The Cyclades island chain is known for having strong winds, and I had read before coming that the winds in Tinos were some of the strongest, but for the first few days, we had yet to see them. Before the first week was through however, the winds arrived and the mosquitoes were swept away, gratefully never to be replaced.
When the winds finally appeared they seemed determined to make up for lost time. For the first week, near hurricane force winds blow with unwavering fierceness, day and night. Out of necessity, I have learned what the Beaufort Wind Scale is. I have never before been in wind so strong and so unrelenting, but then, I have never lived through an actual hurricane. The winds are so strong that the sea becomes covered in a blanket of floating white haze comprised of the blown away tops of the whitecap waves. The sea is no longer the blue jewel dominating all horizons. It is now just a hazy white cloud.
Our plans to use Tinos as a base island, from which we can launch forth by ferry to explore the neighboring island of Delos and Syros, quickly became laughable Saturday morning, when after waking up early, we find ourselves being informed by the ship companies that the ferries for the day have all been cancelled. We pause for a morning coffee while considering Plan B. In that time, we see a massive ferry ship pull into the harbor and attempt to dock. The force of the winds is such that as the boat swings around into position, it begins to heel over sidewise. A crowd gathers along the water watching to see if it will capsize. It takes only one failed attempt before the captain gives up and the boat quickly pulls back out, without ever stopping. Indeed, it does appear that there will be no way off the island for now.
Undeterred, we decide to rent a car and explore Tinos itself, and off we go in the tiny rental, making sure to exercise great care when opening the doors in order to avoid them being ripped off the car by gusts of wind, as we had been instructed repeatedly by the car company to do.
We tour much of the island, which is larger than expected and incredibly beautiful. We stop in Pyrgos, a small town in the middle of the island, which is beautiful, and quaint, and lovely, and everything a town made of artisans should be. Small public squares, cafes, and little boutique shops make for a good, quick break before we continue onward. The hills of the island are covered in decaying terraces and are periodically punctuated by what appear to be tiny white fortresses, but are actually dovecoats, historic birdhouses dating back to the Venetian rule when pigeon breeding was widespread. It is a highly unusual and beautiful landscape.
We stop at the small Museum of Marble Crafts, before continuing onward to our destination, a large bay on the far side of the island with not much more than a few restaurants by the water. We have what would end up to be one of our best meals the entire trip by the water’s edge, while a German man regales us with horror stories of life as a small stone house owner on the island. We eat tzatziki as he describes trying, ultimately in vain, to battle a mafia pig farm owner contaminating his lands and draining illegal runoff into the water.
After eating and drinking our way through the hottest part of the day, we get back in the car and head for Volax, a relaxed and very small inland town located in the midst of an otherworldly boulder-filled landscape somewhat reminiscent of Joshua Tree in California.
The evening will arrive soon, so we begin the drive home. On the way we find ourselves passing Exobourgo, the highest point of the island. On a whim we park and get out at a trail head. It is a short walk to the summit, but the incredible force of the winds make it difficult to remain on the ground. We are blown over repeatedly, and almost turn back for fear of being knocked right to our demise, but hesitantly continue forward. We reach the peak in the company of one other adventurous German couple wearing the latest and greatest in hiking gear (an odd juxtaposition to my sandals). The view is beautiful but the winds prohibit lingering too long, and back down we scramble, exhilarated and ready to finally accept the end of a thoroughly satisfying day exploring Tinos island.
Previously: Greece Travel Diary Part 1 – Reality Bites
*I apologize for the image quality. I only had access to a low resolution camera that day. Still, I think the images convey a feel for the beauty of the island.