‘Not sure if there is WIFI in Tilos’. ‘Just to be on the safe side, eat an ice cream in Rhodes. You never know if there is snickers-flavoured ice cream in the island’. And when we were just about to board the boat, my friend timidly asked me about bank machine; both I and my sister gave her an enigmatic look. Our bad jokes notwithstanding, Georgette’s cheerful mood for her first visit in Tilos was vivid. She was prepared for the most primitive and far from civilisation and amenities vacation. Luckily reality was much better than the picture I and Anna drew for our forefathers’ island, but still not very close to the name given by my uncle: ‘small Paris’.
The island was as I had left it a few years ago, maybe with a couple less lanterns functioning. The water was crystal clear and when you dove your head in, you could still listen to quacks by wild ducks, “lolomaria” (crazy Maria), as the locals call them. The island was full of life, since the time of a famous religious celebration in two of the island’s monasteries was getting close. Our daily schedule included a lot of swimming, strolls around the village, dinner next to the sea and (why not?) nightlife. Thankfully, we had the best guide, my cousin Maria, who runs the adorable “Marina Rooms” business in the most idyllic location of village Livadia. Every day we would spend some time before bed just admiring the view of the quiet village with its scattered lights and listening to nothing else but the sound of the waves.
Eristos and Plaka are popular between the nudist- campers community. Committed travellers visit the quiet locations every year, counting often a couple decades. Entire families of nudists make you wonder if clothes are really needed on this almost forgotten part of the world.
In Eristos beach, the Mojito bar, advertised in key venues of Tilos, such as the bakery, offered cocktails to the alternative tourists. Going a little further in the new territory, it seemed, that the campers have created a little meeting point in the middle of the beach, where a black pirate flag was waving. The tents looked well equipped and they could definitely sustain life for a couple of months. Small devices inserted in the sand collected solar energy to prepare for the summer night.
After a few unsuccessful cartwheels, a little yoga exercises and jogging on the sand, we decided to try the cool waters of the Aegean sea. However, a dog coming straight from the pirate flag side, didn’t seem to respect our property. He stepped glamorously on our towels and grabbed the cold coke, recently bought from the Mojito bar.
Apart from the anarchist dog, the island hid more exciting animal life. And when I say that I have no-one else in mind but an exotic, talkative creature originating from Brazil. Panos! This brainy green parrot sings, laughs, barks and imitates the voice of the sheep. He also loves to call his name in every possible rhythm. Soon a little Italian guest at the age of two couldn’t overlook the peculiar noise and approached the cage to have a better look of Panos. The parrot, who has never failed to entertain his multicultural audience, cleared his throat and gave one of his memorable performances.
The monastery of Saint Panteleimon, that is more than 500 years old, is one of the few places of the island that you can indulge the shade of a tree. The terracotta and beige colours of the church matched perfectly with the natural scenery of the mountain and sea and inspired our little photo-shooting.
Returning to Livadia in a boiling bus, where one door was kept open in absence of air conditioning, an excited old man reminded us that the much anticipated night of the greek fiesta had finally come. The panygiri of “Panagia Politisa” monastery is one of the most important events of the small island and is attended by everyone. Curious sunburnt tourists, old traditional Tilians, families with young children, the fresh blood of Tilos, who were taught at school the intricate dancing moves and couldn’t wait to proudly present them. Everyone was there. The songs from the monastery on the sill reached the village of Livadia and the smell of the delicious lamb also. The cooks distributed generous portions of Tilian lamb in red sauce and fried crunchy potatoes. My cousin informed me, when I expressed my awe for the recipe, that it was actually work of uncle Zafiris. Consequently I couldn’t help but asking him to pose with the dish.
The drinks, food and music spread cheerfulness around the yard. I observed the steps of the dances, trying to memorise them. After a while we joined the dancing circle and stopped only on a special song, that required a little play from three men. The one was supposed to be old and crippled and on a specific point of the song he had to stumble. After a while the rhythm went faster, he threw the crutches and danced joyfully. A tourist, who obviously was not aware of the traditional song and the accompanied drama, ran on the dance floor to help the crippled man stand on his feet. Needless to say that the audience, the dancers and the bewildered tourist bursted with laughter.
At the last night we visited the bar at the abandoned village, “Mikro Chorio”. During daytime the numerous goats dominate the village. In the nighttime, romantic music and atmospheric lights transform the place. The chairs face the amphitheatrically once built village, inevitably making you melancholic about the past, the present and the future.