03 October 2013

The best island

When researching which Greek island to visit, I discovered that every island is the best in all of Greece. Each travel website I visited claimed to have the inside view on which island has the most beautiful beaches, friendliest people, most delicious traditional Greek food, and the real spirit of Greece.  Most of the websites didn't agree.
View from our patio.

After thinking through my criteria more specifically I narrowed the search down. I easily ruled out the ones that claimed to have the best party spots, the places to spot celebrities, and the ones with the most nude beaches.  And zeroed in on the islands stated to be where Greeks holiday with less commercialized beaches and more family friendly spots.  From this short list, I read about each one in depth.  Travel writers are so good at what they do and each one of them convinced me to visit the island they were describing.

Our hotel, Porto Raphael from the "best beach on the island."
Until I read about Tinos.  This Cycladic island is a  four hour ferry ride from Athens meaning it was reasonably cheap and quick to reach.  As I read further I discovered that because of the healing powers associated with a sacred icon of the Virgin Mary found on the island, Tinos is a religious destination for Greeks - especially those looking for a miracle of healing.  This also includes many families with young babies who want to have their child baptized at the holy church housing the icon.

The holy church, Panagia Evangelistria, with a pilgrim
who has almost completed the crawl up the hill.
Pilgrims, mostly women, are so sincere in their belief that many crawl up the half mile hill to the church in humility and with hopes of receiving the answer to their prayers.  A red carpet lines the cobblestone street to make the journey easier on the knees of those making the pilgrimage.  We saw several people doing this while we were there and admire their belief but at the same time are thankful to believe God hears our prayers wherever we are and regardless of our self-sacrifice.

While we didn't choose Tinos for personal religious purposes,  we did love the unspoiled aspects which are preserved mainly because the island is a religious destination.  This holy reputation has kept away the party and commercial atmosphere of several other islands especially the closest neighbor of Mykonos.

The island does have beautiful beaches with crystal clear water.  The hills and inland paths are high and winding which allow for amazing landscapes of the Aegean Sea from almost every point on the island. Scattered throughout the island are many small villages which have quaint tavernas (cafes) and artistic shops.
The hills of Tinos contain an abundance of beautiful green marble that is cultivated for sculpting. As a result many famous marble sculptors have come from the island and study here.  We visited several marble sculptors shops and met one artist who opened his studio to the public.  His shop is right on the corner in the beautiful village where our little car was almost swept off the road by the bus.

One of the 1000+ dovecotes on Tinos.
One more interesting thing that the island is known for are its dovecotes.  There are at least 1000 of these very ornate structures throughout the landscape. I'm amazed at how elaborate the architects made them as their main purpose was simply to attract pigeons for their meat (and droppings).

I have no perspective on whether or not Tinos is the most beautiful island.  But I can tell you it fit every bit of what I was hoping to find in Greece.  It had white buildings narrowly built together.  The beaches were uncrowded beautiful with crystal clear blue and green water.  We did encounter several nude sunbathers, but they were discreet and mostly older men who had clearly been swimming freely all of their lives.

Tinos market with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and capers.
There was just enough to see on the island that we always had something more to go do but without feeling overwhelmed at needing to see it all.  We left plenty of time for relaxing on our porch or at the beach but countered that with exploring Tinos town, attending an annual jazz festival, and driving around the island.

We ate enough Tinos and feta cheese to make us cheese snobs for a while, but also tasted enough Greek coffee to know we are happy with what we can brew in our own coffeemaker on the counter. The chocolate croissants and the spinach pies flaked into pieces over breakfast and the little fishes stared up at us with their many tiny eyes for dinner. Nothing like eating unprocessed and fresh to the table!  Clearly those fishies had not sat in any freezer.

Whether or not it was the perfect island, I will remember Tinos for being all that I dreamed my perfect Greek island to be.  

1 comment:

Jen Allen said...

Beautiful Angie! Thanks for sharing, I've enjoyed reading about your vacation :)