When I write this blog I feel a sense of editing my life. This can be expected. I tap away and think “Why this and why not that, this event, this moment, that thought?”. It is all a way of storytelling and picking out the details. Maybe these things matter, maybe they don’t. My note books are filling up with ideas and making just a little progress. But the weeks go by so quickly. There is a sense of internal panic in my mind that won’t seem to quieten, despite the hills to climb and warming seas to swim in.
Summer has arrived in all but name – by April 28th the temperature had reached 27c in the shade. The plants are thirsty and the ground is dry – it has been the lowest levels of winter rainfall on record for a while. It shows on the yellowing hills that a year ago were lush with green growth. I even question my motives – mostly when people laugh at my enthusiasm for growing vegetables, despite how readily available they are. I am emphatic. Homegrown is best. The joy from seed to plant, from flower to fruit. And the taste is just so much better knowing the effort and love you gave.
The other weekend we escaped to the neighbouring island of Tinos as it’s the closest island to hop to from Syros with a twice daily connection. I think it was an attempt to make the most of the lower temperatures and use up little bit of free time do some walking, but also I think we were feeling a bit frazzled as we had a few weeks of big changes and sometimes you need a moment to breathe in something different. We’d both visited Tinos last year. G had spent long week there hiking and I lazily joined him for a couple of days to visit Prygos ….which I think holds up as a strong contender as one of my favourite cycladic towns. Having already explored Volax and the Panaromos, this time it was to discover more about the spiritual mysteries of Tinos Town.
We booked a cheap and cheerful studio in the town. The owners were lovely, despite our protests about not needing to get picked up at the post, they insisted! The lady running it didn’t speak more than about 3 words of english, but spoke french impeccably, giving us a good test of our Greek skills. Especially when when we had to learn how to ask to leave our bags there until the ferry later that afternoon, I couldn’t work out whether i had given our rucksacks away or asked her to carry them. Her answer to everything was ‘not a problem’ (den einai provlima) – which maybe is a good proverb to live by. I did need to politely refuse her very kind offers of coffee at 7pm every evening. (Greek coffee that late would keep me awake for 24 hours!)
Tinos town was unhurried and quiet. Outside the chaos of Easter and any of the many Saint’s days is always a good time to visit. This was maybe not so good for the shops that line the main street with its roadside carpeted pathway up to Our Sacred Lady of Tinos. They sell everything a pilgrim may need for their journey, candles in every shape and size, prayer books, painted ornate icons, as well as the vital knee-pads for the devout who crawl up to the church on their hands and knees on the carpeted pathway.
The Nun Pelagia had a vision and since then believers offer prayers here at the Icon to the Virgin Mary, hoping for a small miracle during difficult times. Belief is just that – a light of hope in dark times. The cavernous church with its ornate carvings and intricate gold ceilings, and smell of spicy incense has a very spiritual and calm atmosphere. People also bring bottles and drink from the well water that claims equally special holy powers. I am not one for organised religious doctrine but I liked the stories and pomp of it all. At the church there is a monument to the Greek ship that was sunk on the August 15th celebration of the Virgin Mary that acted as a catalyst for Greece’s entry into WW2.
It was a mild, but wild and windy weekend – the weather was hot for April but a very strong breeze meant walking was a good option. Friday afternoon, we decided to relax after the ferry, but then walked out towards the Temple of Poseidon and along the coastal road. It was serenely quiet – empty beaches. The archeological site is small but intriguing, so we followed it with a trip to the museum and saw most of the artifacts in their decaying splendour.
Spending the evening’s eating a lot of good hearty food in Tinos Town was a real treat, compared with our faux vegetarian pasta and salad dinners that were becoming routine. Tucking into veal stew, rabbit stifado, rooster in the oven and local artichokes and the Fourtalia Omelette, made with local sausages, eggs, potatoes and of course lots of lovely cheese. We also found time to hike up to the Acro- Kastri and admire the views. I collected wildflowers which made it into my first attempt of a traditional May Day Spring Wreath.
There was not a soul to be seen as we wandered along the empty beaches, swam and had a lazy sunday lunch at a newly opened beachside place. It was what I’ll term the poshest ‘Horiatiki Salata’ I’ve known. The wind had calmed and the heat rose on our last day there – I wrote postcards in the shade of a harbourside cafe. Taking them into the post office was an experience of real Greek life admin. Women queuing 3 deep to check the status of various bits of paperwork, people collecting pensions and work men popping in to get parcels ready for the ferry to collect. I waited my turn saying the words for ask for 3 stamps over and over in my head. By the time my turn arrived I had it right. The post office man was impressed” Bravo”… he replied in English (everytime!) and asked me if I wanted them posted now. Isa y ‘Neh, veveuous (yes, of course). Which he laughed in reply and said “in Greece everything is easy, see it’s the easy life”. I’m not so sure of that.
Coming back to Syros on a near empty ferry, three birds were in flight in the slipsteam of the boat’s waves. They looked like they were skimming barely inches from the flat ocean – not an ounce of effort as they swooped along with the cross wind supporting their flight. These birds saw an opportunity to conserve thier energy, ease off thier efforts and hitched a ride. There is definitely something in that.