Noilly Prattle: October 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 3 – no legs allowed

August 17

     We took a bus tour around the the island of Tinos. Stopped at four places during the 6-hour trip: Monastiri, Volax, Pirgos and Panormos.


Monastiri church
       Monastiri is a convent of Greek Orthodox nuns. Monastiri was the home of the nun, Panaghia, who had a vision of the location of an icon of the Virgin and for whom the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Panaghia Evangelistria,in Tinos is named.

painting of Panaghia (kneeling)
      On a humorous note, I was not allowed to enter the monastery since I was improperly dressed—short pants with legs exposed. There was a rather formidable looking nun guarding the gate and adamantly repeating “No bermudas, no bermudas!” to me and the other improperly dressed men who had to cool our heels and (I assume) do penance outside. Perhaps they are worried that the good nuns might get overexcited by the sight of male legs? Road buddy had long trousers and and long sleeved blouse (properly covered) and was allowed to enter the monastery.


       Volax is a charming old country village, white-walled houses, narrow lanes, stone pavements and, of course, the inevitable little white-walled church, etc., a typical Greek town in the Aegean islands. 


countryside village
       Along the route you can see many small white walled villages climbing up the slopes of the hilly countryside, and, here and there, windmills in various states of repair or disrepair. The brown hillsides of Tinos are apparently unique in that they are crisscrossed by a patchwork of non-mortared low stone walls that reminded me a little of the New England countryside where you can still see many such walls that define and delimit farmers' properties. There are also many unique looking structures called dovecotes (pigeon coops). Tinos is well known for its dovecotes. Pigeons are kept for the their meat and their droppings which make excellent fertilizer. The dovecotes are a kind of work of art in themselves. Decorated with various design elements they often look like embroidery. 


stone walls of Tinos
(Tinos town in distance)


an unadorned street in Pirgos
       Pirgos is a “large” town of about 450 population, a larger version of Volax with two large cathedrals of a dun colored finish that stand out among the white walls of the other houses, some of which are decorated with white marble. Tinos is famous for its white marble sculptural history. White marble is quarried in the Pirgos region. The abundance and availability of the marble gave rise to a large community of artists over the years since ancient times. The work of Tinos artists continues today in Pirgos and can be seen all over Greece, including conservation work on such archeological sites as the Acropolis in Athens.

one of Pirgos' two cathedrals 
white marble sculpture

white marble decorates architectural details such as stair railings, tile flooring, etc.

       Panormos is a seaside village that used to be a shipping port for the white marble quarried in the Pirgos region and the end of our tour, except for the return trip to Tinos town and the local bus back to Agios Sostis. All in all a pleasant way to see the island of Tinos and a chance to get in some serious walking exercise. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 2 – endless sunshine . . . wind rising

August 15, 2017

getting acquainted in Agios Sostis . . .

Cavos Hotel, Agios Sostis, Tinos, Greece

view from the balcony
dazzling contrasts of color and light
     Although the sunrise was calm and even a bit voluptuous, the wind rose steadily during the next few days sometimes gusting enough to push you around. We had a spacious room in the typical Aegean style hotel, white plastered stone walls, delicious breakfast included and, of course, great views of the blue sun drenched Aegean Sea.

our room
hotel popular with families with children

Tinos Town

on the bus to Tinos
they call the wind "meltemi"
      Once settled in and comfortable we decided to take the local bus into the town of Tinos—a 20-minute ride from our hotel in Agios Sostis. As we walked along the windy New Port we were amazed and impressed at how strong the wind and how clean and clear the water in the harbor was.

       The wind, called “meltemi” in Greek, was still blowing with what seemed like gale force. Although the seemingly eternal sunshine was beating down with almost blinding brightness, the wind made walking about Tinos effortless since it kept the temperature cooler than it would otherwise have been.
New Port of Tinos

the Greek Orthodox Cathedral

       Up the hill from the Old Port stands the Greek Orthodox Cathedral named (Panaghia Evangelistria of Tinos). The cathedral was build in 1823 on the site of a miraculous discovery of an icon of the Virgin Mary. The location of the icon was seen in a vision by a nun, Panaghia, after whom the cathedral is named. Oddly enough, the spot also happens to have been the site of a sanctuary to the Olympian god of wine and revelry, Dionysos, in ancient times.

lined with shops and cafes
pilgrims climbing to the cathedral
on hands and knees
       August 15, the day of the Assumption of Mary, is a big religious feast day at Panaghia Evangelistria. Pilgrims come to Tinos to make a pilgrimage to the cathedral. The cathedral is approached by two more or less parallel streets that climb up to the cathedral from the Old Port. One of them is lined with shops and cafes, the other one has a long narrow carpet running alongside the kerb from the port all the way up to the cathedral that devout pilgrims climb on hands and knees up to the cathedral. Impressive to see that!

Panaghia Evangelistria
interior of Panaghia Evangelistria
       The cathedral is a handsome building built with white Carrara and local Tinos marble. The surprisingly small sanctuary is sumptuously decorated with hundreds of lamps dangling from the ceiling. The overall effect is a little overwhelming yet surprisingly warm and intimate for a “cathedral”.

nice view of Tinos town and the Aegean 


the Old Port

the Old Port of Tinos
colorful cafe
       The Old Port of Tinos is drenched in the sunshine that the Greek Islands of the Aegean Sea are justly famous for. It serves largely as a marina for yachts, while the New Port handles the large ferries that ply tourists about the Aegean in summer. We "discovered" a very colorful cafe set up in a narrow alley in the Old Port and stopped for a rest and refreshment—we had glasses of “fredo capuccino” and iced lemon tea while the awning above are heads cracked like a whiplash in sudden wind gusts.

        The “meltemi” kept on blowing the whole nine days we stayed on Tinos, but it kept the temperature very comfortable as well. 

white caps on the sea due to the constant wind called the "meltemi"

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 1 – Tinos, getting there

August 12, 2017

        Given the chaotic, if not irrational, international political environment, traveling can seem like a daunting—some may think risky—undertaking. Cat and mouse games of nuclear chicken by narcissistic “leaders” resembling sandbox bullies with funny haircuts and dangerous toys. Inept foreign policies by an apparently clueless legislature that will more likely than not drive away old allies and push competitor great powers deeper into each other's arms, and so on and so forth. End of rant!

the Aegean Island of Tinos

Agios Sostis Church (left center)
and Mykonos (background)
        At any rate, come hell or high water, fire and fury, shock and awe or bluff and blink, one needs a getaway from all the “sound and fury” that only seems to feed into the media ratings frenzy of reality show politics. And here we are on a windy day in the Aegean Sea on the island of Tinos within eye shot of the better-known island of Mykonos. Our hotel, Cavos, is situated in the tiny town of Agios Sostis (named for the little Greek Orthodox church just across the street) on the southeastern end of the Tinos.

Shanghai waiting to board flight to Rome
on board - plied with liquor . . .
                It took a couple days to get here from Japan: a short flight to Shanghai, a long flight to Rome; short flight to Mikonos the next day and a ferry to Tinos. Unfortunately, the getting there part of travel (transportation, airports, terminals, ports) did not go smoothly this time around. There was some undisclosed problem with our flight which was delayed for an hour. Finally on board, a thunderstorm in Shanghai kept our aircraft grounded at the gate for three hours. At least they plied us with liquor and a newspaper headlining the aforementioned issue I could nicely have done without. After finally taking off, the sky was still unsettled with heavy cumulus clouds and lots of turbulence, but we finally arrived in Rome three hours behind schedule. Fortunately we were staying the night in a hotel, so there were no missed connecting flights.

. . . and a newspaper 

a bumpy ride thanx to these babies

Vueling's funny paint job
waiting for the Tinos ferry . . .

       The flight from Rome to Mikonos on a rather frivolous looking aircraft with a funny paint job (a colorful fuselage with polka dots on the rudder) was uneventful, took off and landed on time. But, there was a long layover of three hours at the ferry port and then the ferry itself was over an hour late. Fortunately, the hotel owner, as prearranged, was still waiting for us at Tinos Port and took us speedily and cheerfully to the Cavos Hotel.

. . . still waiting for the Tinos ferry
the Tinos ferry

                   After a good night's sleep I woke up to a glorious sunrise—political chaos shoved back into the furthest reaches of my mind. Good riddance!