20 September 2015
And just like that – after a frenzied crowd of people with no regard for the sacred art of the line – Tinos is behind us and Rome is tantalisingly in front of us. Tinos was a strange mix of things for me: it was welcoming sometimes, it was delightful sometimes, it was tropical sometimes, it was beautiful sometimes, it was just what I expected… sometimes. At other times, it seemed exclusive, normal and unhappy to see us.
It probably had to do with my terrible handling of the Greek language. I tried to say YAH-sas just as my Triposo app told me to say it, but somehow, it always came out meek and timid and I, embarrassed to repeat the mispronounced word to the puzzled looking locals, ended up reverting to the English counterpart that I could not master in the jumbled Greek tongue that I was perpetually surrounded by. I was always happy at the few people that refused to let me speak my comfortable English greetings – slowly repeating the word at hand until I could say it satisfactorily back to them.
To be fair, Laura and I had our best day yet in Tinos. On the bright and shining day that was Saturday, we rambled into town and had the best yoghurt I think I have ever tasted, complete with a cornucopia of fruit dumped on the top and a rich cappuccino on the side. We then researched the hiking trails that Tinos is famous for (or so we read) and picked a 10-mile hike that would wind us up into the mountains through the famous small villages of Tinos and give us a breath-taking panoramic view of the island.
We slapped on some sunscreen (though not enough, as Laura’s back and my nose can not-so-happily inform you), bought some €0.22 one-litre water bottles and started up the sidewalk-less winding road. We ascended quickly, looking back at the port and the ferries speeding in, pointing at the many small churches that we spotted on the way up, clutching our pearls as cars whizzed by without so much as moving an inch to make room for us trekkers. A towering white church jutted out of the hilly landscape and we wandered around the town for a bit, tempted by the nearby bakery’s wafting scents and flaky promises. But we eventually chose the black pavement over the warm bakery:
We’ll come back on the way down,
We assured ourselves, as our anticipation to reach the top overcame our good sense. And so we climbed higher, watching as the once hovering rocky mountain to our left became more and more level until, suddenly, we could gaze over the top of it. We had reached our final destination: Dio Choria and we were enchanted. It was a crumbling white village perched at the tippy top of the cliffy road we’d been trekking up. We climbed inside of it, choosing our paths at random, poking our way through the bleached caves and painted arches.
We smelled a fishy smell and, like all the cats in the village, decided to follow it, tracking it down to an old man ambling up slowly to his residence. I looked up and saw a pinprick of white on the top of the hill that overlooked the entire island and pulled Laura away from the Greek kitties and up to the overgrown path to find the top. We picked our way through pokey flowers and sticky thistles, passing by run-down stone caverns and fallen old lookout posts. Finally reaching the top, we climbed over a low stone fence and came upon a flock of sheep, lazily grazing on the brown grass. We marvelled at the sheep and the other side of the island and at how high up we were and the clouds racing by and the blue sea and the blue sky and that we were here – on top of a mountain, in Tinos, in Greece.
We sat still in the blowing mountain air and took it all in. Then, feeling a slight rumble in our stomachs, we got to our feet and began our descent, fantasising about the pastries that the bakery would have to offer us. But, of course, the bakery was closed by three thirty in the afternoon and so, with an empty water bottle and an increasingly empty stomach, we practically ran down the hill in our desperation for some greasy Greek food. We made it down, found a cheap little street food place and sat in the sun, enjoying our find. We returned home and did some laundry (me in the kitchen sink, Laura in the bathroom), hung it out to dry in the scorching sun and made our way to the beach, where we swam in the Aegean Sea and dried off in the Greek sun. A perfect ending to the best day.
So, in case you missed it, after four full days of bumbling around in Greece, I mastered (I think I did, anyway) how to say good morning and hello (a big shout out to word association). Two words. Two important words, I daresay. Though thank you forever evaded my tongue and goodbye did not seem to be such a priority, as some people’s looks said it all, I learnt, on average, half a word a day. At this rate, I could be fluent in about twenty years!
Onward, then, to the place where I can sufficiently order food, engage in polite conversation and make extravagant hand motions to express my most intimate feelings – Roma!