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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 January 2016
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 JANUARY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ‘To Tenedos they come …’ - JIM CLAVEN I have always wanted to visit the Aegean island of Tenedos. The island was one of the bases for the Gallipoli campaign and I wondered what remained of those days 100 years ago. And I had read Dmetri Kalmi's beautiful autobiographical novel of his life on Tenedos, Motherland. Finally, last April, I made the journey. Catching the last ferry from the Asia Minor coast, Tenedos looks like an upturned spoon against the burning sun. As you leave the coast, you can see Imbros in the distance to the right. As the sun dipped and the harbour approached, the wind was bracing and the cold nights of April came in. It was in this very harbour that Venizelos came to meet the Allied Naval Commander, Admiral John de Robeck. Photographs from the time show the Greek residents of Tenedos coming out in their boats to greet the great statesman. The harbour used to be surrounded by "shimmering windmills" in the words of one Allied soldier, and these were captured in a photograph by The Age journalist Phillip Schuler in 1915. These lovely old windmills have gone, their memory captured in the islands’ many wind-power turbines. The main town of Tenedos is at the harbour, sheltered by the rising hills with Mt Ilias behind and all beneath the dominating castle to the right of the harbour, its origins in the island's Byzantine past. As I walked around its battlements, I imagined the guards looking out over the sea searching for pirates or other invaders. The carvings on the medieval stones recall the workings of skilled craftsman of times long ago. One of the walkways contains the faded remains of a beautiful bluecoloured tile. One hundred years before me, during the Gallipoli campaign, these walls resounded to the sounds of British Royal Marines and Greek soldiers. The town itself is a maze of cobbled streets, rising from the harbour front, with mostly two-storey homes. Many of these were in the past the residences of the Greek families of the island, with their columned entrances and decorative iron-work. Others, Tenedos harbour, 1950. SOURCE: ΤΕΝΕΔΟΣ FACEBOOK PAGE/NIKOLAOS APOSTOLOPOULOS. Tenedos residents welcome Eleftherios Venizelos to the island in 1915. PHOTO: LIEUTENANT ERNEST BROOKS. IWM Q13850. with second-storey wooded structures overhanging the streets below, recall the island's Ottoman past. Sailing past Tenedos town in 1941, an Allied sailor wrote of Tenedos’ coloured houses as looking "like a handful of marzipan cubes strewn among the rocks". When the Allies arrived on the island in 1915, Tenedos was an overwhelmingly Greek island, with more than 5,400 of its 6,620 then residents identifying as such. Tenedos' Greek history is rich. The island worshipped the god Apollo Smintheus. It appears in the works of Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides. It was at Tenedos that Agamemnon and the Achaeans withdrew from Troy after leaving the Trojan horse that would lead to the fall of Troy. It was from Tenedos that the great snakes swam - as Virgil wrote "over the tranquil deep, from Tenedos" - to strangle the Trojan oracle Laocoon as he tried to warn the Trojans. The quotation in the title of this article is from Shakespeare's play Troilus and Cressida, recalling the islands's role in Homer's tales. The island's symbol - the double-headed axe - is drawn from Greek mythology. It symbolises the mythical Prince Tennes who, unable to forgive the wrong committed by his father, stubbornly refuses to hear his father's apology and cuts the moorings of his father's boat. The Tenedos Axe is said to have been taken to Delphi as an offering to the oracle. Tenedos' connection to the Asia Minor coast saw it play a role in the Persian wars. Its position at the entrance to the Dardanelles - the Chersonese of the Ancients - is a continuing link through the island's history. Ships sailing from Constantinople would shelter in its harbour to await favourable winds to take them through the straits Tenedos. Detail from Austro-Hungarian 3rd Military Mapping Survey, 1910. to the Byzantine capital. The emperors built a huge warehouse on the island to store grain from Egypt that would feed the Great City. A traditional Cretan poem recounts how it was a ship from Tenedos that told of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, of "the city burnt by the thunderbolt". Allied soldiers would recall Tenedos' part in Greek history and myth when they came in 1915. A statue of the goddess Aphrodite was unearthed by an Allied soldier when digging a trench. One wrote of "Tenedos, dear of old Apollo" and that Homer's snakes had been replaced 3,000 years later by anti-submarine cables. Along with Lemnos and Imbros, Tenedos was joined to Greece in October 1912, the great Hellenic Admiral Kountouriotis and his fleet sailing into its harbour on 24 October 1912 to much celebration by the Greek residents of the island. The island's strategic position was one of the main reasons why Tenedos became the naval headquarters for the Gallipoli campaign in March 1915. Hotels and pensions are easy to find - even in the off-season when I arrived on Tenedos. Finding a hotel not far from the harbour, we make off for dinner. North of the harbour the streets are filled with restaurants and tavernas. We select Cabali - it's only the first night they have opened for the coming tourist season. Over a dish of grilled octopus and sardines, washed down with the famous Tenedos wine, my travelling companion Chris Mingos has soon found a local Greek resident, Stratos. Before long Greek music is being played in the restaurant, dancing occurs and plates are smashed - Greek style! The next day is Palm Sunday and we make our way to the impressive Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation of the Mother of God in the centre of town. Its high bell-tower rises high over the town. Tenedos has no resident priest, so the priest has arrived from Imbros to conduct the service for the few locals and visitors who attend. The church was erected in 1890 and is beautiful. The high roof is richly decorated, the walls filled with icons and the screen impressive. Its bell tower was restored in the 1980s. After the service, we join Mr and Mrs Starianos and the other worshipers for coffee and milopita cake. The Starianos live on Tenedos and are responsible to the Patriarch for the up-keep of the church. Mr Starianos was a spongediver until he retired. He has a brother who lives in Agrionnes on Lemnos, where many former Greek residents of Tenedos moved to after 1964.
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