Transcript of the podcast published on September 26th, 2011.
A few months ago I came across a blog entry on the geek describing the founding of a “boardgamer’s hotel” on Paros, one of the Cyclades Greek islands in the Aegean sea. I was very curious, as I usually like to combine holidays with gaming. I became determined to not only visit this place but to also report about it for the Dice Tower.
Apart of the natural beauty the Cyclades islands also have an amazing history, from Ancient Greece to the Byzantines up to modern times. All the islands are very different and each has its own distinct charm.
My wife is a gamer, and my son (4) is enjoying games as well. We were frankly sick of expensive hotels, room service and fixed meals, so we thought that booking an apartment would be a nice change. Also we were looking forward to a place where playing games was not only possible but also especially welcomed (which is not the case in every hotel – very often finding a table is the biggest problem!). Dimitris Varrias, a Greek boardgamegeeker (or is it a geek boardgamegreeker?) who runs the apartments together with his family, was very happy when we contacted him – he definitely wants the place to attract gamers, and he took great care in helping us with our travel arrangements.
We had chosen early September as our holiday season. This is a very recommended season for Paros, as the weather is still very good but the biggest tourist rush is over. We took a plane to Athens and then a ferry to Paros (ca. 5 hours from Piraeus). In peak times there is also a direct plane from Athens to Paros, which makes things easier, but riding the ferry was exciting for our son as there is lots to see on the way. Dimitris greeted us with self-made cookies by his mother at the port (Pariki) and drove us to the apartment in Naoussa, which is 10 minutes away by car from Paros.
Paros is not a huge island, but also not small. Pariki is its capital, but most tourists are drawn to Naoussa, which has absolutely retained its charm as a fishing village and boasts good beaches in direct vicinity. The Alea Apartments – nomen est omen – are located at the entry to the village of Naoussa and roughly 5 minutes walk from its center (and lively harbour). Supermarket and amenities are close by.
The apartments are centered around a good-sized open court which Dimitris and his family have made especially appealing for gamers, with 3 large tables that are well-lighted. There is also enough protection to be able to play when it rains (not that this happens very often in summer).
Dimitris has made his personal collection permanently available for the guests. This is a really solid collection of roughly 150 games (but growing very quickly) that cover any realm of gaming that one might imagine, easy family games, party games, Euro games, Themed games, even wargames. Just take a look at Dimitris’ collection on the geek and you will see that it is really attractive.
The Greeks have a very good reputation as hosts anyway, but I like especially that the Parikians have decided to keep the original look of the island intact. This means there are no ugly hotel complexes anywhere to be seen – instead one sees quaint guest-houses and small hotels built in the traditional style that has become rightly famous in the Greek Mediterranean: white and blue. Naoussa itself strikes just the right balance: it is neither too small nor too big or overrun. The beaches in Paros are varied – We nearly spent every day at a different beach and were never disappointed – the water was always clean, and there was lots of room for everybody. With a small kid we especially appreciated the children-friendly beaches with long gentle surfs into the ocean with absolutely no danger for the kids.
We have recently discovered the hobby of geocaching, and for this there are many opportunities on Paros (and also on Antiparos). There are some amazing caches on little islands that can only be reached by boat, but we didn’t try them. As many boardgamers are also geocachers I thought this was good to mention – we tried our best to lure Dimitris into the hobby as well!
One thing really has to be underlined: The Varrias family (Dimitris and his brother, as well as his mother Maria and his father Aristides) belong to the most wonderful and friendly people we have ever met. Dimitris took great care to show us the island and its sights, and of course he also spent every free minute gaming with us and other residents of the apartments, which turned out to be a lot of fun (one memorable game of Bausack as well as “Cockroach Salad” – in Greek! – comes to mind). Dimitris had to leave after a few days (he is studying medicine on the Greek mainland) but even then his family continued to care for us. We really felt very welcomed!
As one can tell I am pretty much raving about this holiday, but this exactly how we felt about it. It was one of the most wonderful holidays we ever had, made especially nice because of the easy opportunity to play games with friendly gamers living at the same apartments in combination with quality holiday opportunities.
I had booked the apartments on a hunch, because I have always made it my policy to trust fellow gamers. But even with an already positive approach to this endeavor we were surprised that it was even better than we ever could have expected it. I think Dimitris has an idea that has a lot of future, and the reactions to my geeklist describing this holiday have been immense, so there seems to be a lot of interest for something like this out there. I would not be surprised if more boardgaming resorts like this crop up in the future. Look for Alea Apartments Paros on the web to find more about the holiday I just described.