One thing that you can’t help but notice when on Tinos is the fantastic collection of ornate dovecotes that are scattered across the landscape. So far I had only caught fleeting glances of them from the bus, but I wanted the chance to see them up close. I had asked Valentina, my guide from the island trip, where was the best place to see the dovecote’s – bearing in mind that I would be using public transport to get there. She suggested the village of Tarampados which is on the main Tinos Town to Panormos bus route. She told me that from there I could also walk to Kampos the next village. This is interesting because when I was returning from Pyrgos a few days before, I had caught Tarampados out of the corner of my eye and ‘starred’ it on Google maps. Not that you can gauge a place very well as you whizz past it on the bus, but there were certainly lots of Dovecotes on the hillside. So this is going to be my plan of action for today.
From my short stay on Tinos so far, the one thing I do know is that although the bus service is very good – careful planning is still required. The main bus route from Tinos Bus station over to Panormos runs several times throughout the day, but if you don’t plan it correctly you could get stranded or at least be waiting for some considerable time to get back to base. The lady at the bus station has been very helpful so far so I make this my first port of call.
I tell the lady in the bus station that I want to catch the 11.00am bus to Tarampados. Because the bus timetable is quite sparse on detail I wanted to know what time the bus would call at Kampos on the way back. After conferring with one of her colleagues she told me it would be approximately (with a hand tilting side to side motion) 12.25. Perfect – now I can time it accordingly. This won’t give me very long at Tarampados but it’s better to see if briefly rather than not at all.
Whilst I wait for the bus to arrive I notice another one of those football related peculiarities that crop up in Greece every now and again. One of the buses in the station is adorned with Chelsea Football Club associated memorabilia. Actually more than just memorabilia. The bus has a Chelsea FC decal down the side of it. There are all sorts of Chelsea merchandise adorning the front of the bus, the driver’s seat is covered in a large Chelsea flag and scarf and every seat on the bus has a Chelsea FC headrest cover. Now I don’t know much (or anything) about football at all but I’m pretty sure there is an interesting story behind this. A bit like the George Best material I saw on a bus at Sparta bus station once. I board the Chelsea FC bus. The bus driver and conductor do the same and we head on up out of Tinos Town. I have Tarampados starred on Google maps. I feel it gives me some kind of control. I had from previous experience relied on conductors and drivers to tell me when to disembark and have ‘come a cropper.’ It takes around 15 minutes to reach Tarampados which gives me just over an hour to walk around the village and then walk to Kampos village where I want to catch the return bus.
The entrance to the village looks like the entrance to a modern resort – maybe part of the re-invention of Tinos for tourism. Although the stone entrance looks modern it is done in the traditional geometric style that you see everywhere in the island’s architecture complete with decorative Cycladic style chimney pots.
I say chimney pots but the structures on top of the dovecotes may also be functional by providing the pigeons a place to rest and survey their territory. This is a question I must try and ask whilst here on Tinos.
As soon as you enter the village the buildings to the left really begin to showcase the elaborate architectural elements that the island is famous for. You can see beautiful examples of elaborate fanlights and rows of stone decoration in various geometric designs crafted from the local slate.
I walk further into the village and everywhere is silent except for the sound of singing from within one of the houses. Vaulted alleyways lead you further into the interior but these labyrinthine streets can send you off in any direction. As I get my bearings I find myself at the entrance to a small church and from here I follow the path down some stone steps. I get the sense that I am heading in the general direction of Dovecote Valley as I can see the surrounding hillside peaking through the gaps.
The dovecotes were brought to the island by the Venetians in the 15th century and have several purposes. The bottom of the dovecote was used for storing tools and agricultural machinery whiles the top and the more ornate part of the tower is the place where the pigeons nested and bred. Dovecotes are located mainly on a hillside at an angle to the wind that makes it easier for the pigeons to take off from and to land. Pigeon poop is full of nutrients and an excellent fertiliser for the surrounding agricultural land. Each dovecote is unique and each dovecote/nest within the tower is made with a unique design that the pigeons will recognise as their own.
Most information that I have ready in the tourist guides about the dovecotes numbers them at around 600. My guide from the island tells me that there are more than 1000. Here on the hillside at Tarampados there is a handful but all beautiful examples and this alone has satisfied my thirst to see them.
Conscious of time I exit the village and head back onto the main road to walk to the village of Kampos. One village almost spills into another.
Again there is very little sign of life in Kampos. There is nobody around and everywhere is still. After passing a house with a beautiful flower filled garden on the right I arrive at the Tsoclis Museum which I had hoped would be open. Unfortunately it is closed. Here is an article that may whet your appetite as it whetted mine.
Time is against me. I just have enough time to grab some photographs including some gorgeous Cycladic style chimney pots. I’m a collector of things. I collect photographs of door knockers, doors, windows, electricity meters, outdoor sinks and chimney pots. (only in Greece). I first fell in love with the Cycladic style chimney pots on Sifnos which of course is famous for its pottery. On Sifnos you can see some of the most beautiful examples of chimney pots but the ones on Tinos have their own unique style.
I wander over to the bus stop which thankfully is on the main road close to the village entrance.
There is always that moment when you wonder whether you have been given the correct information. I look at the bus timetable in the shelter which is decidedly sparse on detail. I was told in the bus station it would be (approximately) 12.25. I try to figure out how from this limited information, whether it makes sense for a bus to stop at Kampos at 12.25. After several minutes of studying the data I give up. It is now 12.20 so I wait with anticipation.
It gets to 12.35 and I am already considering the hardship of the walk back in the midday heat.
Oh yeah of little faith! Within minutes, like a glistening beacon of hope, the bus swings around the corner in all its glory.
Now feeling a little bit rock and roll (well as much as you can at 62 years of age) I ask the bus driver to drop me by the windmills on the approach to Tinos Town. I had seen another Dovecote on the roadside from the bus on the way up that looked quite unique. Before I disembark I tell the driver and conductor how great the bus service is on the island and they looked chuffed to hear the compliment. Seriously though – as someone who tends to rely on public transport when in Greece I really appreciate a great bus service when I see it!
I hop off at the windmills and navigate the busy junction and then begin to follow the road down towards the town.
Here there are great views of the mount of Exembourgo above me and the port below where a cluster of ferries are coming and going. Over to the right I can see Panagia Evangelistria positioned on the hill in all her majesty.
The windmills aren’t anything to write home about but it’s worth taking this walk down to get another perspective.
The dovecote that I wanted to see is quite unusual in style. It sits on what looks like a bit of wasteland just off the main road. It had a fat round body (Maybe why I felt a connection with it!). Across the road there is a bonus dovecote to add to the collection.
Once back – at the apartment I hear a cacophony of car horns beeping which can only mean one thing – a wedding! I watch the cavalcade from the balcony before getting ready for tonight’s evening meal.
Now ready to eat, I Google “best restaurants in Tinos Town” and choose Taverna Malamatenia which is short walk away. The restaurant is nestled between two churches in a pretty square. I order horta and chickpea balls to start and Kleftiko for the main meal which is all washed down with Retsina!
An end to another interesting day on Tinos. Tomorrow is Sunday and I’m pretty sure if I’m going to see the pilgrims climbing the mount it will be then. Let’s see.