28.05.2009 - 02.06.2009
One night in Athens..
The prospect of a Greek island soujourn posed an interesting question whilst planning this trip. The only port of entry into the islands is via Athens, and since we weren't going there, our next best option was to get there from Italy. Hence, we split our Italian odyssey and made a quick hop over into Santorini.
The journey was yet another curveball, and required us to negotiate a 6 hour layover in Athens airport - from 11.30pm till 5.30am. Hey, we saved a nights accomodation, and all in all proved to be fairly comfortable, what with a 24 hour McDonalds, free wifi and a laptop movie to keep us occupied, the six hours flew by in a flash. I was slightly annoyed however when the next flight consisted a total of 25 minutes flying time, which just didn't seem appropriate.
'Yasas' Eeey-yah (Oia)
Arrival transfer brought us to Oia, but were informed we couldnt check in until 2pm (not the news you want to hear after an all nighter in an airport). Took the opportunity to walk around the picturesque town, with its sugarcube white buildings, blue domes and breattaking views across what they call the 'caldera' - the sheer seaside cliffs caused by the ancient volcanic eruption that created the island as it stands today. After an hour or so, sleep deprivation caught up with us and we decided to catch a bus to Fira, a nearby town. Promptly fell asleep at the bus stop, and again on the bus there. Had a nice lunch in Fira, got the bus back and enjoyed another 25 minute nap. Got back to Oia good as new!
The title attraction in Santorini is the sunset, and the daily light show is gazed upon by hundreds of eager spectators from the tip of the Oia village, by an ancient byzantium temple perched dangerously on the cliff face. We watched 4 spectacular sunsets, each unique, and on our second night taking along beer and peanuts to enjoy the show!
Down below Oia is a tiny bay amongst volcanic red rocks, and you can get there by descending the mere 230 odd steps (no sweat, right?). Anyhow, what goes down, must come up (I know.. but it works in this case), and that was our exercise for the day. Great views, though, and a really unique place. For those who have luggage, a donkey can be of assistance by carrying your bags for you - simple but effective!
Scooting around Santorini
By far the best decision we made was to hire a scooter - or, to be precise, a 50cc quad bike (ATV), to give us the freedom to scoot around the island and explore its many treasures on our own schedule. And it was fun to ride! The island roads are relatively good and some of the drives unforgettable, with roads snaking around cliff faces, often with ocean on both sides, wind in our hair (well, Sumathi's, anyway).
Sandy beaches - not!
Santorini is an island whose character is inextricably linked to the volcanic activity which created it, and as such, much of the island is barren, apart from plants introduced by man into the rich volcanic soil. Rock is a strange mix of rusty red and jet black.
Santorini's coastline is dotted by it's famous 'black beaches' - stretches of fine smooth black stones leading into calm waters. The most famous of these, Kamari and Perissa, are both lined with sun lounges and umbrellas, with waterfront promenades, bars and clubs.
In Kamari, we subjected ourselves to lazing around on the deck chairs, by the glorious turquoise waters, fanned by warm breeze, split only by intermittent dips in the cool waters. Sigh!
(The water was cold! Funnily, the hardest work we had to do was feebly attempting to get in and out of the water, the smoooth black stones acting like quicksand, sucking in our feet and weighing them down, making wading through the water an absolute mission! I'm sure there is a technique to it - but we certainly didn't make much headway)
In Perissa, we made it easy for ourselves by hanging out in a club just by the beach, equipped with its own swimming pool by the bar, serving cold beer and fresh sandwiches. Oh, the life!
With the theme song to 'The Beach' running through our heads, we zoomed out to another interesting beach on the south of the island, dominated by the rusty red rock outcrop and red stones; and imaginatively named 'Red Beach'. The ocean views, and the red contrasts with blue water make for pretty amazing viewing. It took some effort to climb up and around some pretty steep stones to get into the secluded area, after which the tiny beach offered little in the way of shade from the midday sun - so our stay was shortlived.
Ouzo is the digestiv of choice (offered gratis after each meal we had), but we were lucky enough to get out to one of the many vineyards to sample some of Santorini's acclaimed local wines. Apparently, the volcanic soil proves to be very good for growing grapes!
The vineyard we visited was called Domaine Siglas, and we sampled some whites and their dry but easy drinking red, and was suitably impressed.
Dinner and a show?
Our staple for our time had thus far been limited to gyros (or 'yeeros' back home), which always proved to be a fresh and reasonably satisfying meal (and at 2 euros a pop, was by far the most economical!)
On our last evening, we treated ourselves to a nice meal at Kastro, a restaurant on the terrace just by the byzantine temple in Oia. We downed a bottle of Siglas' red as the sun wore down in hues of orange, and tucked into posh souvlaki (with knives and forks and everything!) overlooking the serene waters.
After dinner, we tried our hand at some nightshots over Oia - result!