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  Nr. 25 - April 2000
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Personally Speaking - The Secret of Paros

by Karen Barratt, April 2000
Winter on Paros is the best kept secret - only those born here, or who have made Paros their home know what it is like.

Should I tell you? Maybe I should let you go on thinking that Paroikia becomes a ghost town and the island totally deserted with a few hardy souls left miserably shivering in the cold until the visitors condescend to come and see us again.

Summer visitors tend only to see the noisy, dusty, arid, hot and bad-tempered side of Paros. What a change occurs after October. Now, everyone has plenty of time - to talk to you and patiently work out what you are trying to say to them as you struggle with the language; to socialise; to learn to dance greek style or just visit each other’s houses and exchange ideas.

Then there is Paros itself - the roads are quiet at last and so very often if you do meet someone driving towards you the odds are that you know them, so smiling and friendly waving become second nature.

When the first rain falls it is wonderful. After five or six months of drought you just feel like dancing in the downpour and, as the ground changes from rock solid to something plants might like to grow in, they are not slow in showing their appreciation. They do this by creating a green carpet of seedlings which, as well as providing horta to eat, also reminds us that in early spring there will be the most spectacular show of wild flowers imaginable. The sun still manages to shine at some time almost every day (on 1st December it was 26ÆC midday on my verandah) making it an absolute joy to walk along deserted beaches, pick up shells, listen to the sea gently lapping on the shore and watch the sun glinting on the water.

At night, with little or no light pollution, the stars seem closer, brighter and even more abundant; some nights the moon traces a magical golden path across a flat, calm sea which only the occasional ferry or fishing boat dare cross. As with most places in the northern hemisphere, January, February and March is when the weather is cold and wet but there is still mercifully always that glimmer of sunshine and blue sky to cheer you up and the surrounding smaller islands that have been shrouded all summer suddenly show themselves in every detail - some nights you can even see the twinkling lights of their villages.

Paroikia shows a different face in winter. The gift shops and nightclubs close but the commerce of everyday life continues - supermarkets, bakeries, electrical goods, draperies, clothes, shoes, hairdressers, building supplies and internet cafes are still available, and some bars, tavernas and restaurants remain open but mainly at weekends.

Walking though the town you have the impression that everyone knows each other as they take time to gather at coffee shops and shout ‘Yassou, ti kanis?’ and chat to people passing by.
Meanwhile, the farmers are busy ploughing their fields night and day - I was so surprised the first time I saw tractors working at night with their headlights on - someone told me some farmers do it to discourage weeds. I suppose it could be true.

November is time to pick olives - still a family occasion for many and donkeys are still the best mode of transport for getting around the olive groves as they don’t compact the earth like the wheels of a tractor. In December the suma is distilled, fruit is picked and the Dimos provide light decorations all over the island to celebrate the Christmas season. Winter activities seem to increase each year - everything from joining a gym in Naoussa or Paroikia, taking a class in painting, tai chi, yoga or Greek language to free Greek dancing lessons arranged courtesy of the Dimarcheio.

Traditional Name Day parties (yortimeres) are always a source of wonder - recently we were fortunate to be invited to three by our new neighbours and friends - Anna,Yianni and Thanassi. We don’t speak Greek very well and they don’t speak English but their amazing hospitality (philoxenia) speaks volumes and when we all eat and dance together we seem to understand each other perfectly - Paros ‘magic’ at its best!
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