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Tinos Town (Hora)

Chora, Tinos, GreeceYou don't need to be an architect to see what is wrong with the town of Tinos, called Chora by the locals. Where the waterfront of Mykonos is lined with old two story buildings, cafes, art shops and is closed to automobile traffic, Tinos town has 3 and 4 story apartment buildings squeezed in anywhere they could make room for them. Fast-food restaurants, hotels, and a few older buildings which were too big to tear down or the owners had the sense not to tear them down, hide the back streets which are similar to Mykonos, a labyrinth of shops, homes and small businesses on streets only wide enough for a couple donkeys to pass. The waterfront of Mykonos, the supposedly decadent island, is tame compared to the amusement park appearance of Tinos which gives new meaning to spiritual materialism. In the summer throngs fill the streets behind the waterfront,buying the necessary components for a life dedicated to God while at waterfront cafes hundreds of tables are packed as people pass the time waiting for the ferry by eating and drinking and talking (and arguing). Mercifully traffic is prohibited on the waterfront in the evening and the wide streets and pavement becomes the scene of the evening volta (promenade) with hundreds of pedestrians walking aimlessly from one end to the other, passing the time before dinner, or bedtime or going out to the bars. Local children ride bicycles, groups of teenage girls and boys flirt with each other and the rare tourist wanders around, taking in the whole scene while looking for somewhere not too crowded to eat.

Hora, Tinos, GreeceFerries no longer arrive in the main harbor with the exception of the small Seajet which darts in and out on its way to Rafina or the other Cyclades islands. A new ferry port has been built just to the left with a humongous parking lot for a thousand cars in a valiant effort to limit traffic through the town. A ring road has been built which also helps. Tinos has more ferries per day than any other island. Most if not all the boats to Mykonos stop here and more people than you would imagine get on and off.  What this means is that Tinos town is full of hotels to handle these crowds of pilgrims. Restaurants that once were small family run establishments that prided themselves on their food and service now pride themselves on their speed and their ability to feed the customers, get the money and be ready for the next people who claim the empty table. But don't fret if you are here and you are not anxious to battle the zealots for a plate of souvlakia. At the opposite end of the port from the ferries, away from the maddening crowd are a series of small fish tavernas and mezedopouleons where the locals and those who know and still love Tinos eat when they come to town. You can have a quiet authentic dinner or an ouzo and meze before venturing into the center of town to have an ice-cream and watch people, a popular pastime on the waterfront of Tinos.

Tinos, Greece: Church of the EvangelistriaThere are two primary streets that lead up to the Church of Evagelistria which is every Orthodox pilgrim's primary destination whether by car, on foot or on their hands and knees. Crawlers and cars go up the wide avenue of Leoforos Megalocharis during the day when the waterfront roads are open. In the evening it becomes a pedestrian street. The narrow carpet on the right is for people to crawl. During a non-holiday period there will be several people a day doing crawling. Big holidays like the 15th of August there will be hundreds. Those walking may want to stop at the Archaeological Museum which is about two thirds of the way up on your left. When you reach the Church, called The Sacred Institution of the Evagelistria, see the famous Holy Icon, wash your hands in Holy Water and then check out the Tinian Artist Museum and the Mausoleum of the Elli, the Greek ship which was torpedoed in the harbor by the Italians, Greece's first casualties of the Second World War

Tinos shopping street, Tinos, GreeceEvagelistrias Street which runs parallel is the main shopping street with stall after stall of mostly religious items, gifts (My Parents Found God on Tinos and All I Got Was this %&@#! T-Shirt). Fast food restaurants dominate the bottom of Evagelistrias with an occasional shop selling traditional sweets like loukoumia from Syros or the Tinos variety made with mastica and almonds. If you veer off into one of the small side streets this is where the fun begins and you can find small cafes, restaurants, galleries and interesting shops that don't have the dough for the high rents of Evagelistrias street. You will also find many of the businesses that cater to the local people and in a way it is like visiting a whole other village, more traditional than the religious commercialism of the primary shopping streets. For those who want to get out of town the KTEL buses can get you just about anywhere on the island. The station is on Trion Ierarchon which is the third major street that leads up from the port. The taxi stand is also there.

Hora, Tinos, GreeceFor those staying in Tinos Town who want to be on the waterfront there are a couple hotels but if you are like me you will see the church, maybe have a tiropita and skidaddle to somewhere more pleasant like Agios Ioannis Porto which is quiet, has beautiful beaches and tavernas and is close enough to town so you can come in one night for dinner or nightlife. For those going to Porto by car Zanaki Alavanou is the road to take and you just have to follow the signs. If you are not like me and need the city life I don't want to leave you with the impression that Hora is like Mount Athos on steroids. There are plenty of people here who don't wake up everyday thinking about God or the Virgin Mary. There are clubs and bars and ouzeries in the neighborhood just above the new ferry port where you can go and drink and listen to music and make friends with young Greeks and foreigners. There are also small tavernas and cafes scattered throughout the back streets of the town. Like any other island often it is the small places in the low rent areas that have the best food and atmosphere.

Shop in Hora, Tinos, GreeceFor essentials there is the Bakery of Ioannis Desypris in Pallada just above the new port with wood baked fresh bread, tiropitas(cheese-pies), sweets and other baked goods. Tinos has a craft brewery so keep your eyes open for Nissos Beer and order it whenever you can. The ferry ticket offices are right on the main street where Megaloharis and Evagelistrias Streets reach the harbor. The Cheese Cooperative of Tinos has its factory in the village of Tripotamos and a shop on Megaloharis Avenue. If you walk up Evagelistrias street a couple blocks and turn right there is a small bookstore where you can get maps and guidebooks. Tinos Today and Yesterday by Toubis is pretty good, has some great photos and makes a nice souvenir to bring back. I found it more useful than any of the popular guidebooks. Look for A Travelogue of Tinos by Tassos Anatassiou. It has all the footpaths on the island and it is free. They should have it at the Tourist Information Office. There are small food markets scattered around the town and even a health food store. If you are planning to stay in another area this is a good time to buy essentials but you will find that you can get whatever you need just about anywhere on Tinos so don't get too carried away. You can buy your religious paraphernalia right before you leave the island while you wait for the ferry. By then you will have a better idea of what everything is and what it symbolizes rather than just buying something because it looks cool. I don't recommend buying the giant candles no matter who you think they would make a perfect gift for. It will be a melted mangled mess by the time you get home. Not to sound like an atheist or anything but your best bet is the preserved sweets which the island is known for, or the loukoumia which comes from Syros, right next door. Or a 6 pack or two of Nissos Beer which you can get along with your tour of the Nissos Brewery on the outskirts of town just off the road to Ag Ioannis.

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