Tuesday, July 24, 2012


What a treat today was!  I had no expectations of Santorini...just knew it was an island in the Aegean Sea, and there were blue domed buildings.  I read a little bit about the island the night before, that it was the caldera of a volcano...little did I know!  When we sailed into the caldera, I was surprised to see the cliff top white villages, no villages by the water.  As we got closer, I realized why...there is no flat land down below...these mountains/cliffs/walls go straight up, 1000ft!

After the boat dropped anchor, (we had to move to this more sheltered spot, because the sea was a little choppy), we rode the tender to a little dock, where we

boarded a tour bus, and our guide Marinos (from Crete), gave us the island history.  Almost 4000 years ago, this island's volcano exploded, supposedly wiping out the Minoan culture on Crete, and other islands.  The eruption raised the entire earth's temperature 1-2 degrees, and volcanic rock was found in Iceland.  Quite the explosion.  The volcano is remains active.  There are two small islands in the center of the lagoon, which are still growing.

Our first stop was the highest point on the island, a former monastery.  As we climbed up the mountain, 
See the switchbacks?
once, yes only once, I looked toward the sea.  The road was so narrow, the drop was straight down, and when a vehicle would approach, once a bus actually did!, it was a little scary.  Again with the bus pivoting on its rear wheels.  The woman next to us kept making the sign of the cross.

We passed by grape vineyards...no staking, they grow on the ground.

And the first of many churches.

The mountain top did provide a panoramic view. 
Flat land on the other side of the mountain, not as pretty as the lagoon side.

Fortunately, we didn't go down the road, we continued on a road that went along the backbone of the island...in one place, the island was less than a mile wide.  We had beautiful vistas of both side of the island.
Some sights along the way:  hillside farms, 

cobalt blue everywhere.
We stopped in a village called Oia, an artist colony.  Vendors were handing out samples of sesame and honey coated pistachios...major yum (we bought a bag, which lasted about 2 days).   We walked by a fancy cave house hotel, shops, churches.

A Greek Orthodox church.

 The inside was very ornate.

 Bob and Chris.

More walking.  Old cave houses mixed in with the new.

It was approaching lunch time, so my cousin Bob said, "how bout if we grab a bite here?"...so in we went, we were seated at an outdoor table at the edge of the restaurant, and it was as if we were sitting in a postcard.  A blue multi domed church was below us, cave houses (ancient houses built into the mountains...they are very desirable), the beautiful Mediterranean. 

See the little island on the right?

Were these kids having fun or what?

This doll was hanging inside the ladies room...prettier in person

We had a wonderful lunch of moussaka, Greek salads, risotto, and of course, local white wine.  Robert was in heaven eating Greek yoghurt.  After lunch we saw a lapis jewelry store.  The lapis was okay, but they had beautiful opals...they were rich in color, similar to Australian black opals.  I asked the clerk where they got their opals, she said from northern Greece.  Robert bought a pair of dangley earrings for me...a birthday present I will always cherish.
As we drove to our next stop, Fira, which is the main city, we passed more churches and vineyards.  There are over 500 churches on Santorini (Saint Irene), and 11 priests.  Why the churches?  Many are private chapels, but more importantly, Santorini is a poor island, and the people know that they can go to the church for food and wine.  The reason for the blue domes?  Closer to heaven.

And there are lots of donkeys.  Lots.

Next stop, Fira, not so interesting after Oia...and I think my brain was on overload.  We walked through the town to take a cable car down the cliff, where we would board the tender to take us to our boat.  You have three choices to get down the cliff, the cable car, ride a donkey (not advised because apparently they like to rub up against the walls, and as Marinos said, there are no donkey wc s, so it just stays there), or you can walk down about 700 steps.  Ah, cable car for me.
Fira and a few sights.

 The cable car descent.

Original cave houses.

One window above the door to let in light.

On the tender, looking back...cable car on the left, steps to the right.

Birthday dinner that night in Toscana, wonderful meal.  With a favorite Italian Gewurztraminer.  Tomorrow, Turkey...will my brain, and knees, survive?

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