going for the gold day 3, including live at the apollo (part 5)

i woke up in parikia, had an entirely adequate breakfast, and set off on the bike again to look for a local church and some caves. the church was easy to find – it was visible from the main town – but since the road didn’t actually go along the coast, i had an early dose of hill riding/pushing to do. again, the area was pretty empty because tourist season hasn’t started yet.

possibly rental cars that are sitting in a field awaiting delivery. these will figure into the story later.

my first stop was agios fokas, a small church located 6 km from town. the church itself isn’t particularly notable – it’s a typical chapel – but nearby is what appears to be an abandoned naval station of some kind, and a memorial marker for the passenger ferry ms express samina, which struck a reef on september 26, 2000, killing 81 passengers. the story (which you can read by clicking on the link) is pretty awful.

from there, it was off to find the archilochus caves, located (according to the guidebook) only 10 minutes away. there were no signs, but i followed the road back, figuring they were just over the hill. you can guess how that turned out.

after far too much time searching for the caves, i decided to move onto the temple of delian apollo, which was up a different series of hills.

remember the cars? they’re down there.

the temple of delian apollo was built in the 5th century bc. “delian” refers to delos, the island birthplace of the god apollo. the site location was well marked, but you can tell how important a site is by the amount of security around it, and there was nothing more to protect the temple ruins than a rusty open gate. with little exception, it appeared that any stone that had any type of carving on it had been taken down to the archaeological museum.

i returned to parikia to begin my exploration of the town. one of the main attractions is the ekatontapiliani church, built in the 4th century, possibly by constantine the great, the roman emperor for whom constantinople was named. it’s very impressive inside, and perhaps as a result, the building comes with a sinister legend:

according to the popular legend, during the reign of justinian, ekatontapiliani was build by the former assistant of the chief craftsman of agia sofia, ignace. when the pupil finished the temple, he invited the master to admire his work. the chief craftsman felt envy and was afraid that his pupil would overshadow his reputation. pretending that he wanted to show him an architectural fault, he took his pupil on the roof of the church. from there, the chief craftsman pushed his pupil with intent to kill him. the pupil however held on to the teacher and finally they both fell and were killed in front of the church.

for the rest of the day, i strolled the narrow backstreets of parikia, admiring the shapes i found in various doorways, alleys and staircases. and cats.

next: day 4, which comes after day 3.

going for the gold day 2 – an interstitial post

i got up the next morning, had breakfast, and mounted the bike for my next leg of the journey, a 15 km trip to a popular seaside town called naoussa.  boy, was my butt sore.

i figured that if i took smaller roads closer to the shore, i’d avoid the hills inland. i was wrong on two counts: first, that there actually were roads, and second, that i’d avoid hills.

the asphalt ended about 500 meters outside of town.

after about 30 minutes of pushing my bike across rough terrain, i came to a paved road, but first took a detour onto a peninsula to see what i could find:

the answer was “not much.” another “not much” were the villages between piso libadi and naoussa. maybe a lot of the houses are just occupied for the summer, but outside the village centers themselves, there seemed to be a lot of desolation. i frequently saw something i saw in india: a walled lot with nothing built on it. i got the sense that a lot of people started selling land for construction when times were good, and then the money dried up.

this sense of emptiness extended to naoussa itself, but only because it was shut up for the winter. some local-serving businesses were open, but the atm sign said it pretty well.

there was no reason to stay in naoussa for the night, and no place to stay anyway; so, after lunch, i gingerly got back onto the bike and rode (a.k.a. pushed it uphill and coasted downhill) another 11 km to parikia, the main town of paros, where i easily found a room and a meal, and i made my plan for days 3 and 4.

next: day 3.

going for the gold

i was two domestic flights away from achieving gold status on star alliance, so i decided to book the cheapest round-trip ticket i could, to tick that box and also see an island i hadn’t visited yet. i chose paros, in the cyclades, with the idea of doing some photography; and, because it’s annoying to stop and start the car every time i want to take a photo, i decided i’d rent a bike instead. i haven’t been on a bicycle for 2½ years, but given that i’m recovering from shin splints and so cannot run, i figured i’d get the added benefit of three days of low-impact aerobic exercise as well. win-win all around.

i had an easy half-hour flight and a quick taxi ride to the lovely seaside town of aliki to pick up my bike.

typical greek harbor village amazingness.

suitably provisioned with helmet, water and snacks (and about 20 pounds of clothes and camera equipment on my back), all was good for three minutes, and then i came to the base of the first of a series of hills where the road turned inland. i assessed the state of my quads and realized that this was one of the stupidest ideas i’d ever come up with.

the first of many reality checks; and things i saw along the way, including a pretty sweet house in the hills; two proskinitaria,memorials to the victims of a road accident (i’ve just released a book of photographs of proskinitaria – check out www.paulcohnimages.com for more information); and cows.

my destination was 21 km away, a hotel i’d booked that morning to be assured of having some place to stay. because it’s still march, most hotels are still closed for the season, but a few stay open longer into the fall and open earlier in the spring. despite having a booking confirmation from agoda.com, however, it turns out my hotel is not one of those. after some discussion, they opened a room for me anyhow. it’s just one night, but i don’t think they’re so keen on the extra money that they’re glad to have me.

the view from my hotel room. i earned this today.

after a rest and a large meal, i decided to follow up my 21 km bike ride with a hike up a hill to visit the church of saint anthony, about 170 m above sea level. because honestly, at that hour, there wasn’t much else to do with the day. on the way up, i came across the ruins of a venetian castle, carefully protected from the main road by a single rusted strand of barbed wire.

windmills in the village of marpissa on the way to saint anthony; ruins of the castle.

the hike was long, but not overly difficult, and the view from the top was fantastic. the church grounds themselves were empty – not a person to be seen.

the church, from the base of the hill; the view from up top; the church lends itself to abstractions. 

next: day 2