The locals on Antiparos hate it if you mistakenly refer to their island as part of their bigger and more well-known older brother Paros. “Antiparos has nothing to do with Paros” they say, “we are totally different.” Conversations like this bring back memories of a Balinese man once explaining to me that all people from Java are thieves, and who knows, are probably impotent too, the poor bastards! The kind of place that feels this way about a larger, more dominant location appeals to me. How could it not? I’m from Australia. Ozzies practically invented acrimony towards a larger country, “Bloody Yanks with their Hollywood celebrities, loud voices and greasy food. Also, those freakin limey toffs with their monarchy, lousy weather and greasy food. What’s with the fried focus? Can’t a bloke get a bowl of cornflakes and a banana for breakfast?”
Antiparos sits less than 2 miles south-west from its parental (in name only; those little-dicked, criminally inclined…) island of Paros. Antiparos is only 11 miles long and less than 3 miles wide, and supports a year round population of only one thousand people. In addition, it is now our chosen home while in the Greek Islands. You know how a good shoe fits the first time you try it on? Well… this shoe fits just fine mister. Although it’s a popular day tripping location for those staying on Paros, in the evening after the ferries have departed, the island relaxes. The day’s work is done, and the locals join the stay-overs for “cocktails and contemplation” at the seaside cafés.
What’s worth the trip? What is worth coming all this way only to miss out on the hedonism and spectacle of places like Mykonos and Santorini? Well, water so clear that you have to blink twice to confirm that you are actually in the water, sky as blue as any I have ever seen, white houses with characteristic blue doors and shutters, quiet streets strewn with creeping vines of flowers, cold beer, delicious fresh seafood, friendly locals grateful for your patronage, and beaches… endless breaches of soft sand, topless European ladies (not always as good as it sounds), bronzed fellas and sun that sparkles off the water in ways I thought only existed in the minds of drugged out impressionist painters.
Apart from tourism, Antiparos still maintains a committed fishing fleet, local agricultural industry and craft guild. All of this means that when walking down through the center of town one side of the street is lined with fishing boats docked from a morning’s work hauling octopus from the seafloor, old men on carts (powered by what looks like a roto-tiller with the spinning tines removed) selling produce, yoghurt and cheese, and little girls painting rocks and selling them to my daughter for 50 cents a pop. Seriously, we are going to have two dozen painted rocks by the time we leave. Guess what everyone is getting from the Forsters for Christmas this year?
All houses conform to a regulated pattern mandated by the local community. They must be white rendered concrete dwellings almost always with blue shutters and doors. Gardens are planted with bougainvillea, olive trees, palms, roses and grape vines. Without major roads (or minor roads for that matter) most inhabitants dispense with cars and get around by scooter, leaving a peace and quiet not noticed until you are without it for the first time. Sit by the harbor for five minutes and all you will see is five guys appraising the hole in another’s fishing net (made during that day’s catch), a market stall owner sitting drinking his fifth coffee, restauranteurs casually maintaining their patrons, shopkeepers watching to see if you are ever going to buy anything from them , tourists wandering about looking for something, anything, to purchase and the ferries; casually chuntering back and forth between this little slice of heaven and those assholes over on Paros. This is not a missive encouraging everyone to come to Antiparos, just a pledge that if you come to the Greek Islands, do some reading, choose wisely, and pick a spot that best reflects your mind’s eye of the ideal island. Then you might find you own little slice of heaven, as we have. If oiled up European men in skin-tight budgie smugglers is your thing, then perhaps Mykonos is the place. For the Forsters, Antiparos is where it’s at. Just as long as those bastards over in Paros steer clear.