our walk loops us back to Monastriaki square and we grab dinner at a local restaurant before heading back to the backpackers to check out their roof top bar. With some cold Greek beers and views of the Acropolis it’s a great way to finish our day. As in any European backpackers it doesn’t take long to find fellow antipodeans and we enjoy sharing travel stories and details of life as expats with some fellow travellers from Victoria and WA.
Saturday morning is our last in Greece, so as is typically us, we’re up early to make
the most of it. After breakfast at the hostel we set off to pack in the sites that we missed yesterday. First up we call by the Greek parliament, where we make it in time to see the changing of the guard. It seems to us that a prerequisite to being a Greek parliamentary guard is that you must be about seven feet tall. These guys are giants! Or maybe they have to be such big blokes to stop people making fun of the pom-poms on their shoes...oh, and their skirts...
Anyway from parliament house we walk through one of Athens‘ parks on route to check out the site of the first modern olympics (i.e. the 1896 summer Olympic Games) where the stadium is still intact.
Next on our whistle-stop walking tour is the Temple of Olympian Zeus before we move onto Hadrian’s Arch. Compared to the gate built for Hadrian at Jeresh in northern Jordan the arch in Athens is a fairly unremarkable affair. It’s also on the edge of a busy Athenian road which detracts some of the magic that you would expect to feel when looking at a structure which was built 1,870 years ago.
From the arch we loop around the Acropolis again and find a great final Greek meal to enjoy- lamb kebabs!
So with our bellies full we swing by the hostel, pick up our backpacks and catch the train back to where our holiday began - Athens airport.
We feel really lucky as over the past 10 days we’ve had the chance to experience Greek easter traditions on Santorini, chill out beachside on Mykonos, munch our way through seafood treats on sleepy traditional Paros, and pack in most of Athens‘ big sites on a whirlwind visit. Greece has been amazing, and there are definitely perks about going off season.
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