Published 8 June 04
Greetings from Paros.
describes our recent journey to a neighboring island we would like to
alert everyone that despite news stories to the contrary 2004 is a great
year to visit Greece. Visitor numbers are way down so hotels and others
are negotiating lower rates. Even restaurants and bars are hurting
enough to keep prices low. I quote from deTraci Regula of About's
Greece for Visitors:
If the specter
of high prices is keeping you from planning your own trip to
Greece this year, I'm here to help exorcise that ghost. I'm in Greece
right now and finding prices are, if anything, down from last spring.
difficulty will be avoiding Athens during the Olympics Aug 13 to 29.
Email us if you would like help finding the right connections to fulfill
your dream of Greece.
Now this letter will
introduce you to Island Hopping! Karin does such an excellent job of
evoking the sense and feel of travel that we could not bare to cut the
length. So if you want the short version just
read the fuchsia coloured parts. We hope you enjoy it in any
case. Feed back is always appreciated, by the way.
May turned out to be
such a quiet month that Michael and I decided to fulfill one of our
desires...to visit one of the other Cycladic Islands. From Paros we
can see Syros, Tinos, Mykonos, Naxos, Ios, Fologandros, and Siknos. So
which one to choose? After a little internet research a delightful and
informative web page about Tinos made me want to go there and learn
more. So, Tinos was our choice.
We wanted to take our scooters, to
save money renting them, but the ferry from Paros this time of year (May)
is the SeaJet2 which does not take cars or scooters. The cost for Michael
and I was 32.00 Euro each for a round trip. We left at 11:00 AM, leaving
our scooters down at the port being reassured they would be safe for the
few days we were gone. The crossing was nice but a little windy, only a
short time of bouncing around on the waves after stopping to let
passengers off and on at Mykonos.
My first impression of
Mykonos from the window was: I am glad we did not decide to go here. It
is a strange looking island, seems to be a lot of houses, but totally
boring. I think that is because there are not many mountains, or
something? The only thing that Mykonos has for itself is Delos, the small
island quite close that was the center of the known universe eons ago.
Enough about Mykonos--the ferry left and out the window on the other side
was Tinos. Quite close to Mykonos. In fact, we were amazed how close all
the islands really are....it took only 1 1/2 hours to get to Tinos, and
that included the stop at Mykonos.
When we arrived, my
heart soared. I felt very exhilarated even before getting off the ferry!
Sailing into the little harbour with the mountains in the distance, the
busy Hora, and the Tinos architecture was like arriving someplace other
than any other island I have been to. It felt Spanish, or Italian. The
different colours of yellows and ochres on the buildings I found to be
quite nice and refreshing. The breezes were cooling, the sea sparkling,
and the best of all was that not many tourists got off the boat.
I read that Tinos was a 'religious'
island and looked around straightaway for the church. There it was, on
the hill top overlooking the town, with a wide marble road going straight
up to it! Even from the distance, it looked magnificent and important.
The first thing we did was to find a
bookstore and get a map. The second thing was find a taverna overlooking
the sea, and drink an ouzo and have lunch. That helps us to settle in and
give the map a once over. Also, we had to decide whether or not to rent a
car or a scooter. Michael favoured a car, I preferred a scooter. I know
he likes scooters also, but the constant wind in his face, plus any "extra
wind" blowing from the North, makes him uncomfortable. I prefer a scooter
because I feel so close to nature, and it is so easy just to pull over and
experience a view without worrying if the car is in the way of any
traffic. Plus often you want to take a track where a car cannot go. We
talked it over, and I won! Michael was OK with it, but I must admit Day
2, he probably wondered why he agreed to it! (The North wind blew quite
We found two nice
scooters, and after a few near misses in traffic and figuring out if it
stops quickly or not, we felt quite at home. We decided to look at the
church first, and then go out of town, hoping in the evening to find a
nice hotel/guest house on a beach or in a mountain village. The church
was a wonder to behold. I did not fully understand just what I was seeing
the first go around, but all was explained to me by a kind young man,
who's English was very good, on my second trip. He told me that people
come from all over the world to visit this church called 'Evangelistria'
because of a miracle that happened there in the 1800's. A nun in a nearby
Convent had a dream that a lost icon from many many years before her time
was buried in a field (where this church now stands). Where the icon was
found there had been a church 800 years before completely lost under
dirt. She did not want to tell anyone about her dream, because she felt
afraid people would laugh. But the dream came again, so she went to the
local priest, and he accepted her belief that the icon was indeed buried
in the spot she designated. He also knew of a supposed old church that
had once stood on this spot.
The miracle was that after a lot of
searching, they did indeed find a very lovely (and still intact) icon of
the Virgin Mary! After that, people honoured it, and believed Mary would
perform miracles through Jesus. And apparently those miracles still go
on. People come there for healings, drink the water of a well, take some
of the dirt that was around the icon, etc. Upstairs in the proper church,
built over the site, are silver votive candles hanging by the hundreds
from the ceiling. Under each candle is an emblem that tells what
particular miracle happened. One such story is about a ship that was
going to sink in a storm. The people prayed feverishly to the Virgin, and
their prayers were answered, they did not sink. When they came into port,
they found the hole and a large fish was wedged in it! So, under the
candle those people gave the church was a ship with sails and a fish stuck
into the hole with just it's tail hanging out! Lots of emblems of hands,
feet, houses, hearts, whatever the Virgin Mary helped to heal. All these
are in minted silver.
The best however, is the icon
itself. Today it is encrusted with so many jewels that people have given
Her, that you cannot see the Virgin very well. It is beyond amazing -
the necklaces, bracelets, and rings that have been given! We even saw
pilgrims walking on hands and knees up the entire marble road and into the
church. The road leading up to the church has a strip about a car's width
going up one side for these people. The steps leading into the church
(and there are many) are also carpeted. Just to show you how ignorant I
am, on the way up, I thought to myself: marble is very slippery when wet,
I bet the carpet is for scooters to climb the hill! (not thinking of how
cars might get up!). I felt really dumb when I saw a man on his hands and
knees, going to the Virgin for a blessing!!!!!
So you can see the church is a big
factor in this town, and for all Greece. In fact, I had a friend in
Aloha, Oregon (happens she was Greek) way back in the 1970's when Greece
was nothing more than a name on a map to me, and I really had not thought
much about where it was in relationship to the rest of the world. This
lady, Irene, (such a GOOD Greek name!) had a brain tumor. She quit work,
had an operation, and then her family sent her to 'some place in Greece'
which was TINOS for a healing. And now I not only know where Greece is,
but am standing at this very same church she put all her faith in.....such
a small world, really.
After spending a great
deal of time at the church we then headed for the hills! Such lovely
winding roads, up and up and up. At each turn, we saw more and more of
Mykonos, Syros and Paros in the distance. The sea got further and further
down, as we went higher and higher up! We felt like birds.....with the
breezes carrying us as if we were gliding on wings!!!!!! Such a lovely
and freeing experience. You could just feel the baggage float
off.....meaning all the cares of the world.
villages are numerous.....if you stood still and looked all around you,
you would see small clusters of white houses in ravines, hanging on
mountain sides, all calling out to come and visit them! Where to go,
which ones to see? We consulted our map and decided to explore the middle
and Eastern side that day, and then the next day we would do the rest,
meaning more North with a couple side trips down to coves and beaches.
Since the weather was not hot, we did not feel the need to go swimming or
wading, so decided the mountains would do for most of our exploring.
Our first stop was at the Convent
where the Nun had her vision. That was a self contained city! All
buildings were inside a wall, with room after room after room. I guess
they call them cells. This is where the nuns lived, and I might add not
with much luxury! We looked into one of the cells, and all that was
there was, was a bed covered with a horsehair blanket, a built in stone
sink with one faucet, a very small window, and a chair. But the
view....oh my! So close to heaven.....with nothing but sea breezes, birds
chirping, the wind whispering in the trees, and so so peaceful. We saw
very few nuns, their appeared to be lay people living there also. In
Greece Nuns still wear long black habits with veils. There were many pots
of geraniums in bloom, and a productive looking garden. I enjoyed being
there and am glad we made the short side trip to see it.
Our next stop was looking for a route
to a particular town we thought we might enjoy stopping at for a drink or
snack, but in our looking we went through many other small villages that
we had not intended to. We sailed past a road sign that said "Exobourgo
Castle" which excited me...but Michael was too far ahead for me to tell
him I wanted to stop. We had also been told about an area full of unusual
rock that we would find very interesting. Sure enough, just past the exit
sign to the Castle we came around a bend in the road and instantly the
scenery changed! What had been rough, but plowable land suddenly became
strewn with gigantic round boulders for miles! Nestled down in the middle
of all the boulders was the tiny village of Volax. Again, we decided to
not go there as it was far enough off the road and did not seem so
interesting. Michael suggested stopping at a taverna in one of the
villages because he needed to get out of the sun for awhile. Besides,
each village was so quaint, it is hard to not want to stop at a taverna
and sit with a cup of coffee or an ouzo. We were not having any luck,
because of the time of day that the Greeks typically shut up shop and take
a few hours off. We did however find a restaurant in the lovely village
of Skalados that was over looking at least 4 - 5 other villages. We sat
on the patio and enjoyed an ouzo served by the
sons of the owner who were minding the shop. They were school age
youngsters and liked practicing their English with us.
Now refreshed, our next destination
was Kolymbithra, a seaside village on a large cove. On the way, we went
up and down, around and through many quaint mountain villages, each one so
quiet and serene and full of flowers. It was at this point that I had to
stop my scooter, and let tears flow....which is something that completely
amazed me, because very rarely, if ever, have I been so turned on to
beauty and scenery to that extent. For the first time, I was glad Michael
was so far ahead, because I think he would not have understood my joy.
Even I could not explain my emotional state of mind.
We got to Kolymbithra,
and felt a bit disappointed. It was a very small community, and nothing
was open, although a few people were on the beach. Actually, we had hoped
to find a hotel and restaurant away from Tinos town, because we preferred
to be in the quiet countryside. Alas, it was not going to happen. One
thing we also noticed was that each village did not have a community of
restaurants, tavernas as we know them on Paros. I believe that is because
most people just go back to the Hora. Or perhaps in the summer months
when more tourists are around, more hotels are open. We did not see
grocery stores, restaurants, or even petrol stations in the villages. I
am glad we were forewarned to buy petrol before going up in the mountains.
So, because the hour was getting late,
we decided to head back to the Hora and get a hotel there. Once back we
started to feel a bit concerned, because we realized we were not seeing
anything to our liking, or the ones we liked were not open yet! We did
find one hotel by the church, but upon looking at the rooms did not like
it. How lucky we felt when Michael spotted a sign that said Vincenzo's
Hotel, Rooms that are Different...etc. So we went to take a look and
from the outside, it did not look particularly different let alone
special. But once inside, it was beautiful. We looked at 3 rooms, of
which two were 50.00 Euro, and one was 40.00. One of the 50.00 Euro had a
huge bathroom and shower, which excited me to no end because ours on Paros
is teensy tiny. So we got that room. It did have twin beds,
but........the interior was very nice. We had our own private sitting
space and table on a patio complete with cushions, where we were given a
welcoming lemonade and a lovely candle was put on our outside table at
night. Breakfast was included in the price; we ate downstairs in the back
garden. The breakfast was served very nicely on blue and white checkered
tablecloths.....different kinds of breads, local goat cheese, cake, coffee
of our choice, juice and a soft boiled egg.
That evening, I did a bit of shopping
and discovered a few streets that had lovely shops, most being religious
articles. One shop had very artsy religious articles and very
That night we went to dinner at the
harbour. We felt we did not have very many choices of restaurants to
choose from. Again, it might be that time of year, or maybe Tinos just
does not have many. We chose one however, that served local wine. We did
not try it though, because it was white and we prefer red. Our dinner
was good but nothing to write home about.
The next day, we got up early enough
to get a good start for a long day. We planned to take another road this
time, and go to the North end of the island. The unfortunate thing is
that I wanted to go back to the Castle and Volax, and while Michael was OK
with that, it meant going out of our way.
The castle was so high up and really
just ruins. It looked to be a very long hike and the day was very windy
so we just looked at it from below. We were curious though about it but
found information hard to come by. We met a Dutch couple who spoke with a
heavy accent, and the man said it was "Phoenician" or was it " Venetian"?
We just laughed and said, "Either way, it is OLD!" There is a Catholic
Church on the premises as well, with a long history. I picked up a
booklet hoping to find out something about the castle, but the English was
poor and they were only interested in telling about the church, which also
had a very old history. On thing I find interesting is that there are a
lot of Catholic Churches on Tinos, which makes that island unique and also
it tells you that the people of Tinos are open minded! However, I did
read that the only concession the Catholics made that is different to Rome
was to celebrate Easter the same day as the Greek Orthodox! Also the town
of Loutra, was until recently, an active Jesuit and Ursuline school where
a lot of kids from Athens went to school!
Volax was the other
place we missed on our first day. I am glad we went back....what a
discovery! A really quaint, clean, unique, special, interesting village!
As we sauntered through the village, we spotted an open door, peeked in
and saw a little old man making baskets. I asked to enter, he motioned me
in, and we watched him cut and weave with reeds. I wanted to buy on the
spot, but Michael suggested we look around a bit more, and then come
back. As we continued walking through the town, we noticed that house
doors and windows had a marble fan over it, each being a different
design. These fans are unique to Tinos as well, coming from a local marble
quarry that is still being used. So I just HAD to walk through the
village taking lots of pictures! The village was really small and only
paths going between the houses, no roads, no cars. Michael discovered
another open door, with another little old man weaving reeds, this time
around bottles. I bought one from him, because it would definitely be
smaller to pack, although, one day I will go back and purchase a basket,
because they are different in that they have lids.
Now we were ready for the part of the
trip we had originally planned for the day....so we we went back to the
road we wanted and headed North. Michael planned our trip so that we
would eat lunch in Pyrgos, a village almost at the end. Our road
literally hung on the side of the mountain, with the sea a LONG ways below
us. Most villages were either way above us or
way below us, so it was not too tempting to explore any of them.
However, I spotted a few coves with lovely looking beaches and hotels and
thought perhaps we should try to get down there, but on looking at
the winding and twisting dirt roads, I had second thoughts. I did see
some trucks using better roads, but had no clue how or where to find
them. Besides Michael was hell bent on getting to lunch, so figured we
could do it on the way back. While driving along it was hard to keep your
eyes on the road and the curves, because Syros and Andros were just a hop,
skip and a jump across the sea, and even Paros was visible....and one
starts to feel so free, it becomes intoxicating! (and could be
dangerous!) The sea was blue below us, the sky blue above us, and
everything sparkled in the sun. I found it hard to keep from stopping a
million times and just staring out at it all.
One village we passed was very
interesting and is called Isternia. The main road did not go through
the village, you had to take a very steep climb up, and then the town
was built on the side of the hill. Each row of houses was above the
next! I wanted to stop for lunch there as I was hungry, but Michael
I was also told to be sure and stop in
the town Kardiani, that it was gorgeous. We saw the sign but no town!
When we stopped, and looked over the edge of the road, there it was, DOWN
a steep road and hanging to the sides of the mountain. I definitely
wanted to explore Kardiani, so planned to stop on our way back.
Also, at this bend in the road, we went through a very lush and tropical
feeling ravine complete with a waterfall! I felt I was in Oregon
some place! Trees with branches hanging clear out over the road, water,
bushes, vines hanging from trees!. Five seconds later we were back
to the sun and dryness! I might add, that Tinos is covered and I
mean literally covered with stone terraces. Every mountain side is
nothing but terraces. I read where they were made a long time ago
when Tinos was heavily populated. They were made as a conservation
method allowing the farmers to farm the hillside without erosion.
Those people really did work hard....in fact, seeing the mountain villages
makes one realize just how hard life was for them........all the steps the
people had to go up and down just to get to a well for drinking water, or
do the laundry or get to work! They must have been very fit people.
At last! we came to
Pyrgos. The hills surrounding it have a lot of windmills, but not
being used, and most in ruins! This area is where the marble quarries are
which are still active. In fact, Pyrgos is an artists
community....sculpture being the most popular, and other forms of art as
well. The village was a very welcome sight because the North Wind was blowing
up a gale, and we were constantly being battered by it. Thankfully,
it is nestled down in a ravine, so it was sheltered. We were very
hungry and immediately headed for the main square where we had a delicious
meal of marinated aubergine and local sausage. The main square is
sheltered from the sun by a huge plane tree. It was a very quiet square
however, and I had the uncanny feeling the restaurant owner just stayed
open for us...which probably is not true. Again, it is not tourist
season, so I am sure business is just slow.
We walked around Pyrgos and discovered
a remarkable graveyard. Greek grave sites are quite interesting. They
have pictures of the departed, a small shrine with a candle continuously
burning , a bottle of olive oil, and sometimes a cigarette, or a package
of Kleenex, flowers or whatever each individual's needs might be! These
little shrines have an opening in front like a little window. The entire
thing is carved in the local marble.
Pyrgos also has elaborate marble fan
decorations over their doors and windows. The village was so quiet after
lunch, being Greek quiet time, we tip-toed out and back to our scooters,
which I hated to start, feeling the noise was disruptive. I really fell
in love with this place and under certain circumstances could fancy myself
spending a summer or a year there.
From Pyrgos it is only a 5 minute ride
to Panormos, the beach at the Northern End of Tinos (you can go further
North a bit on a very rough road, but we were satisfied with ending our
adventure in Panormos). This village had several tavernas, all open. We
went on a bit further to a secluded beach area and walked along a very
very dirty beach. All I can think is that the winter storms had not been
cleared off the beach yet.
The hour was getting
late so we decided to head back so we would have time to stop at Kardiani.
At first it appeared to be a village that was dirty and under repair.
But once we got down into it, (and you have to park above and walk
down....)it became quite apparent that it was indeed unique in that it was
not modernized as much as the others. That made walking through
quite interesting. We heard water running, and discovered the
original stone laundry! A series of two rooms, one where the water
flowed from a waterfall on the mountain into a half round fountain, and
the other room had two huge tubs where women could do laundry, maybe wash
in one, and rinse in the other. Then we went outside to find very
steep steps and discovered the water running next to the steps in a trough
to fall again, far below. I walked down to see what next I would
discover, but the steps got quite old and rickety. I did see some
lovely flowered courtyards belonging to antique houses and very beautiful.
It was all amazing and wonderful. We found a grocery, where all the
goods are brought in to it by wheelbarrow. The steps leading to the
parking were filled temporarily with flat stones so that the boys could
get the wheelbarrow up and down!!!!!! What a LOT of hard work!!
Countless lovely old shutters and fans and grille work on old old
doors. People still living in the old houses. We found a group
of locals sitting in a square in front of a church that was overlooking
the mountainside with the entire world beyond!!!!!!! At 6:00 PM, one
of the women got up, and walked to the church door, grabbed a rope and
rang the Angelus. Everyone was busy crossing themselves! I
felt I had stepped back into time. To think this has gone on for
years and years and will continue for years and years! I felt
privileged to observe that tradition.
We were eager now to get back to the
hotel and have an ouzo and rest before dinner. Going to the beaches below
lost it's appeal......We stopped at the supermarket just outside of the
Hora and bought a small bottle of local ouzo and blue cheese. I
discovered most food prices on Tinos are less than prices on Paros. Hm-m-m-m-m.
I think it is because Tinos is not a tourist island and Paros is.
That evening for dinner we tried the
"other" restaurant and enjoyed that meal as well. None of the meals were
sensational, but good. Before retiring, we rode our scooters up to a
monument that overlooks the harbour. It was a beautiful night with all
the lights, and we could see the twinkling lights of the villages high in
the mountains, and cars coming down into the town. We saw the lights of
Mykonos and Syros twinkling across the sea, the stars twinkling in the
sky. It was total magic.
In the morning, I got up early and
took a few photos. Then we took the scooters back and went on to the port
to wait for our SeaJet 2 taking us back to Mykonos and then to Paros. The
day was perfect, hardly a ripple on the sea which always makes for a nice
crossing. About 5 minutes before the ferry was due, I discovered I had
left my library book back in the hotel. I knew I was in trouble....and
just as I was wondering WHAT to do, there was Anna from the hotel in her
car! She saw me, and held up my book! How nice of her!
So that was our trip
to Tinos. I have decided that one day I will definitely return, and I
hope that time is soon. For those of you who want to see another island,
I strongly recommend Tinos. Now you might get the idea that I do not like
Paros. No, I love Paros. I love the beaches, tavernas, and the lovely
communities that are here on this island. I love our unique church, and
the fact that this island is easy to maneuver on a scooter. So, please
come visit both......one is not better than the other; they are just
different from each other.