Bringing the Aegean Muse into focus
Like all photographers, every time I click I am hoping that the picture that appears has that little extra something that truly captures the essence of my subject; that ineffable spirit, that star quality that transcends the ordinary and makes an audience really sit up and take notice. So I’ve brought myself to Tinos, where the modern day Aegean Muse breathes life into every scene. She’s my constant companion, there to sprinkle in her fairy dust at the crucial moment, as much a friend to my craft as she is to the local artists, sculptors, stone masons, architects, builders, farmers and chefs who have shaped this island into something even more wonderful than its bountiful nature first intended.
Rock and roll!
I have been drawn first to the photographer’s dream, the mighty granite outcrop of Exombourgo, which commands attention for miles around. Here the ruins of a medieval fortress and the stunning natural rock formation seem to merge into one, the first big clue to the island’s unique symbiosis of man and nature. It is also a breathtaking vantage point from which to survey the rest of my quarry. I pat myself on the back for choosing the autumn to make my visit. Bright and breezy days stall any thoughts of winter and the colours of the landscape take on richer hues; burgundy, emerald, offset as always by the ubiquitous blues of sea and sky.
Magnificent in marble
Charged up on inspiration, I head first for the famous town of Pyrgos.
It is a work of art in itself with its whitewashed alleys and elegant simplicity in the lines of its traditional flat-roofed island homes and stone arches. As well as being a flag bearer for the island’s treasure trove of villages, all boasting plane tree-shaded squares and convivial cafes bathed in natural light yet artfully shielded from the winds, Pyrgos is host to the Museum of Tinian Artists and Marble Craft, the interactive Marble School and the house of master sculptor Giannoulis Chalepas, itself now converted into a museum. Here you cannot help but get the sense of the awesome influence the island has brought to bear on its inhabitants, driving them on to dizzying heights of creativity.
Getting in on the action
During one of many coffee breaks, someone suggests I take the hike from Pyrgos to the coastal retreat of Panormos, as this showcases the best of Tinos and will have me snapping away to my heart’s content, not to mention finishing up next to a sandy beach tucking into fresh fish or the island’s kaleidoscopic specialty of stuffed artichokes. (They are such a big thing here they even have a special festival dedicated to them!) Having dusted off my walking boots especially, the adventure is every bit as spectacular as its billing. Setting out from the marble bus stop and passing by a marble fountain, I am soon in open countryside so typically Tinian; rugged, russet mountain ridges and slopes are shaped into terraced fields separated by dry stone walls. Here and everywhere across the island stone pathways, painstakingly built over the centuries to give farmers access to their land, now provide charming, photogenic trails for visitors like myself, leading to ever more intriguing sights:
My route takes me past babbling springs and streams, watermills, exquisite little bridges, ancient temple ruins, lolloping grapevines, almond, fig and cypress trees. For me one of the most exciting characteristics of the island is the fact that the terrain can go from rocky to verdant in the blink of an eye. Some days later I also visit Volax where green pastures are strewn with boulders, seemingly tossed down from the heavens by some ancient god or other in a fit of rage. A group of cyclists glide sleekly past me, a blur of energy and streamlined intensity, putting my own hiking efforts somewhat to shame! I just manage to digitize them before they disappear over the brow of the hill.
Sights to send the spirits soaring
You are never far away from an arresting sight. For one thing, my ‘professional eye’ (or so I like to think) is constantly ensnared by the windmills. The genius is in their design; cylindrical on the outside, cone-shaped within, a precaution against the wind at its most furious I am told. Then there are their modern equivalents, the great wind turbines that put me and my camera in mind of the fabled Titans from Greek mythology. And what would Tinos be without its churches and chapels and their incumbent bell towers? Both Catholic and Orthodox, they seem to appear as glistening beacons of enlightenment over every ridge, guardians of every idyllic bay, symbols of the open minds and hearts that prevail here and the zest for understanding that emanates from the Church of Our Lady in the main town.
Taking flight with the Tinos experience
Oh, and I almost forgot the most iconic of all Tinian images; its world renowned dovecotes, scattered in great numbers across hill and dale, all with their own unique lithographs. They put me in mind of Buddhist temples or ornately carved musical boxes. They put the finishing touches on the whole Tinos experience. This is a place where art flourishes in tandem with nature, directed with such élan by the Aegean Muse. Take an autumn break here and you too will feel her inspiration.
About KIT GARLAND
Born 25/07/74 in Brighton, England. Writer and photographer. Did Film Studies at Bristol University