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BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014

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Roger the Skiffler 01 Oct 14 - 02:57 PM
fat B****rd 01 Oct 14 - 03:20 PM
Roger the Skiffler 01 Oct 14 - 03:48 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Oct 14 - 04:16 PM
bubblyrat 02 Oct 14 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,DaveRo 02 Oct 14 - 11:42 AM
Roger the Skiffler 03 Oct 14 - 08:47 AM
fat B****rd 03 Oct 14 - 02:49 PM
Roger the Skiffler 04 Oct 14 - 05:45 AM
Micca 04 Oct 14 - 08:31 AM

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Subject: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 02:57 PM

In 1982 two thirty-somethings planned their first trip to Greece. They picked an escorted tour that would take them by plane ferry and coach to Athens, Paros, Santorini (Thira) and Tinos. It was the start of a lifelong love affair with Greek islands, people and food. Then we only stayed a couple of days on Tinos, just enough time to visit the famous Church of the Virgin with its revered icon, a place of pilgrimage for devout Orthodox Christians that rates with Patmos as one of their holiest places. It was foggy while we were there, a planned trip to Delos didn't happen. Our return journey was a nightmare on an overloaded ferry with a consequent permanent list. This year we decided to revisit it. Instead of a long ferry journey, the opening of an international airport on Mykonos meant that we only had a 20 minute trip on a modern ferry which at this late in the season was uncrowded. The taxi driver who took us from the airport to the ferry (caught by the skin of our teeth thanks to a one hour delay intake off time from Gatwick) bemoaned the fact that Mykonos, now the home of so many foreign houseowners, cruise ship visitors and "beautiful people" wanting luxury jewelry was no longer a Greek island. He assured us we would enjoy Tinos.        We thought the accommodation would not be as good as we had esperience injune inMilos but we had abn even bigger wraparound balcony. OK no swing seat or sunloungers and no towelling robes but we didn't moss them. We did have a tv that we never switched on, air-con (used a couple of times, Tinos' reputation as a windy island made it superfluous), free WiFi and a pesoula (one of those built-in benches that you see outside Greek churches) around the terrace that could house the whole permanent population of Porto village (32!).
        The end of September is the winding down season for Greek tourism. There were no more than three or four other units (of about a dozen) occupied at any time during our stay. The downside was that the owner had stopped keeping milk and icecream for his guests. We did buy some water from him and the last two half bottles of a very drinkable local wine. The main village shop had also shut for the season and we found another where the old lady was sitting peeling her potatoes amidst largely empty shelves. We did manage to get her last carton of longlife milk and some crisps so we could have our pre-dinner drink on our terrace and an early morning cuppa. Two beaches were on our doorstep supplied with umbrellas and sunbeds but also some empty stretches. There were two beach bars where we could get morning coffee, and, until we could stock up on supplies, breakfast. The brochure had assured us there was a tavern next to the apartments. There was, but it had shut. That meant there was no-one to collect the rent for the sun beds (or "sea chairs as the notice called them. However, the owner came and took them into storage after a few days. The smaller beach was generally more sheltered and was where we spent much of our lazing around time. Neither beach was ever busy.
        Confusingly, Porto Village was also known as Skylander or Laouti and the beaches at Porto were called Ayios Sostis at one end and Ayios Kiriaki at the other, the other beach was Port at one end and Ayios Joanna at the other. There was an excellent bus service which took us into town for 1 euro 60 (in fact anywhere for 1 euro 60) every hour or two so getting supplies was no problem, although we had to remember that the supermarkets kept tradition Greek shopping hours (closed late afternoon).. Helpful Mom and Pop style minimarkeds stayed open and carried an amazing range of stock in a small space.   However, maybe it was a mistake to buy the wine we were recommended in one such shop: a Cretan dry rose in a plastic screwtop bottle for 3 euros for a litre and a half. I called it General Kreipke's revenge*. The bus timetable changed every Monday but was always posted on the bus stop. Local taxis also advertised at the bus stop in case there was a hitch in the bus service.
        As well as the beach bars there were two good tavernas and a hotel tavern in the village though menus were restricted as there were few customers around. One evening in the beach bar I fancied an icecream-none left. OK I'll have a Metaxas. The barman scouted around and found a bottle with a drop left. It was about half a Greek measure (ie more than a UK measure!) but the price was adjusted accordingly. Raki, however was freely available everywhere, usually home produced, often flavoured with anise or honey. Menus, as always were a delight. They offered: veal with sty, pork neck with lamp fat, boney fingers, chef's lamp, giants and, in the vegetarian section, pork with green beans. Also Freddy Cappucino (the well known barista?)
        The accommodation was not perfect. There was a modern shower-room with plenty of hot water but no sink plug (but, old Greek hands, we always take one). It also had that system where you put the room key in a slot to get the electrics to work. That meant that you couldn't charge anything while you were out, or cool the room with air-con, or leave the bug zapper on while you were at dinner. Also there was no delay so you couldn't see to lock the door unless you has a torch (OK we always carry one) or leave the outside light on to guide your return.
        Both beaches shelved very gently and benefitted from waves generated by the passing ferries and the enormous "block 'o flats" cruise liners heading for Mykonos, and later in our stay, buy the melteme wind. The island is noted for its dovecotes dating from the Venetian occupation in the Middle Ages. Some have been restored, others converted to dwellings, many remain ruined. As well as village churches there are over 1500 prio vate chaplels owned by families. Often these are only opened for services twice a year, on the appropriate saint's day and on the family name day. The jewel in the crown though is the Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin which holds the icon uncovered by the nun now Saint Panagia. The story is familiar- every Greek island seems to have an icon dug up after a nun or monk had a vision of where to look. On Tinos the cathedral is up a long sloping street and the chapel is upa a flight of steps. The devout penitents cover the whole distance on their knees, often carrying large candles. Shops along the way sell what I would (as a sceptical Protestant Dissenter) describe as religious tourist tat. Candles of all sizes, poor reproduction icons, bottles of holy water or empty bottle to collect the same, bracelets to hold against the icon and then give away or wear. Inside the chapel the icon is in a marble iconostasis, the image almost wholly obscured by a silver cover , the whole protected by glass. Having crawled this far the devout then kiss the glass, or press the bracelet they'ev bought, often stillin its wrapping, against the glass. An acolyte stands by to clean the glass with a sanitized wipe between kisses. The Gregorian chanting of the priests was very impressive however, and the church was a mass of icons,censors and lamps, donated by the faithful. Priests were on hand to take donations and written requests for prayers. In one of the chapels was a drinking fountain from a natural spring whose waters had been blessed and people were filling souvenir bottles and applying it to bandaged legs etc.
        We looked at the "jolly memorials" in the shops (as Gerard Hoffnung called such souvenirs)for the most distasteful to give to friends of ours (our Venus de Milo in a snowstorm was destroyed by baggage handlers in June) and found an image of the iconostasis in a snowstorm –we had to buy it. It survived the trip!
        The town also boasts a tame pelican wandering round the harbour. This was the most exotic bird we saw on the trip, apart from a flock of rollers. After the quiet of the village the town seemed noisy and crowded. Of the island's population of eight thousand, five live in the town. We were amused to see the toilets in one establishment were labelled with a piece of embroidery and a needle on one door and a screw and rawlplug on the other. Notthat the Greeks are sexist, of course.
        While in town we went into the bus station to book on a round island tour. We wanted to go in two days time. No, you had to book the day before! So we came in the next day, booked and then walked out of town to the village of Kiriaki where we had stayed as an awful mass market hotel way back in 1982. We visited the Temple of Poseidon with the later Roman bathhouse plaster still retaining some colour and had lunch at one of the group of tavernas that weren't there all those years ago.
        The bus trip was very good, a whole day out for 12 euros a head with a bilingual guide (who had to leave us at the last late lunch stop to go and teach a class!). We visited the nunnery where Saint Pelagia had her vision, saw a mosaic version of the icon, saw her skull and her simple cell. There were still 32 nuns, each with an individually decorated cell, many with lovely flowers (and a craft shop of their work!). The tour took in many of the inland villages and we visited the modern marble museum (free to over 65s!), marble white and green being the main export of the island. We also saw more ruined windmills and dovecotes than you could shake a stick at, and visited a sweet factory shop! One of the villages was called Volax and was in a landscape dotted with round boulders, probably volcanic in origin, many built into the houses. Was the village name the root of a slang English expression for certain round things? We explored the churches and marble workshops and statues and folk museum of Pyrgos and ended up at the small harbour of Panormous, opposite the island of Andros. A lagoon behind the beach was home to ducks, geese and terrapins.        
        Artichokes are one of the main vegetables grown in the fertile interior of the island, which seems to have no shortage of springs. They have an artichoke festival in May every year. It's not quite Woodstock, but, hey...I did manage to get an artichoke omelette.
        I always like to try local dished. One such was "louza". Our waiter described it as "pork, small". We ordered it as a starter- it was a few slices of ham cured, I later discovered, in wine. Another dish listed was "stamna". This I was told was beef- no other description and they didn't have it any way. My dictionary translates it as large jug so perhaps it is like jugged heare or another version of the "veal in clay pot" on most Greek menus. Our favourite tavern gave us a large plate of water melon after each meal AND a slice ach of freshly baked honeycake AND ,most evenings, a glass of raki as well. Others gave us a bunch of grapes or a spoon sweet. Ordering a coffee in town got you a min croissant as well.
        We were a little disconcerted one evening when we sat down, the waiter laid the paper cloth, put out the condiments and an aerosol insect spray!
        We never did get to Delos, the trips weren't available from Tinos except in high season and the wind in our second week may have stopped them anyway. The travel agent we were recommended turned out to have retired- we had been phoning and trying to find the office in vain. However, the local bus trip was enough.
        As well as the walk to Kiriaki, I did a walk to the next beach Pachia Ammos while Sheila was shopping. It was interesting to see how casually marble is used –in drystone walls, ancient and modern. Waste marble piles discarded, not even ground down for chippings. Once I left the village I didn't see another person tjhoughonce Ilooke up and two goats were watching me from the hilltop. Then three, then four, then another between me and the cliff top. I wish we hadn't watched Hitchcocks' The Birds just before we left home! Another walk we did was to the top of the headland between the two beaches where there was a stone structure that when we got to it was obviously an ancient chamber tomb, what in Cornwall they would call a fougou. Strangely not marked on our map or mentioned in the guide books. We also walked up the hill behind the village on a windy day (too hot otherwise) and got some great views. The whole island is covered in stone reinforced terraces and walls, mostly in better repair than usual, probably because the stones used are larger. The number of man hours to construct these miles of walls over the millennia is mind boggling. The ancient threshing circles were not stone surfaced like on other islands but stone-ringed with upright stones.
        One Friday night in the tavern we arrived to find a table of about a dozen people singing Greek songs- they all had typed songsheets. The grandfather of the family that ran the tavern came out with a guitar to accompany them. At one point they sang "Happy Birthday" in English. We saw one family who were in that party on another evening and they turned out to be Swiss- they must have been one of the families with a house on the island to have such good Greek and familiarity with the local folk songs. They were also fluent in French, German and English! At another table were two large Greek ladies with a lot of bling on, I felt I needed darl glasses as their rings caught the light. Not content with the melon, cake and raki, they demanded a spoonsweet as well!
        You might think by now we could get through a holiday without an embarrassing experience? No? On day I returned from the beach to use the facilities of our apartment. I was in a hurry (you know what mean, gents of a certain age- doctor says drink more water and you've got a prostate the size of a grapefruit!) . I heard a click and thought the wind had blown the front door open , no it was the elderly cleaner. There was no catch on the bathroom door, she was expecting to get her mop and bucket instead... Shriek and ran out! I understand she had to seek counselling and take a trip to the cathedral but she did leave us a spoon sweet later in the stay so I think all was forgiven- we left a good tip in case I'd scarred her for life.
        Because of the ferry winter schedule coming into play we had to leave Tinos one lunchtime to get the ferry to Mykonos for the following day's flight.
        I'll deal with Mykonos later

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: fat B****rd
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 03:20 PM

Thank you,Roger. As usual I'm mildly envious. Good job I'm of to Singapore next week.
Best regards as always to your good self and Sheila (wmbo) from Charlie.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 03:48 PM

I forgot to add the reference:
*See the book Cretan Runner or the film based on it Ill met by Moonlight.

Thanks, Charlie, have a great time.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 04:16 PM

Roger, you know I share your love of Greece and it's islands, music, food, and people. How lucky you are to have a "second home" there! Thanks for letters.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: bubblyrat
Date: 02 Oct 14 - 07:43 AM

Have a great time in Singers , Fatso : Give my regards to the inhabitants of Loyang (near Changi) if you go there !

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: GUEST,DaveRo
Date: 02 Oct 14 - 11:42 AM

My wife and I were stormbound on Tinos for a week, a few years back. I remember the marble museum; I dropped her camera on the (marble) floor. It's one of several sponsored by Piraeus Bank. We've visited several, all excellent - particularly the olive-oil one on Lesvos.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 03 Oct 14 - 08:47 AM

...and so we say farewell for another year as the sun sings slowly below the horizon and this thread drops of the bottom.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: fat B****rd
Date: 03 Oct 14 - 02:49 PM

Roger, "Singing sun??" Have you been nipping at the Ouzo again?.
Thanks to you and Bubblyrat for your good wishes. Dunno about Loyang but I've been promised an elephant ride.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 04 Oct 14 - 05:45 AM

Thash allrigh', Chaz (hic). Enjoy SinKapore.

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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Tinos (Greece) 2014
From: Micca
Date: 04 Oct 14 - 08:31 AM

Thanks Roger for this and the link to the Pix, I do so enjoy your trips to Greece,
" Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

'T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles"

Tennyson "Ulysses"

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