A place of intense religious significance, home to probably the most iconic Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Tinos has lately turned into a land of pilgrimage for hard-core surfers, acute foodies, beekeepers, wine fanatics and festival devotees. Hipsters and artists, lone souls and crowd lovers, they all share the same passion for the Cycladic Island, in all its rugged glory resting upon 75 square miles (195 square kilometres) of rough, austere land. What is the secret that brings them all together, where is the magic drawing them in, if there is such a thing? I had to find out for myself.
After four easy hours on the ferry from the port of Rafina, I am sitting behind the soft wheel of the all-new Mercedes A-Class, as I drive through the busy streets of the Chora, filled with day-visitors and preoccupied locals who are known as tough, stubborn and determined, in touch with both spirit and soil. In his book about Tinos Island, first published in 1843, the French travel writer Alexis de Valon noted: “The whole island is cultivated with great determination, almost in defiance of nature; in the absence of soil, the inhabitants even plough the rocks.” And this is the first realization I make, as I find myself under a scorching hot sun which is swiftly covered by thick, gray clouds, giving the mystical, rocky landscape a unique depth that literally takes my breath away with its beauty. From the very first moment, I feel as if I am stepping into a dream, its script written by a poet.
A Midsummer Day’s Dream in the New A-Class on Tinos Island
Produced by Yatzerland Ltd, 2018
Directed by Costas Voyatzis & Dimosthenis Grivas.
Camera Operators: Panos Manolitsis, Emmanouel Armoutakis | Production House.
Composer, Video Editor: Dimosthenis Grivas
Project Photographer: Elias Joidos.
In a short but beautiful 5 km drive where I have the chance to indulge in the refined interior of the new A-Class, with its avant-garde dashboard that extends from one front door to the other and a completely free-standing Widescreen display, I arrive at Tripotamos: A captivating village with a maze-like structure and gorgeous views of the medieval capital ruins as well as the neighbouring island of Delos. As I soon find out, Tripotamos actually takes its name from the three rivers that run beneath it (Tri-potamos = three rivers). The peculiar way in which it is built provided the inhabitants to guard themselves against pirates attacking the island, back in the day. I decide to get lost in its little narrow streets and parkour my way from roof to roof, easy, as they are so close to each other! But, first things first: I have come here looking for Mrs. Sofia Passa, the owner and soul of the Crossroads Inn, a woman with a secret following of connoisseurs that come to her in order to learn, firsthand, the secrets of the island, in all its authentic nature and hidden treasures.
As she tells me, the housing structures of the Crossroads Inn were bought by her mother, Ourania, an architect who fell in love with the place when she first visited the island in 1980. This seems to be the case with many people that have come from near or far who go on to make the island their home. Everything in the Crossroads Inn, from the carefully rebuilt structures to the soaps, marmalades, and fabrics, are hand-made. In fact, a local pharmacist, as well as many of the village’s inhabitants, provide ingredients, recipes, and goods for its guests. I am instantly reminded of the 20th-century Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis who lived here in Tripotamos. He once called Tinos the “handmade island”. And I find this to be true in every aspect of my visit: Volax, 17 km north of the Chora, the village that was once the centre of basket-weaving in the Cyclades, is proof that nature has done some handcrafted work herself. The scattered, round rocks are an awe-inspiring, real-life sculpture that I enjoy through the wide front window of the car, as I drive through, mesmerized.
Speaking of sculptures, however, it is my duty to pay a visit to Pyrgos, the biggest, most impressive village on the island. This is, actually, the year of Yannoulis Chalepas, the legendary sculptor who called Pyrgos his home. I find his house right here, intact, after the entrance of the village, and as I chat with the locals, I realize that the 80 years that have passed since his death have not diminished his impact on the island one bit.
Driving away from Pyrgos, after a long and refreshing break on the shaded central square, the old windmills greet me as I approach Isternia. This side of the island is what the locals call “Exomeria” (Outskirts), where, together with Pyrgos and Isternia, the villages Platia, Venardos, Marlas, Mamados and Panormos create the most amazing rural setting. In fact, trekking fanatics will get a major kick out of this part of the island. The best path? Get food and water supplies and head down from Panormos towards the beautiful waters of Agia Thalassa where an all new beach bar, properly named Saint Sea awaits.
As I head back to Athens, I realize I have flooded the seat next to me with little notes to myself. One says “If you want to dive next to nature’s sculptures, Livada is for you. The most amazingly shaped rocks, reminiscent of the granite giants of Volax, are right here, after a rough ride that, with the new A-Class was actually a breeze”, and another “Kardiani is the green spot of the island, while Tambados is the valley of the intricately designed and amazingly built pigeon houses that the island is also famous for.”
Filled with images, smells and a sense of awe for nature and the tough love she has nurtured her people with, I wonder if the answer I was looking for lies in this strong feeling of intimacy, almost like I have been here before. Or maybe it is all part of this dream I keep having, my never – ending wanderlust.
THE NEW A-CLASS
► Yes, the A-Class has definitely grown up. With more shoulder, elbow, and headroom, this is a spacious recreation-friendly car featuring two-section rear lights, and a cooperative driver support system, enabling it to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations.
► The multimedia system MBUX - Mercedes-Benz User Experience, definitely creates the best driving feel I have ever witnessed.
► As for the MULTIBEAM LED headlamps with daylight-like light colour, this is an extra I couldn’t live without, which proved perfect for those cloudy days on the island.
THINGS TO DO ON TINOS ISLAND:
Agnanti, at Ktikados
Have you ever had pickled artichokes? The ones at Agnanti are so good, you’re sure to ask to take some home with you. Antonis, the guy with the biggest heart in Ktikado, will most probably give you some in a jar when he welcomes you to his family’s tavern, housed in an old grocery store dating back to 1931. Don’t leave without trying the meatballs, they’re the best on the island, by the way…
Krok monsieur, at Krokos
Spelled exactly as it should, due to its location, this little bistro serves an amazing croque madame, probably the best one you’ve ever had, even if you’re French!
Megalos Kafenes (Big coffee house), Pyrgos
Set centre stage in Pyrgos, where everyone ends up eventually during their visit, lies the coffee house known for its infamous custard pie, or galaktoboureko, and the even more delicious orange cake, decadently served with ice cream.
To Thalassaki, Isternia
A lot has been said of the place but the rosewater loukoumi with thick creamed kaimaki ice cream is reason enough to drive all the way to Isternia Bay.
The house of honey, Pyrgos
Make your way through the herbs, bee and wine products, and reach for a jar of Reiki, a kind of heather honey that is almost buttery in texture and the most amazing flavour you have ever tasted.
TRELA [madness], Chora
It’s only been a year since Carol Guinebert, a French woman who divides her time between Paris and the small village of Smardakito, opened this art & design lover’s paradise. Her unique curation of both vintage furniture and little knick-knacks, and new, exclusive design objects, create an interesting destination that also hosts exhibitions of both Greek and foreign artists.
Weaving school of Tinos, Chora
Walk along the old road to the church of Panagia Evaggelistria (Our Lady of Tinos) and on your left, you’ll discover the weaving school where people have been teaching each other the art of weaving since 1898. You might even come across some of the ladies, as they spin wool or weave on the loom, creating all the little hand-made masterpieces you’ll come across at the school’s shop at the entrance.