Black and White Memories

Embark on a sentimental journey through Skiathos’ history, as captured in photographs that stir cherished memories.

Cpt Giannis Parisis, the President of the Museum of Nautical and Cultural Tradition of Skiathos, peruses the album titled Skiathos: A Photographic Itinerary Through the Collections of the Benaki Museum, offering a captivating portrayal of the most beautiful Sporades island in the post-war era. It transports us to an era seven decades ago that was markedly distinct from today.

I came into the world in Skiathos at the close of 1940, just as the Greek-Italian war erupted. As I navigated my formative years, these memories became imprinted on the canvas of my childhood, and I mentally filmed the unfolding events within the confines of my narrow horizon. The culmination of these recollections is vividly portrayed in the monochrome photographs skillfully presented by the talented photographers before you. These images, which capture the essence of the island, its inhabitants, customs, traditions, livelihoods and daily activities, depict a rich tapestry of Skiathos. Our historical legacy lies in these visual narratives. However, for the researcher seeking photos of the island’s past, success is elusive, as only a handful have withstood the test of time. 

Let’s revisit my childhood and witness fishermen in the old harbour laying out their nets, mending and drying them, Gri-gri (purse seine fishing nets) in a row, drawing in their evening catch. Freshly caught octopus bask in the sun, transforming into sun-cured delicacies served in unassuming cafés. Roaming grocers peddle their goods, modest shipbuilders repair fishermen’s boats, and esteemed master shipbuilders craft their masterpieces, such as the sailing ship 12 Apostoloi. 

I recall the countless picturesque stone paths in Skiathos, adorned with exquisite herringbone patterns, cafés hosting humble islanders, traditional weddings, and ceremonies and vigils in chapels. I recall the stone bridges along the current main road. Back then, Alexander Papadiamantis Street was a stream of dubious cleanliness. The modest modes of transportation and communication with the outside world, exemplified by vessels like the P. Paschalis or the elegant Kyknos, were noteworthy. The latter arrived weekly, a significant event drawing dozens of curious onlookers, mostly men, to the beach while women gathered on the rocks.

The sight of the first tourist arrivals was a spectacle, accompanied by a cohort of young individuals. Some were there to offer luggage-carrying services for a fee, while others were simply chatting with foreign visitors. I could continue recounting numerous scenes and images etched in my memory. But I’ll conclude my childhood reminiscences with a Chinese proverb: a photo is worth a thousand words.

TEXT : Giannis Parisis
PHOTOS : Benaki Museum  /  The album is a collaboration between the Benaki Museum and the Municipality of Skiathos