Volax is a tiny village located on Tinos, Greece. Set in a strange and unique site full of huge granite boulder formations, reminders of a volcanic eruption that took place some thousands of years ago, it is one of the island’s most interesting villages to explore. Many of its houses are actually built on top of the boulders and a few traditional Tinian dovecotes complete the architectural landscape.
The dovecotes are stone-built edifices, the lower floors of which were used as storerooms for agricultural and live-stock products and tools while the upper floors were for pigeons. The local people used to breed pigeons mainly for their tasty meat and their dropping, which is a first quality fertiliser. The dove-cote builders used the local material, slate, with great skill in order to form unusual decorations on one or more facades of the building. They are truly ‘built embroideries’ and a strikingly beautiful ornament of the Tinian countryside.¹
The lack of high-yielding land and the distant from the sea location, led the villagers to other means of survival. Volax soon became the main basket provider for farmers on Tinos and the surrounding islands for picking and transporting their produce. Just a few decades ago the village was home to more than forty busy basket weavers. The rise of evil plastic led to the demise of the craft and nowadays there are only three weavers left, opening up their workshops to tourists and selling their craft as souvenirs.
Baskets are still made from willow, reed and wicker. Wicker is harvested from the end of August till March and being a stronger type of fibre it is used as the basket base. Willow is softer and more flexible and needs to be pruned every year in order to produce new withies. Reed is always harvested on a January full moon and stored for use throughout the year. Harvesting must be done with caution as reed is not always found in easily accessible locations.
Tinos still keeps the old network of footpaths that connect the villages with each other. The network of stone paved paths spreads all over the island creating hiking trails that cross through landscapes with rich vegetation and running water, old water mills, a lighthouse with crazy views to the Aegean, as well as traditional dovecotes and the mysterious granite boulders of Volax.