Friday, May 01, 2009
Wow. I am really grateful that we took the many recommendations to visit Santorini. It is absolutely stunning.
We arrived on Wednesday, after a barely 45 minute flight from Athens and were picked up by a charming young man who gave us lots of helpful tips about the island (several of which we didn't get to make use of!) The plan was to do some serious relaxing on the island and we got right to that.
We stayed in a hotel that overlooks the caldera, or the sea that has filled in where the rest of the island was before the massive eruption that took place a long time ago. We had gorgeous sunsets, saw the cruise ships coming in everyday, and had a mostly sheltered spot to absorb some sun while staying out of the still slightly chilly breeze. What more could you want?
It wasn't long before we were itching to get out and take some photos though. It was really apparent that the island is probably one of the most photogenic places I have been in my life. I obviously was not the only one who felt that way as we saw photographers everywhere that we went. Who can blame them. The light, the colors, the fresh air and calm atmosphere make this a true paradise. We felt like we were living in a dream. The buildings on the island have a real sculptural quality to them, born out of the traditional construction techniques that combine rock walls and then stucco. As we were arriving at the start of the season we saw quite a few places getting a fresh coat of whitewash and again saw many flowers in bloom, among them one of my favorite flowers, scented geraniums.
We stayed just outside of the town of Oia (pronounced "ee-ah") that is just plain beautiful. It is filled with cliffside cafes, shops and hotels that descend down sets of steps, but no worries, there are donkey taxis that can help you get up and down! It is said that Santorini is the most beautiful Greek island, it is also said that Oia is the most beautiful spot on Santorini. Dang. We soaked it in, enjoying our many strolls to and from the town, often accompanied by "stray" dogs following/escorting us home. Not sure that they expected the tasty "tips" that we gave them once we arrived, but they certainly enjoyed them and we would sometimes wake to find the same dogs waiting outside our door in the morning :)
We did do a little exploring on this not so big island. One day we ventured out to get to other end of the island but due to some road work we were diverted through a little town (a "traditional settlement" as the sign called it), got turned around and ended up headed the other direction. Given the size of the island, it is actually quite amazing how easy it is to lose your sense of direction and get turned around! We decided that this is because the island is shaped like a large crescent. Hard to explain, but trust me, it was confusing. (add to this the fact that maps are a little vague there) but regardless, given the size of the island, you are never lost for long. It is merely an opportunity to find a different place or a different way of getting to some place you didn't think you were going to!
Santorini is also known for their wine. So naturally, we stopped at a couple of wineries while we were there and tried some. Some may have even made its way back to India.
Easter on Santorini:
On Friday, which was the Greek Orthodox Good Friday, we were told that there is a not to be missed experience at a village called Pyrgos. They celebrate the burial of Christ and then the whole town is lit up with lanterns. We observed on our way there that most other towns also had lanterns (large cans filled with sawdust and some flammable material) lining the roads awaiting lighting, but Pyrgos has the fortune of being at the top of a hill so it looks a lot cooler once all of the lanterns are lit. It really was a treat to observe this. We had also intended to attend a church service Easter Eve... they are suposed to be incredibly special and beautiful, but instead we were all quite tired and ended up tucking into bed quite early that night. Sometimes that is just the way it works out.
Finally on Sunday, Easter Sunday for the Greek Orthodox, we had the fortune to go to Santorini Mou for a traditional Easter meal. What a find. Good food, serenades by Mihalis, even stray cat and dog company (truly, all of the island owns and cares for the animals there!). If you ever get to Santorini, do drop by and have a meal there, I promise that you won't regret it.
Finally, I took many more photos than I will post here... do go take a look and enjoy a bit of Spring from the Greek Isle of Thera/Santorini.