Postcard from Tinos – III

If I leave my room and climb stone stairs and make my way between whitewashed buildings, around a large Greek Orthodox church, and up a steep grade, in just a few minutes I can get a good vantage on the village of Pyrgos, a labyrinth of stacked white boxes, arranged along a relatively level plateau, though the rear of the village climbs the hill another thirty or forty meters. The hillsides are dotted with old quarries and Tinos’s famed marble has been sent all over the world. Here it is ubiquitous local rock. The floor of my room is marble. The walkways are marble. The steps are marble. Even the pepper-gray stone walls are all salted with chunks of marble. There is a school here still for sculpture students, who I see sometimes in the cemetery, studying the marble markers. During the summer hundreds of people live and visit Pyrgos. Right now—what the Greeks adorably call winter—I’d be surprised if we topped 100 souls. I pass many empty shops and shuttered houses as I make my winding way back into town. The road that runs along the island touches the village, but does not enter it. Moving through Pyrgos is a pedestrian exercise. Every route through the marble passageways is circuitous, but the alleys and tunnels always connect to the next walk or stairway and I can’t really get lost. There’s nothing desolate about the offseason here. The village in November reminds me of a theater company between shows. There’re repairs and adjustments to make, but the villagers are relaxed, intimate and tight-knit, enjoying the calm and the quiet. Their beautiful stage is, for now, all theirs. At the center of that stage is the main square, where an ancient and massive tree spreads its branches over several cafes, four of which remain serenely open despite being largely empty during the day. If I order a glass of ouzo, though, and wait for dark, a good percentage of the village population will accrete around me. Old men and women pulling up more and more chairs around their little table. The young and shaggy sculpture students along one wall, smoking and talking. A café owner and her family laughing uproariously as they work. Children hanging on their parents’ shoulders, watching the adults play backgammon. I’m backstage in the marble village and curtain is many months away.