Our first night on Santorini island. The hotel, the Petit Palace, is comfortable and the view, as you can see, is stunning. My sole complaint is spotty wifi. Of course you don't come to Santorini for the wifi, you come to perch on the rim of a volcanic caldera and soak in the breathtaking setting.
Today we started out by exploring Fira, Santorini island's capital and largest city. It was a blazingly sunny day, the brightness enhanced by the ubiquitous white buildings and reflections off the wine-dark sea.
I am reading the wonderful Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey and can easily visualize Ulysses' ship sailing the Greek waters, trying to avoid being bashed into the rocky shores. In fact, at the base of the cliff 250m below our hotel is an outline of where a cruise ship sunk in 2007. The giant ship is still there.
Fira's 7000 inhabitants are dwarfed by tourists; the town is covered with hotels and restaurants, many of which cascade down the cliffside to afford views of the caldera and the boats that ply its waters. Yet everyone we've met has been friendly and helpful and most people we've encountered speak English - and their English is certainly better than my Greek. Signage, too, is almost always accompanied by an English translation.
Next, we walked north from Fira along the cliffside path to the two adjacent villages, Firostefani and Imerovigli. While there Paul hiked out to Skaros, a rocky outcrop that once featured a village and a castle.
Aeolus, the god of the winds, was in full form today as we set out from the Petit Palace hotel for the distant village of Oia. In addition to facing Aeolus's brisk winds we missed the bus into town so it was an exhausting day. First we retraced yesterday's path to Fira, Firostefani, and then Imerovigli. Then we hiked a path that hugs the cliffside overlooking the caldera. It also involves climbing a couple of hills. Finally the path drops down to Oia, at the northern-most tip of Santorini island. By the end of the day I figure we did 16km.
Oia is a yet another charming hilltop town, a little more polished than Fira - the marble sidewalks are beautiful - but I didn't find Oia all that different from Fira. Oia might be a better place to stay than Fira if only for the fact that Fira is where the cruise ships disembark.
We took the bus back to Fira then walked the rest of the way to the hotel. The ticket taker on the very comfortable bus provided an entertaining nonstop commentary on his need for small change for fares as well as how not to dispose of our bus ticket stubs. All in English, mind you. Then, on the walk back we encountered several groups of donkeys going home for the night. I suppose these are the animals that ferry passengers frim Fira's cruise ship port. Note that the guidebooks discourage using the poor donkeys.
Dinner was excellent Mexican at Senor Zorba, our second visit. Greek cuisine is fine but it is also nice to have a break from it.
Canadians' reactions to the US election range from ignored to horrified. Some are even hosting election-night dinner parties to watch the returns. As for me, I'm just relieved it's almost over.
While waiting for the returns to come in I'm reviewing my Greece photos in Lightroom, day by day, in chronological order. I'm up to October 13. Reviewing is basic, I assign a star if I think the shot is worth reconsideration. I rarely delete. I should delete more. I'm simultaneously updating my blog posts as I go, fixing a typo, adding a photo.
On October 13 we were in Naxos. Naxos is my favorite of the three islands we visited. While Santorini has brain-thwacking views - see accompanying picture - it is terminally touristy. Hydra is almost too bucolic. Naxos has restaurants and shopping, the island has several towns, beaches if that's your thing, hiking, and ruins. On the other hand, if you want uninterrupted time to write that novel then Hydra is your place.
Santorini has two ports: Skala (Old Port) and Athinios (Ferry Port). We watched Skala pass as we - passengers of the Blue Star Delos - headed for Athinos. The ports aren't far away, it's like Skala is in town and Athinos is the suburbs. Athinos is newer and can be reached by a (scary) road. They both face the challenge, how to get to the town above.
Athinos is the ferry port for Santorini. It isn't pretty, it's a transport hub and not a place to hang out. So as soon as we walked off the ferry we found a bus, got in, and rode up the cliff side. The bus driver collected the fare later.
If you look to the lower left you can see the road starting up the cliff, then a series of switchbacks. Just to the right of the light pole you can see a bus on its way up.
This view is why one comes to Santorini.
If you look to the lower left, sticking out of the cliff-face, you can see a bit of road to Athinos port. Then, if you look to the lower right, the buoys in the water outline where the MS Sea Diamond cruise ship sank, in 2007. The ship is still there, waiting to be salvaged. Or not.
The town of Fira is about as touristy as a town can be. Still, it has its charms.
Our second day on Santorini we hiked from our hotel to the northernmost tip of the island where the town of Oia is located. A warm sunny day though really windy. At times I wondered if I'd be blown off the trail and into the sea far below.
The trail follows the edge of the caldera and involves a couple of decent climbs.