Tinos Remains a Paradise

Photo by Ada Polla

The tide comes in an out. The monks chant. The wind blows. The bells of the church ring. All seems to be well, normal, on the Greek island of Tinos. We have been coming here for the past six years, and these are all “normal” things indeed. This year, however, there are signs of uncertainty, signs that the economy is unwell. Signs like long lines at the ATMs, when they are dispensing money. Signs like red posters in front of the ATMs indicating that they are not working, all out of cash. No one wants to talk about it – after all, most of the people we meet are, like us, on vacation (mostly Greeks summering in Tinos), and part of the point of vacation is to forget about the cares of real life. But given the timing, it is impossible not to discuss. The mood, while not somber, is very uncertain. When we ask our new friends Georgios and Dimitra when they will come back to Tinos, the answer is “we don’t know… we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.” Our architect friend Panagyotis doesn’t know if he will have access to his money to pay his workers on the various sites he has to visit in Athens tomorrow. It is, indeed, uncertain.

Yet for all of this, the paradise that is Tinos remains a paradise. The people who live here have a deep kindness, a genuine care for others that I have never seen anywhere else. Last night, we left our favorite restaurant, Bourou, after a delicious meal, without paying. The credit card machine was down. (Does this have to do with the banking situation, who knows?). While we had cash, the maître d’h Georgios just told us to come back tomorrow morning. “The banks may close,” he said, “but we will still be here.”

For all that is going on, however, Tinos remains the paradise it will always be for me. An island in the Cyclades without an airport, it is one of the least touristy for that reason. And, in my mind, one of the most beautiful. Should you decide to explore Greece, head to Tinos – the flight to Athens, followed by a 45-minute taxi ride to the port of Raffina, followed by a 2-hour ferry to Tinos is well worth it. And when you get here, make sure you visit these addresses (and have a Greek salad at each, you will taste differences in the feta that will make you question what we call feta in the US).

-          Bourou: mentioned above, this is one of my favorite restaurants. It moved this past March closer to town (it is located between the center of town and the beach of Kionia), the food is excellent (grilled sardines are their specialty), and the décor shows a certain attention to detail and to aesthetics that I love.

-          Pranzo: in town, this is a fabulous Italian restaurant for when you need a break from Greek food. They also make their own wine.

-          O’Dinos: this is in the bay of Kardiani, a restaurant by the sea where three generations of the family work. The grandfather, Dinos, oversees the work; the father cooks; and the young son does “bus boy” tasks. Their fish soup is a must to start any meal.

-          Thalassaki: In Isternia Bay, this is the place to watch the sun set; you are literally on the water, where the magic of sunset is most powerful. Indeed, the name of the restaurant literally means “the young sea.” Try the squid ink risotto and the pasta with meatballs.

-          If you make the trip to Panormos, about halfway around the island, eat at the third taverna, Maestro. The meat is delicious, as is the homemade Tinos cheese.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, I will return to Tinos. Every year as long as I am able. It is my happy place, it is good for my soul. You should go there too…