Last week I heard on the radio that it will be trendy to measure how many deep breaths you have taken instead of measuring your steps with the step counter. In other words, our inner health will be in focus next year. However there are communities where the inner soul and simple living have been in focus for centuries. Lets discover Tinos island of the island group Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. Only twenty minutes by ferry from Mykonos but still unknown for foreigners. On the other hand its well known in Greece as over one million pilgrims make a visit here every year. Every greek will visit the island at least once to see the Holy Church Panagia in the capital of Tinos.
How to get here
You will reach Tinos with ferry from Pireus or the port of Rafina in Athens. Depending if you take the fast ferry or regular you will reach the island in 2-3 or 4-5 hours. The nearest airport is located in Mykonos. If you want to discover the islands near Tinos there are direct connections to Andros, Mykonos, Syros, Paros and Santorini with the ferry.
This little island has 52 villages, 41 beaches, 650 pigeon houses and at least 750 churches according to what I heard and discovered on the web. Amazing but probably true…
This island has been inhabited since ancient times and since then various nationalities has conquered the island from the Persians to Alexander the Great. The island has also belonged to the Roman Empire and times when pirates ravaged here. In the 13th century the island was conquered by the Venetians. Many inhabitants converted to Catholicism to retain their lands. But there was a law that allowed you to keep the land if you had a church within your landmark, therefore the orthodox population built a lot of churches. During the Ottoman era the island becomes a small metropolis and is called Little Paris. As the trade flourishes with Constantinople and other cities in the Mediterranean is the most populated island in the Cycladic group.
Art, culture & food
Tinos is also the island of arts as many famous painters and sculptors are born here. The painter Nikiforos Lytras and the sculptors Giannoulis Chalepas, Fillipotis Dimitrios among other artists are born in the most picturesque village Pyrgos. Another famous painter is Nikolaos Gyzis from Sklavochorio village. Many of the artists studied in Munich and became famous outside Greece. The fact that Tinos has been an island with quarries of white and green marble since ancient times has given the Tinians an excellent reputation in Greece and abroad. Around the island and specially in Pyrgos you see great work made of marble. Extra interesting is also Giannoulis Chalepas story and his home is now a museum in Pyrgos along with the Museum of Marble Crafts.
You don’t see many trees in the landscape as the Cycladic islands are very windy. There are few green areas in Tinos, so what grows here often are capers, figs, artichokes and some specials grapes as the soil is dry. However Tinians love their land and have great gastronomy and great cuisine to normal greek prices. Wine from the winyards along with the green kitchen and seafood makes you definitely want to stay here longer. Every year in the second week of May Tinians arrange a food festival, don’t miss Tinosfoodpaths if you are nearby.
When you travel through the island you also notice the small pigeon houses decorated with stars, circles, flowers or the initials of the owner. The breeding of pigeons began with the Venetians. If you had a pigeon house you were wealthy.
The island of faith
Tinos has plenty of churches but the most visited is Panagia Evangelistra in the town Chora. As the Greek pilgrims travel here to touch and see the healing icon of Virgin Mary who was found here 1823. You might have heard of believers who walk on their knees from the harbour up the hill and the church to ask for protection and favours from the Virgin. Yes, I saw that view as well. In fact there is carpet on the road and up to the entrance of the church. Anyway after they found the sacred Icon Tinians built the church with marble from Delos and Tinos and is today the most important orthodox place of worship.
By the village Arnados you will find the monastery of Kechrovouni. The monastery is built around the 1100 century by three sisters of a wealthy family. The saint Agia Pelagia lived here and had the vision 1822 of the sacred Icon. The sacred Icon is kept in the church of Holy Panagia in the town Chora but returns here for a short visit every year in July to celebrate saint Agia Pelagia. About twenty nuns live here at this beautiful monastery today. Here you find a cute museum with paintings, icons and old crosses from the past centuries. You can also buy small items in the shop to support the nuns. Outside the monastery you have a small market with herbs from the island to bring home.
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