In the summertime, Tinos can't really be called a lush green island, even though there is plenty of vegetation, olive trees, lemon, lime and fig trees, tomatoes and artichokes, fennel etc. But the burning hot sun has turned all grass to a dry yellow, and the caper bushes and other small vegetation on the mountainsides are tough and hard. You need to be tough to survive on Tinos. Tinos makes you tough with the sun, the sea, and the salty hard winds blowing sand everywhere. You can sundry anything with that! In that sense it is not a really girl-friendly island for the skin and the hair turns coarse like Tinos itself after a while on the island. But being there, I don't mind it; it makes me feel like I'm a part of the island. I love the rugged wild beauty of the island!
While the mountainsides are dry enough to accomodate only the goats and the snakes, with a little help of the tough Tinoans, beautiful little villages spot the mountains and the valleys. The cycladian architecture is beautiful in its plain simplicity. Whitewashed houses with verandas arches and little walls built with the natural rocks and window and door panes and storm shutters blue like the Aegean sea, with bougeainvilleas hanging from the roofs and climbing the walls. And my very favorite flower, the oleander, growing around the houses and in the valleys in big bushes, sometimes forming true oleander oceans between the hillsides.
Like they are in Pachia Ammos Country Club, our favorite haunt when the sea was rough or the pool was otherwise the way to go. The Country Club had the most amazing view of the Aegean sea and tail of Mykonos, over the beach with sand green from copper mixed in the rocks. When there is no wind, the sea is all emerald blue and wonderful. When the Meltemi winds blow, the sea turns metallic gray with strands of the blue decorated with whitecaps and the sprays of water skating over the waves in the colors of a rainbow.
Last year I didn't experience more than a hint of the famous winds, but this year we had only one day without the wind, although most of the time it wasn't too hard. Not like it was a couple days before and on the day of our departure, when the wind was about eight beaufort and making the wild seem even more wild. In the daytime the wind was ok, other than all the sand blowing around too, but in the night time it felt like haunted souls moaning all around us, and I kept waking up to the howling and the banging of the storm shields and wondering what kind of havoc it was making. But no havoc, no haunted souls. Only the wind, and the tough Tinos that bends with the Meltemi, but never breaks. The trees have grown with the wind, and even when there is no wind, they stand like a still image of a wind storm.
We spent fourteen beautiful days on Tinos this year, plus the travel days. The house we stayed in is right by the Porto beach, only a dirtroad and a patch of protected grassy area away. We could hear the waves crashing to the beach when we were sitting on our veranda late at night, looking at the sea and the party-lit Mykonos. Every morning we went for a morning swim in the sea, and sometimes we went nightswimming too. In the night time, under the bright stars, I sometimes stripped off my bikinis and went skinnydipping. The water felt so good on my skin!
When we first arrived, our friend was there in the harbor to meet us, greeting us with a big welcome hug. We loaded our luggage in his car and the girls hopped in for their ride to our accomodations – even my girls who were on Tinos for the first time and didn't know our friend yet – while me and my boyfriend went to the supermarket and loaded our rental car full of groceries. Oh those olives and capers and Italian salamis and prosciutto, the Tinos cheese and all other delicasies! And chocolate filled croissants for all girls.
When we got to our house, my eldest daughter came running to me: “Mom, we have already seen the beach! And met the other kids here!” And she went off for some more exploration of the places. Later on we went to the Anemos beach bar down the road, where our friends the owners of the place were already waiting for us. We ordered some drinks and were treated with some welcome back raki and meze, and chatted for a long while before heading back to our house for a little more chatting with the other friends, and eventually to sleep.
The next evening was reserved for some more friends, this time the evening spent with those who have the best taverna in Tinos, the Malamatenia. We were sitting in the taverna, talking and having good food and some wine and ouzo while the girls roamed the alleys of Tinos town, becoming perfectly familiar with the alleyways in that one evening. Of course we had dinner there a couple more times, the last one our last supper on Tinos, like last year. And we popped by to say hello whenever we were in town.
We cooked many dinners at home too – the very best of those the whole rabbit we cooked on the evening of my girls night out with friends – but we also dined in many nice tavernas. One evening we drove to one of the small villages, Ktikados, and had dinner in a small taverna with only a couple tables on a balcony facing the village square and the valley with Tinos town and the sea behind it. Once we went to Volax, where the girls gave us a small performance in the amphitheater before dinner. We also had a grilling party – the traditional lamb chops and Tinos sausages, with chicken and different salads – one evening, with 22 people, 13 of which were children, a proper gang!
This year we didn't get to go to any village parties, apparently there were none quite yet, but we had a Greek party night at Anemos one Sunday evening. There was souvlaki on the grill, Greek salad, tzatziki, Greek music and dancing, even some shrimp for a late night snack. Not everybody was dancing, but many. And not only the Greeks, but anyone who felt like dancing. Not everybody knew the steps, but the cool thing about dancing is that you get pretty far by just letting the music move your body, and the rest will follow.
On one of our very first days on the island we drove to the probably most beautiful beach of Tinos. Not a big one, there are no many kilometers long white sand beaches on Tinos, and I like it that way. Being at the mouth of the most fertile valley of Tinos, Kolimbithra is an awesome little beach with oleanders and trees at one corner where a couple houses with small gardens serve as beach kiosks and bars.
There are a few rows of umbrellas with sun chairs, and rocky walls on either side of the beach. On the other side of a cliff there is another beach with a surfing school and on the hillside there is a nice little taverna, where we had lunch again. We spent a great day at Kolimbithra, swimming and enjoying the sun and climbing the rocks and having good food with friends who just happened to come there too on the same day. It's a small island!
Our very favorite beach on Tinos, though, is Kalivia, the funkiest grooviest beach on the island. It is the beach with a small bar where you can get nice drinks in a glass or carved watermelon, where they play mellow groovy music like Santana and Bob Marley. The beach where you can spot the people with rastas and tattoos and a relaxed attitude. Our style beach! We spent a couple days on this beach which is actually quite well protected from the winds too.
During our two weeks on the island there was one truly hot and completely windless day, a bit more humid too than normally. This day was the other day we went to Kalivia. We were all swimming in the sea, and chilling under the umbrellas and sitting at the bar chatting with the owner and the other bartender whom we also already knew from previous years. Once the youngest of our girls went swimming to the other end of the beach, and found a guy beating the shit out of an octopus – that's how they soften the meat after catching them.
The day was perfect – up until the sea was suddenly full on dead insects! Apparently there had been a huge hatch, but with the heat of the day they had all died before they could fly. The youngest daughter, whom I assumed would grow fins before the vacation was over, didn't seem to mind, but the rest of us didn't really feel like swimming anymore. So we packed our stuff – it was starting to be evening anyway – and headed out to Volax for that amphitheater and dinner. And found out later that somehow one of our towels had fallen out of the car in Kalivia when we were changing clothes.
Of course, we also went to see the Marble Museum in Pyrgos, and for ice creams and freddo cappucinos in Alexandra cafe by the huge sycamore tree in the center of Pyrgos. And drove on to Panormos for lunch at that same nice seaside taverna where we sat for hours last year. By some magical coinsidence, the same group of Mykonos taverna owners and their American friends were a that same taverna again at the same time with us! They too come to Panormos only once every summer, so we were happily surprised to see them! We had a fabulous lunch and a good time chatting with them again.
On one of our last days on Tinos we visited the ruins of the sanctuary of Poseidon and Amphitrite in Kionia – mind that it is only open from 8:30-15 every day! – where the middle one of our girls spotted a baby owl blown into a wall by the extremely strong wind, thus saving its life. It was lying there lifeless when we came, but after the keeper of the ruins was alerted, he gave the bird water and it was alive and well when we came back from exploring the quite intruiging sanctuary.
The baby owl was not the only one suffering hazard by the winds that were getting stronger by the day as the end of our vaction was approaching. The youngest daughter, as tough as she is, is a petite girl, easily blown by the wind. And she was. A couple times! First the wind blew her off a small wall when we were on our way to that sanctuary, the only injury luckily being a skinned toe. Later on, the wind blew her off the small wall by our house, this time the wall scraping her thigh nastily. But even that was only a surface would so next day she was swimming happily in the pool at Pachia Ammos again.
The wind also made our return trip something of an adventure, or at least quite a bit more interesting than without it. No, the SeaJet did not sway badly or make any of us seasick more than a tiny bit of not so good feeling for the girls, the SeaJet glided on the top of the waves nicely. As soon as it was able to exit the Mykonos port, that is! We were waiting in the Tinos harbor for a couple hours as people were coming and going, telling us that the SeaJet still cannot get out of the Mykonos port, but hopefully soon it will. And then back and forth: it will, it won't, it will…
We were already planning our plan B, while the girls were all crying over the spilled milk, “we should've taken the big morning ferry, now we'll NEVER get home from here!”, for it started to look like we'd miss our flight for sure, when the SeaJet finally got out of Mykonos. We took the girls for ice creams while waiting for the delayed boat, and for some souvlakis once we finally got to the Rafina harbor. Taxi to the airport, and we made our flights easily!
The girls were missing home and their other parents already, but me and my boyfriend were simply sad to leave our paradise island again. Two weeks went by way too fast! Suddenly we were back in this cold and rainy Finland. It may be my home country, but I long to be on Tinos.