Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Savoring Santorini

After one all-night ferry ride, another baking-hot-in-the-sun ferry ride, a hot coach (big bus), and an even hotter mini-bus ride, I returned from Santorini to my sweltering/stuffy apartment, five loads of laundry(including sheets and bedding) in my tiny washing machine and tons of cancelling-utility-errands-in-a-foreign-language drudgery. On top of that, I have to cancel my wi-fi tomorrow which means I'll be going "cold turkey" for four days. (I'm a bit panicked about that and have started scouting air-conditioned free-wifi hotspots.) Anyway, I never had a chance to write about one of the most beautiful touristic places (Colorado mountains excluded) that I've had the opportunity to visit so here's my last opportunity for several days.

My travel companions and I arrived at the Santorini ferry port about 1:00 am and were met by our shuttle driver who then drove us up a narrow, steep, windy road switch-backing up the steep cliff of the famous lost-city-of Atlantis-mythical volcano. I wasn't scared but I was American-judgmental watching our driver talk on a cell phone with his left hand, shift gears with his right hand and swing wide on all the switch backs to avoid making 3 point turns. Luckily, I didn't  have to see him back up to one of only several wide points in the road because we never met oncoming traffic. After driving for about 20 minutes the van left us at the top of a hill where we were met by a porter who hefted our over-weight bags on his shoulders and led us down a city block's worth of curvy, steep cobblestone steps and into our hotel room where were promptly dropped onto our beds and fell fast asleep.

The next morning I awoke early (what's new?) and quietly tiptoed out of our hotel room door and onto our balcony. Our room was nestled into the steep, rocky cliffs of the volcano's caldera and overlooking the sea and nearby Greek islands. To the right, hundreds of crisp white hotel rooms dotted the curved edge of the caldera making it appear as if we were all modern-day cliff dwellers. Birds were gracefully floating at the exact height of our balcony and occasional song birds would chat with each other on the grape vines filled with plump, green grapes that were shading our balcony. Church bells from the surrounding hillsides chimed on the hour reminding me we were in a new country. Soon a steaming cup of coffee magically appeared via last night's smiling porter. I soaked up the beauty, pinched myself several times, and relaxed in the peacefulness of my favorite time of day in such a beautiful location.

After my companions awoke, a delicious breakfast including eggs and bacon, fresh Greek yogurt and fruit, breads, honey, fresh squeeze OJ, and more coffee was delivered to the table on our balcony. Sitting in the slice of heaven was just the peaceful interlude needed after a the crowds and noise of Fethiye and Rhodes.

After a day of relaxing by the pool, exploring the tiny cobblestone paths, climbing and descending stairs countless stairs, and eating our fill of delicious Greek food, we returned to our hotel room, raised our glasses of white wine to Santorini's world famous sunset.

For the next two days, we hiked the trail from Fira to Oia, drove the island's scenic, roads, swam at the island's many different colored beaches, and walked through many ancient historical places. We even managed to stumble upon a "local" hangout complete with live music and a California woman who fell in love with Santorini 25 years ago and never left. A short conversation yielded the fact that she currently leads tours of Santorini's many wineries, but she really got our attention after the Greek musicians coaxed her into singing "Summertime". At this point one of my travel companions created the story that she must have jumped off a cruise ship all those years ago and never got back on. She was  really good!

After a final, delicious meal and another beautiful, yet cloud-covered sunset, we parted ways. My companions liked it so much they decided to stay an extra couple of days on the island, but I needed to get home and pack for my departure. Sitting here among half-packed boxes, trash bags, dusty floors, and over-sized suitcases, I needed to take a break to remember where I was only two days ago before the memories fade away.

View from our hotel patio/balcony.

Watching the sunset from our balcony.

The Red Beach

The ropes tempted me so I rang the bells.

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