Paros Greece

A Mini Art Residency in Paros, Greece

by Maria Flip

After a bit of relaxation enjoying the sea view, we return to Alyki where the normal family life awaits us…along with fresh fish from the local fisher man, slowly cooking in the oven, just like our project.

By Maria Flip

Boarding Olympic Air’s Dash 8 100 from Athens to Paros, I could not have possibly imagined the serenity of the journey as we flew over the azure expanse of the Aegean Sea. Twenty minutes later I landed on Paros, a Cycladic island southeast of Athens. My final destination will be Alyki, a small fishing village in the south of Paros, a village surrounded by stunning beaches, which is the breathtaking characteristic of an Aegean landscape.

I am visiting the artist Justyna Borucka, to discuss an art project we are planning to launch in the near future; thus, she is my tour guide and companion on this trip. We are expecting another artist, Catherine Vitebsky, to arrive from the UK, , who will be here to complete a mini art residency. Both my collaborators are mothers of young toddlers and we have to complete the first set of our project in a sole weekend.

Although time is valuable I do have a couple of days, before Catherine arrives, to explore this picturesque place.

As we travel towards Alyki it’s obvious that the early June heat has already stripped the acreage around the airport of any sign of the green crisp of April. The surrounding fields are now, like an art canvas stretching far and wide, painted in swathes of gold.

The village, at first glance, seems small and scattered, giving the impression that someone had carelessly strewn a dozen whitewashed structures onto a field.

My first swim is off Makria myti beach, where it is best to visit in the mornings, before the heat of the day becomes intolerable; by the same token, Piso Alyki beach proves to be the perfect evening splurge. The Piso Alyki beach provides marvellous sunset views accompanied by a freddo espresso from the Belgian, a coffee shop 100 meters away.

Once we are all together a couple of sunsets later, our expedition to the mainland of the island begins. Paros has been inhabited since the prehistoric years and somehow you can feel this while wandering around its mainland.

Boarded on a turquoise pappou (Greek παππούς, grandpa) car, as Justyna likes to refer to it, we embark on a road trip from Alyki to Marathi, and ultimately to Paroikia. But first, a wavy dive and some refreshing blue time at Parasporos beach. This time of the season and this early in the morning we are blessed with some alone-time at the seashore. Even the beach bars are not open for business yet, giving us the perfect opportunity to enjoy the grand waterfront to ourselves.

When we arrive at Marathi, where one of the ancient quarries of the island is situated, the sun is not yet at its harshest hour so we have some time to wander around while discussing our project.

The quarry is located between two hills, far from the sea and protected from any sign of civilisation. It provides a perfect spot for contemplation amongst the parian marble radiating sparkling beams of light across the remains of the newest quarry (circa 19th century).

There is an eerie vibe to the place as we continue onwards. Random tourists pass from time to time, although there is no sign of civilization as we walk towards the ancient quarry. It’s a dark and humid cave leading to the depths of the earth. We are not able to reach to the bottom of it – in fear of snakes- but even going down a few steps towards the mountain’s uterus is overwhelming. The breezy aura of trapped oxygen and demise is ghoulish enough for us to return to the sun.

Following the quarry, we head west to the port of Paros, Paroikia. The iconic white and blue paradise is a traditional Aegean port, run through by small cobbled alleys, with buildings painted in white lime. Creamy parian marble and vibrant bougainvillea completes the scenery.

Our first stop is The Archaeological Museum of Paros. Built in 1960, it is one of the most important archaeological spaces in Greece, hosting exhibits of the Neolithic period, as well as the Parian Nike and showpieces from the Temple of Apollo in Despotikon island. Taking refuge from the sun we have the chance to marvel at the statues and sarcophaguses in the yard and get inspired by the magnificent pieces of art that are found in this little treasury of civilization.

Our final stop is the Panagia Ekatontapilliani, positioned right across from the archaeological museum. It is a Byzantine church complex right in front of a little pine copse. Dated back to 326 A.D., it is a Marian pilgrimage church of the Aegean, the second largest in the area. A marvel of ecclesiastic architecture, it is extended into the main temple and its three chapels. In the yard the basilica of Aghios Nikolaos, the temple of Aghia Theodosia, the chapel of Aghios Dhimitrios surround the church, as well as the separate construction of the Baptistry and the monastic cells that function as vallation to the complex.

The devoutness of the main temple, structured on marble columns and limestone arches, is the perfect setting for our art project conversation to expand. Because we are wearing short pants, we are not allowed to enter inside the umbrageous sanctuary, so this sparkles a feminist twist to our conversations.

The journey is concluded in Pinoklis, a traditional kafeneío (Greek café serving alcoholic beverages and tapas) at the port of Paroikia, where we have the chance to enjoy meze and drink Greek coffee. After our hot day walking and driving around Paros the long-established café is the ideal setting to get deeper into detailed planning for our upcoming project.

After a bit of relaxation enjoying the sea view, we return to Alyki where the normal family life awaits us…along with fresh fish from the local fisher man, slowly cooking in the oven, just like our project.

Maria Filippou is a freelance writer based in Athens, GR, and Berlin, DE. She divides her time between journalism, art projects, and the coffee making business.

Photos by Maria Flip:

Useful sites:
Archaeological Museum of Paros

Paros Island

Paros guide

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