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Friday, August 07, 2009

SPECTACULAR SANTORINI

Fira, Santorini, perched on the edge of the caldera


SANTORINI: June 13 - 16, 2009


Without a doubt, Santorini has to be the most dramatic of all the Greek islands. The story of the volcanic explosion that took place there some time between 2000 and 1600 BC is like something out of science fiction. It is said it was the most powerful volcanic eruption recorded next to Krakatoa. It blew apart the island, leaving just fragments around the rim of the still smouldering caldera in the centre of the bay. The eruption and tsunamis it created played a major role in the destruction of the Minoan empire in Crete (and that's where Theseus was fleeing from when he abandoned the Cretan princess Ariadne on Naxos). Reports in the Bible tell of the ash falling over Egypt. All that is left of that mighty empire are a few fragmented ruins, Akrotiri and ancient Thira high up on a hillside. At Akrotiri they discovered some of the brilliant wall paintings the Minoans were noted for. Its a bit like Pompeii although on a small scale but I don't believe they discovered bodies. In fact, I wonder where everyone went? Did they heed the omens and escape before their island was blown to smithereens?


View of the caldera (crater)

The main town is Fira and from the edge of the cliffside you get magnificent views of the caldera and the surrounding islands that were once part of the whole island of Thira. It is also the place where you go in the evening to watch the fantastic sunsets. There are lots of tavernas and wine bars along the edge of the caldera where you can enjoy an evening meal or a drink while you see the splendid sunset show accompanied by suitable music. A very dramatic experience indeed!

Red Beach

We set off on another 'tour' which didn't turn out so well. The so-called guide who drove the mini van didn't speak English and wouldn't listen to our instructions. We were supposed to be able to choose where we wanted to go. He insisted on ignoring us and led us on a merry chase that would have cost us a bundle ($50 an hour for this rip-off 'tour) but we made such a fuss in the end we only had to pay $50 for 1 hour. That was the trip to the Boutari winery where we had a very good wine tasting experience with an excellent wine steward. Other than that, we wanted to visit Akrotiri and found it was closed. (Learned later that everyone in Greece knew it was closed and had been for some time, due to a tragic accident at the site). So the 'guide' then insisted on driving us to Ancient Thira where we had been already told the road was closed. In spite of our protests he drove up the winding narrow road where the wind was blowing so hard it threatened to blow the van off the road. We protested loudly and insisted this lunatic take us back to our hotel but he kept on driving around the island and finally we got back to the hotel.

The next day we set off by bus (we should have done this all along. Very cheap!) and headed for Akrotiri again. That's when we found out about the closure. So we hiked along the beach and the very rocky edge of a cliff and climbed down a pathway with red stones so sharp you could cut yourself if you fell, to one of the famous volcanic beaches of Santorini, Red Beach. The beach really is red, because all the stones and sand are from the volcano's eruption.

One thing my sister and niece enjoyed on Santorini was the shopping. It's a pricey and very touristic island and there's a lot of trendy shops as well as the usual souveniers. So I spent a lot of time hanging around waiting for them to make their purchases.

Every night we went to the cliff side coffee bars and found a good place to sit to watch the sunset. This is the main feature of the island and everyone flocks to the edge to watch.
Every night it's a bit more spectacular than the last. And somehow you never get tired of snapping photos of it.
Santorini Sunset

Finally our island hopping holiday was over. It was time to return to Athens as Jean and Debra had to catch a flight the next day back home. I still had six days left to visit with my friends and see a few more sights.


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