Marie Lecocq - 2010-07-19
Situated to the North of the Cyclades, the island of Tinos has managed to avoid the kind of mass tourism which is rife in neighbouring Mykonos. Known for its refreshing north winds during the summer, the ancient residence of Aeolus is also home to the largest Orthodox pilgrimage in Greece.
Last summer, the Italian weekly Panorama featured an article with the headline “Farewell Mykonos. This year we’re off to Lipsi.” Our Italian friends who are the most faithful supporters of the famous Greek archipelago now seem to be tempted to discover islands and islets which were previously neglected in favour of Greece’s “Litttle Venice” or Santorini.
So is a new trend emerging? Relatively unknown havens of peace, the Cyclades offer another kind of tourism that’s more in touch with the inhabitants and local traditions. And all this is just a few miles away from the nightclubs and packed beaches of the most popular destinations.
From the God Aeolus to Buckingham Palace
Can unassuming Tinos, “the windy island”, sensibly situated between Andros and Mykonos, resist a new type of raid from modern day pirates – the tourists? From the high point of Exombourg rock, this land of many facets has, for centuries, fought against hordes of assailants that regularly set foot on its wild and idyllic beaches.
It became Venetian in the 13th century and inherited a particular architectural style that combined Cycladic tradition with the medieval love of sculpture: the lintels, fountains and decorative ornamental tiling in the villages are reminders of the artistic vocation of these places. It’s also the place of origin of the much prized marble that adorns ornaments in the Louvre and even Buckingham Palace! The presence of this precious material gave rise to a prestigious sculptors’ school in the town of Pyrgos, to the north of the island.
An “Orthodox Lourdes”
The other undisputed star of this “Orthodox Lourdes” is the Virgin Mary who has countless churches and chapels on the island dedicated to her. Furthermore, there are wild estimates regarding the number of religious buildings on this highly pious little land, ranginge from the 600 cited in the local tourist brochure right up to the 1,500 mentioned during the guided bus tour. You’ll have to judge for yourself when you are there!
During the month of August the little port of Tinos becomes the most important Orthodox Marian sanctuary in Greece. The success is due to Pelagie, a nun who found an icon of the Virgin in 1823 after receiving -s signs from her in a dream as to the location of the sacred image.
As for the gastronomy the island is characterised by the presence of its magnificent pigeon lofts where these birds were raised. They were considered a great delicacy… that is until the 19th century! Nowadays, poultry and artichokes take pride of place and this is enough to vary the delights of the Greek tavernas and the omnipresent (but delicious!) souvlaki.
Two to four hours by boat (depending on the type of boat) are sufficient to reach Tinos from Athens. During the summer period it is strongly recommended that you reserve your ticket online or at the ferry companies themselves - www.bluestarferries.com