Saturday, April 21, 2007

Greece - Part 3: Santorini

*Imagine an circular island in a turquoise sea. The salt air lick the volcanic outcrops, sending wisps of ash into the clear deep-blue sky. A civilization of early Greek people thrive on the fertile soil, growing wine and catching squid in the bountiful ocean. Life is simple, easy.*

*Until one day, three-thousand five-hundred years ago, the earth began to shake. With an apocalyptic explosion, the island exploded with a force not felt before, sending towering ash clouds into the sky and devastating tsunamis throughout the Mediterranean. The blast from the volcano left the island broken, a partial ring of rock surrounding a submerged caldera. The Minoan culture vanished in the super-heated wind, leaving Pompeii-like preserved villages.*

*And then the tourism vultures swooped in to exploit the island's intense and stunning natural beauty. Some centuries later, Peter Bond steps off the slow ferry and stares in awe at the shear laminated volcanic rock wall above....*

Santorini Island differs greatly from Naxos, as it is one of the "must-see" locations in all of Mediterranean Europe. Unfortunately, this makes it much too tourist-y for my taste, lacking in local culture and pandering to the (usually) English-speaking tourist with money.

Highlights of Santorini include hiking the island in search of the perfect shot of the volcanic ash cliffs, watching the sunsets from Oia, and eating at Mama's Breakfast House (where Mama herself yells greetings across the room, hugs and calls everyone "sex bombs," and offers delicious complimentary pancakes. And the food is good too!

Enjoy the photographs (click on them to enlarge your favorites!)

The ash cliffs from the ferry.
Notice the orange life-boat. This is the location of the sinking of the Cruise Ship three days before I arrived at Sanorini!

Fira - the main town on the island.

Houses of Fira - definitive Greek white-washed buildings.

Open the door and step off the end of the world...

The volcanic island in the center of the caldera.

Precarious balance of Fira on the Santorini cliffs.

Dinner with the sunset. Famous Santorini wine.
A map of Santorini on the tablecloth.

The famous Red Sand Beach.

Iron in the volcanic rock make it red.

One needs to hike a bit through the red rocks to get to the beach.
Two Canadians, two Americans, an Australian, and Me.

Spectacular Red Cliffs overlook the beach.

Clear turquoise Mediterranean Sea...

Panoramic photograph of Santorini.

Windmill in Oia, as the sun sets beyond.

The lanes of Oia, Santorini's second city.

Watching the world-famous sunset from Oia.

The intense orange of a Santorini sunset.

Pastel colours fill the sky as the sun sinks into the sea.

The cliffs of Santorini, layers and layers of ash and lava.

Island of lava steams with heat from this active (or sleeping) volcano.

My last sunset in Greece.

Artistic photograph at sunset.

Artistic photograph at sunset.

Elements of Greece.

Amazing view.
(Notice the dog balancing on the railing.)

Goodbye, Greece.

But it wasn't quite the end...

My ferry leaves at 11pm to take me back to Athens, so I can catch my flight back to the UK, and I wait at the Santorini dock. And I wait. And I wait. 10pm. 11pm. 12pm.... ugh.
Finally at 1am, a ferry arrives. I follow everyone onto the boat, tired and cold. With one look at my ticket, the attendant tells me this is the wrong boat.

Wrong boat?

This boat does not go to Athens.

No? Where does it go then?


What?! Crete? That is in the exact opposite direction of which I want to go!!! Let me off!!!

You can't get off the boat as it has just left. You are now going to Crete.


So I went to Crete. The southernmost point in Europe. After arriving, tired, cold and now lost at 6am, I begin to stumble around, trying to figure out how to get back to Athens in time for my flight. I bite the bullet and head to the airport and pay the cash for a flight to the capital. I arrive in plenty of time to waste 6 hours in the airport, but I make the flight and get home safe and sound.

I didn't see much of Crete, besides the dock, the airport and some countryside when my connecting bus detoured around some construction. But it counts, doesn't it?

Greece was an amazing country and I am glad I got to experience it.
If you love your senses, go to Greece!

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