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Paul Topping

Paul Topping

Message in a Bottle: The Road Less Travelled – The Greek Island

Antiparos is a small island that is part of the Cyclades that comprises 220 islands in the Agean Sea. It is very accessible by sea with open deck ferries leaving from Pounta on the island of Paros. The journey takes about 10 minutes. Paros has the dubious title of the party island and tempting though it was to stay on my desire to visit Antiparos was stronger than that of nightlong party.

Arriving on Antiparos I quickly discover there are few mains roads but lots of secondary roads that generally will get you and your hire car to your intended destination on the island, hopefully without getting lost.  They say fortunate favors the brave and my decision to divert from the beaten track to explore each and every beach that was signposted resulted  in a very interesting discover. I inadvertently took a road that led to a dead end with little space to manouevre. What to do? A successfully executed 10-point turn in our ‘shopping trolley’, which masqueraded as a car, finally pointed me in the right direction.   However while reversing I noticed behind some trees a large cement plaque with an English inscription informing me that in 1960 a senior American officer and his son, who were on a Mediterranean cruise, placed a message in a bottle with their contact details. 

A young Greek man who made contact with the American, picked up the bottle. In return the American organised GBP 1,000 of Christmas gifts to be flown to the island.   This was a great example of humanitarianism to what was then a very poor community.  The gentleman in question was Colonel Charles Hostler who later became an US Ambassador to Bahrain. He continued to help the many Greeks who lived on Antiparos and was made an honorary citizen of the Cyclades. Some years later, in another act of humanitarianism, Hostler later gifted sea facing he had purchased to the local community. This act of kindness resulted in the then King, Paul of Greece, awarding the American the “Royal Order of the Phoenix”.  Who would have thought such an act of kindness would result from a message in a bottle.

The American connection with Antiparos continues with Tom Hanks and other American celebrities owning holiday homes on the island. Here they can enjoy the peace and quiet of 9 fabulous beaches; visit five large churches or 100 small domed blue and white places of worship. And if they get bored a trip to the nudist beach might relieve it!

I guess the moral of this story is never be afraid to take the road less travelled, personally, professionally or when travelling. Great things can happened when you take a wrong turn.

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