Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Santorini: Summer Holiday 2009

I had heard the stories and read descriptions of sailing into the caldera in Santorini. But, second-hand accounts don't do justice to the experience. Seeing the towns with their blindingly white houses high up on the cliffs is an eye opener. Note: The images in this post link to my Picasa photo album with all trip photos.

This video shows us arriving by ferry. And also a day trip we took to Nea Kameni, the island in the center of the caldera.

After having blown off Santorini during my previous trip to Greece, I was finally here. Very exciting. But, not as exciting as the van ride from the port up to Fira. That was hair raising. I kept my eyes where they needed to be: on the rocks in the cliffs. The volcanic history of this island ensured some fascinating geology. At least to me. TJ, not so much.

Once we got settled in our hotel, we headed for Oia to see the sunset. Oia is pretty spectacular. Rebuilt on the cliff side after a 1956 earthquake sent nearly the entire town down into the water. We staked out our claim for choice viewing and let the sky, clouds and atmosphere take over.

Yes, I crush your picture perfect sunset!

We spent two nights watching the sunset at Oia. Both times as the sun faded out of sight, applause rose us from the crowd. Pretty freaking awesome. They applaud the sunset here!

As on Mykonos and Naxos, we rented an ATV for the day and headed out exploring other parts of the island. There was a beautiful red sand beach (like the one in Maui). And two black sand beaches. By this point in the trip, TJ and I had acquired quite a healthy tan. Is that an oxymoron? So, we stayed for awhile, tested the water, and moved on. As usual, we found some great gyros to snack on. And some pastries for me.

Fira is similar to Mykonos Town. But, not as geared toward clubs and late night craziness. Or maybe we just went back to the hotel before all that got started. Hmmm. Maybe.

During the day, the town buzzes with tourists in search of evil eye amulets, nodding donkey dolls, and other truly horrible gifts to remember their stay. I picked up a leather and twine bracelet. Reminds me of my early days living in Southern California. And at 3 euros, cheap.

At night, the crowds are still there shopping. And eating. And drinking. But, the town itself becomes the star. Lit up like a Christmas tree. Night and day in Fira are worlds apart.

Since Fira sits on a cliff, you have to do a little up and down to get from one part of town to the next. This usually is fairly benign. On the day we took a boat out into the caldera, we had to be at the old port. Which is located directly below the town. The way down wasn't too bad. Except for maneuvering around the donkeys. At certain points, they stood across all the steps. Move that ass!

On the way up, TJ noticed the numbers on the steps. At the top, we saw the sign indicating that there were over 500 steps from the old port to where we were.

This is me arriving at the top of the steps. Well worth the effort. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at our favorite restaurant, Santo Mythos. Nothing more than a simple gyro shop. But, they made the gyros just right. The shaved pieces of meat were crispy, yet juicy. The pita was crispy, soft on the inside, and glistening with oil. Santorini may have had less emphasis on seafood than Mykonos or Naxos, but they more than made up for it with traditional gyros.

And thus ended our Greek vacation. On to Turkey, where we could expect to find kebaps and baklava. Gastronomically, we weren't really going far.

For more photos of our trip to Santorini, click here.