Touring Paros in the Orange Screamer
Brent and I are tearing down a two-lane road on Paros island, Greece, in a small quad Brent has dubbed the Orange Screamer. We left Parikia, the port city, and are headed to villages on the opposite coast.
I see a brown sign announcing an ancient marble quarry near the village of Marathi.
“There’s an ancient marble quarry ahead,” I yell to Brent. He pulls the screamer over when we see the place, and parks next to two other cars crowded just off the roadway, at the beginning of a 15-foot-wide pathway laid with marble brick. We walk the path and find the quarry.
I later learn the Parian marble found here is one of the finest varieties and was the favorite of renowned Greek sculptors because of it’s transparency, which allows light to penetrate the marble and produce a distinct radiance. Parian marble can have a transparency as high as 7 centimeters, while other marbles, such as Penteli, have only 1.5 centimeters transparency.
The marble was so sought-after, supply outstripped demand and it became expensive. Archaeologists estimate that 75% of all sculptures created in the Aegean islands were made out of marble from Paros. The acclaimed Venus de Milo and Hermes statues were sculpted from Parian marble. Structures believed to be made from the marble include the treasury of the temple of Athena at Delphi, the temple of Apollo and the magnificent temple of Solomon.
A nearby deserted building was once a French mining company believed to supply the marble for Napoleon’s tomb in 1844.
On the downside, at the height of the Roman empire, it’s believed the quarry employed 150,000 slaves as miners. The quarry operated from the 3rd century B.C. to the 7th century (and then by the French company for a short period in the 19th century).
Near the quarry, I’m drawn to a little shelter surrounded by blooming and colorful plants. Is it a nursery? A marble carving studio?
An older man is speaking Greek to other visitors who appear to not speak Greek. He gesticulates and points to framed photos on the wall. He’s a happy man, spreading cheer as Brent and I walk through. He has groomed plants in large, square cheese tins and other playful planters. A peddle sewing machine sits nearby. On a table are hand carved marble ornaments.
He pinches off pieces of Basil and gives them to me and Brent, gesturing for us to smell and taste and enjoy.
His has a set-up that demonstrates how marble was manually carved. He even has a little model made of marble, a building next to a slope that goes underground. From the building extends a rope with equipment suited to haul out marble; a tiny marble replica of how they mined marble.
I’m enchanted by his green thumb, and the interesting “used” items on display.
“Mama. Papa,” he says to me, pointing to a framed portrait of a couple. Mama, mama, mama, he says, pointing at another photo, to indicate his great-grandmother. He points to the sewing machine and says Mama.
He’s smiling broadly and saying other things in Greek. We listen and watch his hands dance and nod yes, smiling. He is so adorable.
Behind his table of wares is a wall; solid on the bottom and windows on the top. The window panes are grimy but we can make out a chair and a blanket. Brent thinks he lives here.
I must buy something from him. Other folks look around and leave, but I want to support his good cheer and his hand-carving of marble, so I select a perfect heart, about 3 inches at the widest, for 6 Euros. He very carefully wraps the heart in paper, then tapes it closed. All merchants throughout Greece wrap every item and then place them into gift bags. They’ll staple the gift bag closed, or will tape it closed, and always attach their business card.
But I don’t need a gift bag and show him I’ll simply put it in my purse. Brent and I plan to create mosaics from the goodies we find in Greece (rocks from the beach, sea glass, pottery pieces, etc.) and this heart will be a charming addition. He offers to write a receipt and I say no. I should have let him, though, because then I would have his name.
Brent takes photos as I transact with the gentlemen. He is so joyful, I can’t resist giving him a hug. Then he poses in his all joyousness for Brent, with his arm over his head.
We get back into the Orange Screamer and head for the next village, Lefkes.
Often, I think of this happy marble carver in his garden on the edge of a quarry, sharing his family portraits and his love for life.
I regret not knowing his name.