Friday, September 16, 2016

Tinos, Greece


Tinos, Greece
David, 16 Sep

Tinos isn’t one of those Greek islands that you hear a lot about. It doesn’t have exciting nightlife, like neighboring Mykonos, and while the weather is warm, the winds can be a bit fierce. But the upside is that it’s ruggedly beautiful and if you go during off-season, you’ll have a lot of the island to yourself and you can drive several kilometers and not come across anyone else. You’ll have the road to yourself.
wild Greek herbsNot being juilletistes or aoûtiens (people who take their vacations in July, or August…or in some cases, both) we took our vacation in September, when most people return to France for the rentrée. To me, it’s the ideal time to head out of town and traveling is much easier, and not just in France, but across Europe.

Friends with a house on Tinos invited us to visit, and we stayed with them for a few days, then stayed on after they went home, taking advantage of the calm island, one that’s easy to get around; you won’t find traffic jams, and most villages in Tinos can be driven to in 30 to 45 minutes, tops.
Tinos is known for being a deeply religious place and it’s said there are around 700 churches; which is quite a few, considering the population of the island is in the vicinity of ten thousand people. A number of visitors come to make the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Tinos, and crawl on their hands and knees up a sloped, carpeted pathway, that goes from the sea to the church, hoping for a miracle.
Tinos restaurants
My miracle was that I made it through a few weeks shuffling between three languages, without making any major gaffes. The signage on the island is excellent, and it was hard not to remark, that so are the restrooms. All of us – a mix of French, Italian, Swiss, and the lone American (me) – couldn’t help but notice on how clean shopkeepers and restaurants kept their marble WCs. I didn’t take any pictures but imagine of an all-marble hospital, and you’ll get some idea of how clean they were.
Some signs (and business cards), however, were only in Greek, which is natural being in Greece. And when they were in the English alphabet most of us are used to, they didn’t always correspond, so I provided business cards just above for four of the places I mention in this post, in case you decide to visit. If you want to live like a local, you’ll have to learn some Greek, which my friend who we were visiting did: In less than two years, he learned to read, write and speak Greek fluently. But when he left, we were on our own, which wasn’t a problem.
(For reference on the business cards, the top left is for the taverna in Isternia, the top right in the cafe in Kardiani. Bottom left is a good Greek food store near the port, and on the bottom right is Tarsana, an excellent restaurant on the far end of the main port, all of which I’ll mention later.)
But no matter. Tinos is small and if you ask someone for directions or have a question, they will happily point you in the right direction. The locals were very nice and we got by with our mixture of French, English, with a few words of Greek we picked up, tossed in to the mix.
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