Greece travel

My best holiday in Paros

me in paros portMy holiday in Paros in 1971 was my first backpacking adventure in Greece. And it all began when in the late 1960s, myself and two other guys from my neighbourhood in Piraeus formed a Rock Band, The Blue Birds. I played lead guitar, Manos was on the base and George was our drummer. (Incidentally, George later has become one of Greece's best drummers). During that summer of 1971, our manager, Mister M as we called him, found us a job at the Dolphin Club near Parikia in Paros. We took with us a keyboard player, Sotiris and a solo singer, Yianni, and we boarded the ship at Piraeus for Paros. It was an incredible feeling because although we had played many times before in night clubs and concert halls in Athens, this trip was for the whole summer with a free holiday in Paros, free food and accommodation plus our salary of about 150 drachmas a day each.
When we arrived on Paros the owner of the Dolphin Club (Delfini) took us to the house he had organized for us to stay in and then on to the Club where we set up our equipment and rehearsed our repertoire ready for our first performance the following night.

argo beachOne thing I will always remember and still laugh about when I think of it was the marketing of our appearance. In those days (before the advent of cheap photocopying and printing) the only way that events in Paros could be made known to the general public was by announcement from the town crier or "delalis" as he is called in Greek. The man appointed to this post was quite an elderly fellow, always wearing his fisherman's cap and peering short-sightedly through his glasses. His job should have entailed him walking all around the town of Parikia, loudly informing people by reading from his script. However, because the poor old man had such dreadful eyesight he merely placed himself under a strong streetlight at the edge of the dock of the Port. We only learned of this because Mister M on his way to meet us had heard a feeble, shaky voice announcing that the Blue Birds will be playing at the Dolphin Club on Saturday night and turned to see this ancient old man, supported by the lamp post, advertising our band. He looked the antipathy of the image we tried to convey, that of a young, modern and 'groovy' rock band. Mister M rushed to find us and could hardly get the news out without collapsing into fits of laughter. We, in turn, hurried to the Port to see this for ourselves and on reaching the dock, there he still was, an old man, standing alone under the glare of the streetlight, putting all his energy into projecting his voice, with absolutely nobody around him, not a soul to be seen anywhere! Despite this antiquated method of advertising, the takings for our first night's performance were good and our first show had been a success. Paros, even 36 years ago, had already established itself as a holiday spot in Greece, and many of these visitors had found their way to the Dolphin Club without the help of the town crier.

One particular night that stands out in my memory as a 'wow' experience was when, during the break in our night's performance, we were approached by an American who, pointing to a long-haired guy sitting with his company at a table, asked us if we knew who he was. Our chins hit the floor when the American went on to tell us that he was Garth Hudson, the keyboard player from The Band! This was one of the most famous and influential rock groups in the world from around 1968 to 1975. In America and many other countries their music was as well known as that of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. What a strange feeling when we returned for the second half of our night's performance, we were up there on the stage and, down in the audience was this huge rock star enjoying our performance. Afterwards he invited us to his table to have a drink with him and we had the chance to talk about our shared passion - rock music. What a great night!!!

And so that beautiful summer continued. On the night of the 15th August, at (Virgin Mary) Panagias festival (one of the main celebrations in Greece), the City Hall had organized a big open air concert at the port and we had a slot along with other musical entertainers. When our turn came and we got up on that huge stage, with hundreds of people in the audience spreading out before us and even a helicopter hovering above, for just one minute we could believe that we were not in Paros but at the Woodstock Festival with all its Hippie audience crowded around the stage. It was in Paros, too, that I had my first 'drunken sailor' experience on stage when, for the last three weeks of our stay, we were booked to play at the Argo restaurant. Feeling blasť and over-confident after a whole summer of constant bookings, I managed to consume a complete bottle of Mavrodafni whilst on stage, fortunately by the time I got to the point where I was losing the chords most of the diners had already left.

in old townAfter that summer I felt connected to Paros and returned often. I got to know many locals and made many friends, Greeks and Americans, mostly from the Aegean Center for Fine Arts. One of these guys, Vasillis the Dancer, became a very close friend. He had a clothing shop on the main street of Parikia and I stayed with him many times. It was a tremendous shock to hear of his early death in 2003 .
Our best spots during those years where the Kafeneia (Cafes) of Stelakis and Christakis where we had many an 'ouzo to death' session with salted fish as meze. One day, I remember, I took a photograph with my old Nikkon camera of the table outside Stelakis cafe. On its surface there were about 24 karafakis(small bottles) of ouzo ( we were only 5 in the gang). We had started drinking early in the morning and, as the sun got hotter and we got drunker, the noon saw us staggering across the street and rolling around, fully clothed, in the sea. Its a great shame that I have lost that photograph.

A favorite night out was to the Psarades Disco of Yiannis the fisherman. This, at the time, was the best dancing club in Parikia. Vasillis used to come every night and, being the great dancer that he was, astound everyone with his ability to perform Zorba's Dance. Some years I even became a DJ for the Psarades Club, where I did the international programme due to my impressive collection of LPs from the 1960s-70s and my friendship with Yiannis the owner. Another time an Athenean travel agent employed me as a tour operator on Paros in Parikia. One of the tours that I would take visitors to was on a mule and donkey trek to The Valley of the Butterflies. I used to feel during the trek like Pancho Villa on his horse with his Mexicans behind him.This was another great summer because, again, I was able to eat for almost nothing in most of the restaurants and, at the Psarades club, I was always given free drinks for me and whatever company I had with me,well in fact those are even today some of the privileges of beeing a tour operator on a Greek island.

living parosGreat days...maybe the reason I don't visit these islands that I loved anymore is because I don't want to spoil my sweet memory of those years, when the islands were not spoiled by package tourism and I was young and life was full of joy and optimism.
So that was Paros in the very early 1970s. During the next few years my backpacking became more adventurous as I hitch-hiked my way around Western Europe, but that's another story.......

The above article was published as a blog post but since I rewrite it within in2greece , I include the posts of my good friend Michael (the Paros Sepherd)

Dear George,
Fantastic reminiscences! Thank You.
The special joy is that young people today are still having their own special adventures on Paros.
By the way, Paros has very few package tours compared to many other islands. Come for another visit.
Cheers,
Michael

(And I came this year after 31 years!!!!!!)

Welcome to Paros