The Cyclades: Places to Explore

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Paroikía

First impressions of Paroikía (Paros town), pretty as it is, will not necessarily be positive. The port flashes too much concrete, too many boats dock, and the traffic problem, now that Athenian families bring two cars and local families own two cars, is insoluble. The waterfront is lined with travel agencies, a multitude of car and motorbike rental agencies, and "fastfood-adika"—the Greek word means just what you think it does. Then, if you head east on the harbor road, you'll see a lineup of bars, tourist shops, and coffee shops—many, as elsewhere on the more-prosperous islands, rented by Athenians who come to Paros to capitalize on the huge summer influx. Past them are the fishing-boat dock, a partially excavated ancient graveyard, and the post office; then start the beaches (shaded and overpopular), with their hotels and tavernas.

But go the other way straight into town and you'll find it easy to get lost in the maze of narrow, stone-paved lanes that intersect with the streets of the quiet residential areas. The marble plaza at the town's entrance, finished in 2007, is full of strollers and playing children in the evening (during the day, you can fry eggs on this shadeless space). As you check your laptop (Paroikía is Wi-Fi) along the market street chockablock with tourist shops, you'll begin to traverse the centuries: ahead of you looms the seaside Kastro, the ancient acropolis. In 1207 the Venetians conquered Paros, which joined the Duchy of Naxos, and built their huge marble castle wall out of blocks and columns from three temples. At the crest, next to the church of Saints Constantine and Helen (built in 1689), are the visible foundations of a late-Archaic temple to Athena—the area remains Paros's favorite sunset spot.

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