My greatest exploit on Paros occurred by chance: Dimitris Panagiotidis buttonholed Jacob and me at his famous establishment, Republic. He informed us the interview was secured, and details were required! Dimitris wanted times, personnel counts, and the questions, ASAP. Jacob and I were clueless, and the direction of our conversation was an obvious concern for Dimitris. Dimitris told us his brother, Agapios, will show us his bees! Two days later, Jacob heroically offered to pursue these bees and their story. I gleefully followed.
Just past the mountain village Lefkes, and deep within the valley, the Byzantine road’s cobbled stones weaved between olive tree orchards. With a collection of beekeeping tools and four humans, a small red van trundled down a precipitously inclined road. Our destination was just off the millennia-old footpath where we discovered almost 20 beehives buzzing with activity.
We explored these famous bee farms of Paros owned by the humble beekeepers Agapios Panagiotidas and Thalia Delagrammati. About a year ago Agapios told his fiancé, Thalia, it was time to become bee buffs, and she thought he went mad. Thalia, though, came to appreciate the culture of the honeybee caretakers. The bee’s were bonded to the island and their work. Parian honey is celebrated in Greek history.
Paros is “a place of honeybees” with “an abundance of pollen” (translated from the Greek “Yria, mellisotopos”). The honeybees pollinate wild thyme, blotting the entire island in purple flowers along it’s shores, hills, and valleys. Thalia related the story of Democritus, an ancient Greek philosopher, who anticipated living well beyond 100 years by ingesting no more than honey. Thyme honey, Thalia speculated, may have prodigious healing powers.
Thalia carefully coached Jacob and me into our beekeeper suits and gloves. In addition to the traditional beekeeping apparel, Agapios was equipped with the beehive smoker. The smoker calmed the bees: the bees expect fire to follow smoke, so they prepare to abandon their home by heavily ingesting honey for the flight. This behavioral response allowed us an opportunity to open Thalia’s favorite hive, the first wild bees she captured.
After greedily ingesting honey acquired from a gracious queen bee, Jacob and I traveled to the beekeeper’s remotely stationed bee sanctuary. The neighboring city of Krotiri shares the same Parian bay as Parikia. There, we found the bees home on the high shores of a peninsula. The hum of worker bees collecting nectar among the thyme foliage could be heard across the plateau. Our only casualty throughout this adventure was Agapios who was stung once. Thalia declared the bees obviously love him. Agapios means love in Greek, and there is no better method of love than to demonstrate love hurts.
A final thought, this adventure was completely off script, inspired by chance, and is a demonstration of our impact on the people of Paros. IUPUI students have an opportunity to participate in a community that wants to share their cultural heritage with us! Thalia and Agapios engaged us directly, and I am grateful for their enthusiasm.
– Daniel Spivey