Tinos Island in the Aegean Sea has a soul. It is a canvas of the beauty of nature. The golden sand beaches, country chapels, white-washed homes and buildings, ravines, tiered mountainsides, and unforgettable violet-colored sunsets dramatize beautiful scenery. Tinos is the homeland of craft artists, farmers, sculptors, and poets.
Historically speaking, during the Classical Period of the 5th century B.C., blue skies, endless sunshine, and the murmur of water in the vails prevailed; the Temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea, was built here. In the 6th century B.C. silk breeding was prominent among Turks who moved to Tinos. In Byzantine Times, around 1204, Constantinople fell and insecurity and decline set upon Tinos; Arab pirates raided the island and plagues and epidemics resulted. Venetians ruled from 1207-1715 and Tinos developed socially. Wheat was grown and 80 windmills and watermills propelled the energy for the people. Venetians, Turks, and Russians ruled until 1821 when a Greek Revolution brought liberation to the Tinians. During World War II, Tinos was vital for sea communications and shipping.
Tinos is a member of the Cyclade Islands, extending into the Mediterranean Sea. It covers 197 square miles, is 35 miles across, has 8,000 inhabitants, and contains unique quantities of white and green marble; some of it was used in Buckingham Palace and the Louvre Museum in Paris. Six hundred Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches and chapels dot the landscape. Fertile , lush green valleys, pleasant summer days, temperate winds, and infrequent snow make it a desirable place to live year-round. Groves of lemons, tangerines, pears, and pomegranates are grown as well as garlic, artichokes, and other vegetables, plus olive and fig trees. All these make a healthy diet for everyone. Several thousand cattle and pigs, 30,000 sheep and goats, and 3,500 beehives complete the food chain. Stone fences demarcate the landscape.
Unlike anyplace I have ever known, the Dove-Cotes are the most grand edifices on the island of Tinos. The dove-cotes are built in the country sides at well-chosen locations near cultivated land or water sources so that pigeons can provide dropping for prize fertilizer. Cotes are stone-built with the lower floor considered storerooms for agricultural and livestock products and tools while the upper floor houses the pigeons. They are truly “built embroideries” with fancy facades decorated with rhomboids, triangles, sun, and cypress tree figures. Cotes are unique buildings that constitute monuments of architecture and folk article creations, unique in the world. The emotional urge of these edifices is to attract pigeons, also used for a tasty meat. Most of the surviving dove-cotes are from the 18th and 19th centuries. The precise number exceeds 600 from the central and eastern sections of the island.
Our unique experience on Tinos came at the invitation of one of my husband’s former physics students from Greece and his American wife who lived in Athens and owned a cottage on Tinos. A ferry carried us from Athens to Tinos. In a small village, spotlessly white with blue shutters, sat their cottage attached to other cottages. The first floor was at street level. Formerly, the lower level was used to house animals belonging to the owners, a convenient arrangement. A fireplace in the kitchen served as a stove in the kitchen. Antiques from the past filled the bedrooms and living areas. All of this was attractive to me.
I will never forget this visit on Tinos Island. The images in my mind are still clear. Charmed by barren and rocky hills, blue skies, clear blue water, and the architecture and articles of art in the museums on Tinos, the beauty of nature has been preserved by artists and sculptors. At this time in my life, this experience mirrored a spiritual epiphany. An unforgettable moment of “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience” in human nature.