Greek Island Overnight — In A Phone Booth

Did I tell you about the night I spent in a phone booth with my dad and brother on the Greek island of Paros? Here’s what happened: In the mid-80’s, my siblings and I were living in the US while my father was living in Greece. My little brother and I were visiting one summer, when Dad decided to take us to our favorite weekend-getaway on the Island of Syros. Early Saturday morning, Dad drove us in his blue Pugeot 504 station wagon from our apartment in Athens to the Port of Rafti. There we boarded a ferry bound for the Island of Syros. Arriving mid-day, we checked in to our favorite little inn overlooking the sea. “Say, let’s try something different this visit,” my dad proposed. “Let’s make a day excursion over to Paros this afternoon to see the caves!” We were game. It was warm, so first we took a dip in the sea, then headed back to the harbor in swim trunks, tee shirts and sandals. My dad wasn’t even wearing a shirt.

Ferry on stormy sea

We experienced a bona fide storm-at-sea once, too, but I think that was another story.

We hopped another ferry over to Paros, and inquired about the shuttle across the straight to the tiny cave-riddled island of Antiparos (accent the second syllable, please). “No boats to Antiparos today. Sea too rough.” Bummer! Oh well. So we knocked around the village for a while, ate some souvlaki and waited for the return ship to Syros. When it failed to appear an hour after its scheduled arrival, we inquired. “No more ferries today! Sea too rough!” Now, cancelling the little row-boats  to Antiparos I could understand, but the ferries? These things were monstrous! And the day was bright and clear! What could prevent them running? We went back down to the harbor and looked out to sea. Sure enough, it was breezy, and the ocean was flecked with whitecaps all the way to the horizon. No more ferries! What were we to do? The island was packed with young European tourists. We asked about lodgings. “No rooms!” Evening came on. We sat in a taverna and ordered… slowly… and ate… very slowly… and then dozed off. The proprietor came around and explained kindly but firmly that sleeping at the table was unacceptable and would we please leave. We explained our situation and begged mercy, but mercy came there none. We left.

Paros at night

Paros was a little grittier 30 years ago.

Now it was late at night. The wind had really picked up, and the kids were partying like fiends. “No ferries tonight! Another round! Styn yiassou!” It was chilly, and we were scantily clad and exposed to strong winds. Dad bought a tee shirt for himself and we sought refuge where we could: on a bench, under a tree, in the gutter, down an alley. Finally, around 1 am, we crammed into a phone booth. Around 2 am, I found a dark alley in which to relieve myself. Around 3 am, word ran amongst the drunken tourists: “A boat! A boat!” Mobs ran to the quay. Sure enough, a ferry, ghostly white in the starlight, was trying to maneouver into the harbor, but the wind was blowing hard against it broadside. For nearly an hour, the captain tried to bring the ship alongside the pier, but whenever the stern came in close, the bow suddenly pivoted out to sea. Around 4 am, with a blast from the horn, the captain gave up and the ship retreated into the darkness. We retreated into our phone booth. “What kills me,” my dad muttered, “is that I’m paying good money for two comfortable rooms tonight: in Athens and on Syros. And here I am sleeping in a phone booth!” When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, a ferry also appeared in the harbor, and we managed to board. I was nervous at the thought of succumbing to a crazed mob of retsina-intoxicated Danes, or finding myself on a severly overcrowded ferry doomed to capsize, but in fact we made it back to Syros safely, arriving late in the morning. We staggered to our inn and collapsed, sleeping all day and into the evening. We got up to catch the last boat back to the mainland, then drove across the mountains back to Dad’s place, arriving to greet again the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn. And poor Pop showered, got back in the car and headed to work. My brother and I slept until he came back. Some weekend! All we got out of it was a dip in the sea! If only we’d been stranded on Antiparos, at least we could have slept in the caves.

Antiparos Cave

Creepy caves of Antiparos. More accommodating than a phone booth.


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