In an age when the voracious drive to modernize recklessly destroys the legacy of past civilizations to make way for four-lane highways, soaring skyscrapers and unsightly shopping malls of plastic and glass, it is comforting to know that here, on Paros, this trend is being curbed by the Council's adoption of a policy to preserve the historical heritage of Paros for future generations.
The success of this preservation program is nowhere more discernable than in the meticulous restoration, by a determined young couple from Canada, of the old windmill which has stood sentry over the entrance to the Bay of Paroikia for the last two hundred years.
Eleni (whose family roots are right here on Paros) and her husband, Andreas, became interested in the abandoned mill when they visited Paros in 1989 and learned that it was for sale. They commenced enquiries into its ownership, and found, to their surprise, that the property was still in the hands of the family of the first owner and miller (through the children and grandchildren, a total of 16 part-owners to participate in the proposed purchase).
Two years later, the purchase accomplished, the overwhelming "ordeal by red-tape" began, a gruelling test of endurance that would last a further seven years: analysis of local historian's records, drawing up of architect's and engineer's blueprints, acquisition of building permission for restoration of a windmill, then acquisition of building permission for incorporating a cafe within the windmill -- Government and Council forms to fill out and submit, thousands of telephone calls and faxes between Paros and Canada, and endless paperwork and meetings.
In October 1996, upon receiving approval to restore the windmill, and despite the ever-present danger that final Council approval to open a business as a cafe on that site could still be denied, Andreas and Eleni nevertheless "bit the bullet" and pressed on with the monumental task of transforming the old mill into an elegant cafe.
The first step was to find all the laborers and experienced craftsmen and artisans required to accomplish what everyone said was "a foolish and impossible task." Personally supervising every aspect of the work, Andreas started at the top and slowly worked down, the roof was removed and the old structure gutted, interior walls were reinforced with steel to bear three new floors (a bar and kitchen on the ground floor, customer bathrooms above, and a lounge area at the top). Then a new roof was added, as well as a mechanism for rotating the sails with their crisp new canvas. Lastly, a terrace encircling the mill was added with marble-topped tables and the most comfortable director's chairs to be found in Athens lined with the same ivory canvas as the sails -- a few well-placed plants, the soothing glow of concealed lighting, the gentle strains of mellow Greek music, and Eleni and Andreas' vision finally soared above them in all its splendor -- Cinderella was ready for the Ball, but could she win the heart of the Prince?
Finally, on May 19, 1998, nine long years later, their dedication and courage was rewarded: they received word that the Council had unanimously approved their request to open for business -- and on May 22, just three days later, Eleni gave birth to their first child, Alexandros, for whom the cafe is named.
When you first step onto the terrace, you're immediately captivated by the spectacular 360 degree panoramic view (a photographer's dream!) -- from the rolling hills dotted with farmhouses and churches, your eyes travel the skyline down to Paroikia harbor, then around the bay out to sea. Not surprisingly, you'll find that, even on the hottest day, gentle sea breezes waft around you (clearly the reason the first mill was built on this site).
Alexandros has much to offer: enjoy a light lunch or snack during the daytime as you "people watch" from your special vantage point, or sip a pre-dinner cocktail as the crimson sun inches slowly beneath the horizon (ask Andreas for one of his luscious American specialities), or after dinner at one of Paros' many tavernas, stroll along the promenade toward this softly glowing beacon overlooking the bay for dessert and coffee or a relaxing nightcap -- watch the huge illuminated ferries glide in and out of the harbor like stately dowagers sparkling with diamonds and the tiny fishing boats darting among them like fireflies (but a word of warning: you might fall in love all over again!).
We never know what paths our lives will take, what simple choices made today will affect us years from now -- each day is a new adventure forged by the decisions of our yesterdays. So too with Eleni and Andreas: what initially began as a potential investment opportunity blossomed into a quest for recapturing in every detail the integrity and authenticity of the original structure, and a determination to return the sad old mill to its former grandeur, no matter the cost -- and what a magnificent job they have done!!
Eleni and Andreas now devote their energies to operating this unique cafe, content in the knowledge that their stewardship of this mill, re-crafted with excellence and respect for the past, is also their gift to the island's future. But their most fervent wish is to pass on to visitors the joy and happiness they share in the fulfilment of their dream -- so visit the Windmill, meet the proud owners -- come share the dream!!