Tinos is the third largest of the17 islands that make up the Greek Cyclades. Shaped somewhat like an arrowhead, this island is accessible only from the sea. It’s about an hour ferry ride from neighboring islands of Mykonos or Syros; 4.5 from Athens. (Fast ferries take half the time and cost twice as much.) Its early name, Hydroussa was derived from ‘hydor’ water and ‘ofis’ snakes. Some say the present-day name is from the Phoenicians’ ‘tannoth’ another word for snakes.
There are still some 700 dovecotes on this island and they date back to the 18th and 19th Centuries; most built after the Venetian rule here ended. The raising of birds was such an important endeavor – they provided both meat and droppings (fertilizer) -- that in the Middle Ages a special law, Droit du Columbier, dictated that only feudal lords had the right to possess a dovecote.
It is said that they 'remained in the collective conscience as a symbol of social excellence'. That might explain their elaborate stone ‘embroidery’ which decorates the smooth walls and made for little doors. The walls coupled with their elevated height and a sun drying yard on top kept snakes, cats and rats away.
By use of the ‘embroidery’ each dovecote has a design unique to that structure. While strolling through one of the island’s villages, we noticed a ‘modern’ 1998 building, a home, we think (pictured below) which gave a nod to the island’s history by adding a ‘dovecote decoration’ including fake birds to its exterior.
Some appeared to be almost new structures and others showed the ravages of time. They were built near water in areas protected from the north wind (which can be fierce here) and in open spaces where the flying was good.
As I wrap this up I can’t help but think, “Isn’t it amazing what you can learn when you travel?” Those dovecotes, combined with the island’s villages, made our day’s outing one of those that you wistfully look back upon as ‘magical. So magical, that we’ll ‘take you’ to some of those villages soon. Until then, thanks so much for the time you spent with us today!
Tinos: If You Go:
Hotel: Our room overlooking the harbor also had views of the island’s towering Mount Tsiknias, 40-euro (off-season).
Ferry to Athens: About $50 US per ticket.
Tip: Take a hike on the path of the dovecotes in Tarambados, not far from Tinos town.
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Travel Photo Thursday
Travel Photo Monday