September 13 – 16
Up at sunrise again, I made coffee out on the balcony and welcomed the beginning of our last day on Paros. It would be another one of exploration with some hiking thrown in, just the kind we relish. After another satisfying buffet breakfast experience, we asked Marco how much the dinner would be that night and he responded 20 euros, not including the wine. When he asked if we’d be joining them we figured at 20 euros who can say no? Our problem? We didn’t think to ask if that was per person, a big mistake as we would find out later. We then met the rental company, Auto Dermatas, in the hotel parking lot and switched out our rental car (we knew this was to occur) for the same rate of 35 euros.
We set out for our first stop of the day, the marble quarries at Marathi. Translucently white and luminescent, the white marble of Paros was dug out from three shafts here over the course of may centuries. Some of the greatest works of antiquity were crafted from this marble, among them Hermes Carrying the Infant Dionysus (at the museum in Olympia) and the Venus de Milo now in the Louvre in Paris.
Thousands of slaves worked in these dank quarries night and day, wearing oil lanterns strapped to their heads that gave the marble the name lynchnites, ‘won by lamplight”. French engineers came here in 1844 to mine marble for Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides in Paris, the last people to work the quarry.
We parked nearby and walked up a steep path to get to the mouth of the only quarry one can still enter. The path down inside is strewn with rubble making for tricky going and gets even more difficult as you descend into the cool darkness. We both walked in (we’d taken our camping headlamps) about as far as we wanted to go, and not seeing much value in exploring what is essentially a long empty tunnel/cave, returned the way we came.
As we reached the top, we noticed a small group about to enter without any flashlights, and so offered to let them use our headlamps. We had picked a nearly perfect time to be visiting Greece and its islands, with warm but not broiling hot days, clear skies, and little or no humidity, so hanging out for a few moments, as we sat on a nearby rock wall wasn’t that big of an inconvenience.
From there we drove to the town of Lefkes, perched high up on a hill side, parked the car in an oddly signed lot on the outskirts of town and then walked to the start of the Byzantine Trail, a 2.5 mile hike to the town of Prodomos.
A section of this stone and marble roadway, paved in the Middle Ages and once the main route across the island, descends through olive groves and grazing land.
It is mostly downhill (which means mostly uphill on the way back) and when entering Prodomo you walk through narrow streets of whitewashed houses, squat little chapels and gardens with bougainvillea spilling over the walls.
The town is arranged in a confusing bulls-eye pattern radiating from the central plaza, a maze intended to thwart invaders, which works on tourist hikers as well.
We managed to find a small tavern and stopped there for a snack, something tasty and filling along with a bottle of water and Coke Zero. As in 2014, we found Coca Cola products to be ubiquitous here and much like McDonalds, you run across them anywhere you go.
Finished with our food we walked out of town, getting lost a couple of times (that maze-like orientation really is effective) and finding the trail again ascended to Lefkes.
Being a warm day, we stopped at the top at a small café to share a cold drink, returning to the car and heading back to Swiss Home for some relaxing time before dinner. We’d need to clear out in the morning just after breakfast in order to drive into town and drop off the rental car before boarding the morning ferry for Athens, so we had some time to pack, work on the blog and drink a bit of wine we’d purchased at a local market.
Dinner that night was nice, but not over the top good; I’ll finish up this post with the lengthy review I wrote for Trip Advisor about that dinner and our stay at Swiss Home:
I have mixed feelings about Swiss Home. This is a family run establishment and they could not be friendlier or more helpful. Marco, Anna and the rest of the family do treat you like one of theirs. They picked us up at the port, offered to help us rent a car, told us about places to visit. My biggest reservation is the lack of transparency in pricing of the additional items you can purchase, such as meals and drinks.
An excellent breakfast is included in the room price, a real value for the money but it is served starting at 8:30, not good if you need to make an early start. Dinner is only served starting at 8:30 in the evening. There are no posted menus and the one sign about food just indicates that dinner is ala carte. We sat down for dinner the first night and Marco the owner asked if we would like wine. When we said yes, he brought a bottle out and opened it. It would later turn out to run 25 euros.
We are not cheapskates, but we are also not travelers on holiday. This trip sees us spending a month in Greece and then two more months in other parts of Europe, so it is not a one-week holiday with an unlimited budget. From that moment on we had no choices, no menu, no options. First out was a nice Greek Salad, then a middle course of delicious green beans in tomato sauce and finally one of the best Moussaka’s we’ve tasted. Wife Anna is the cook and she is excellent. We finished up with a tasty Borgata for dessert.
At no time was price discussed. We skipped dinner the next night and the morning after asked how much the dinner was. Marco said 20 euros, not including the wine. He asked if we’d be joining them for dinner. At 20 euros who can say no? We didn’t think to ask if that was per person though, a big mistake. Dinner was nice, same Greek salad, stuffed mushrooms for the middle and a nice roast pork and gravy with fried potatoes, candied carrots and watermelon for dessert.
At check out the next morning we discovered that the meal is 20 euros per person, making for a 40-euro dinner. We got very good food but not 40 euros worth. Plus, you have no choice. When we travel we split items, usually an appetizer and one main allowing us to taste many different things. Not the case here. Everyone eats the same thing. We had dinner last night in Athens. Toasted Bread, Spiced Feta Cheese appetizer, a large stuffed tomato and good-sized portion of char grilled chicken in a mustard, ham and mushroom sauce with potatoes and a half liter of house red wine for 25.5 euros, a little over half of what we paid at Swiss Home
The other drawback of Swiss Home is that it is not within walking distance of any markets or restaurants. If you visit you need to have a car if you want to visit most of the island and don’t want to use the bus system. It’s a charming location with a great view of the sea. So, visit and enjoy the place but keep in mind the meals, their pricing, and the limited options they provide
Hermes Carrying the Infant Dionysus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_and_the_Infant_Dionysus
Venus de Milo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo