Monday, 27 August 2012

A Glimpse of Festival Season in Tilos

A couple of days after the festival of Kamariani at the little monastery on the north-facing cliffs of Tilos, our village of Megalo Horio holds a koupa, a night of dancing in the square by the church. The koupa is a cup where men put money to pay for dances, and it's a night for locals but also for anyone who wants to join in. The evening starts with the musicians up in the kafeneion, and everyone getting into the spirit of things with food and drink. Then when it's time, they start to head down the stairs, still playing and singing along the way...

... and into the square, where they finish off the song, and the ladies who have been sitting patiently to guard the best seats for the last couple of hours can finally get ready to dance.

This was a lively koupa, not too crowded and everyone enjoyed the dancing, none more so than our jolly, friendly priest, who gave the young lads a run for their money. I even got to dance with Nikos, best known to most as the travelling barber; Stelios always says his dad dances very well but very rarely, so I was lucky he kept his promise and was a very gallant dance leader.

The next day marked the start of the 'Honey Festival' to celebrate island culture, held up at the Messinia Amphitheatre, better known as Harkadio Cave, where the elephant bones were excavated. Stelios decided that Team Kantina would do the souvlaki barbecue at the entrance, so at dusk we were chilling drinks and turning juicy skewers of pork over the hot charcoal grills for hungry and thirsty dancers and audience...

Once we'd fed and watered the masses, I sneaked away to watch the traditional dance performances: the children...

... and the ladies' group, of which I am usually one, but have missed August's lessons because of kantina duties...

And the older teenagers, who were breath-takingly brilliant...

This morning, 27 August, the singing of the service for St Fanourios could be heard all around Megalo Horio. As I found out this time last year, he's the saint of lost things. Tilos lost some good people earlier this year, but its traditions are strong, keeping the community together.



  1. Fabulous pics Jen. You say Tilos lost more people this year? Who? You can email me at as I am unable to visit this year. Will be back again next year.

    Best wishes,
    Jen xx

  2. Hi there,
    Thanks for your message. I tried emailing but it said my message triggered junk mail filters (?!) so replying here instead. I'm so glad you liked the pics. Forgive me for being ignorant but I couldn't tell from your message whether I know you, whether we've met. Please let me know! When I said Tilos lost people this year, I meant Tasos and Vangelis and all the older people also who died over the winter. Their spirit does live on, it hasn't gone...
    All best,