Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Santorini GREECE

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 – Santorini, Greece
One of the most beautiful islands in the world with villages on the high mountains so they look like snow and the blue Aegean Sea below

We did not have a good night so we decided to take it easy getting off the ship and did not rush. Tenders took us to shore where they are shops and a funicular to the top – where the town of Fira is located.

The streets are all cobblestone and hilly. We wandered around and decided to take local buses so we headed to Oia, the village at the northern part of the island. Pretty mountainous scenery, flat plains dotted with white homes and bright blue-domed churches were below.

We found the internet at the local library so we worked there. Took another local bus to Perissa and we went through some nice small villages and to Akrotiri, where excavations have been halted. One area had a Black Beach and one was a Red Beach. Quaint white domed homes, horses roaming wild and fields with no crops planted yet. Beautiful drive for a very reasonable price and since we were feeling out of sorts, it was a great way to relax and see the countryside.

Santorini pronounced (San-to-ree-nee) is a small, circular archipelago of volcanic islands located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 120 miles southeast from Greece’s mainland. It is also known as Thera, forming the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands, with a population of 13,670. It is composed of the Municipality of Thira (pop. 12,440) and the Community of Oia (pop. 1,230). Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island. A giant central lagoon measuring about 8 miles by 4 miles is surrounded by 984-foot high steep cliffs on three sides. The island slopes downward from the cliffs to the surrounding Aegean Sea. Santorini is the only inhabited Caldera (volcano cauldron) in the world.

The primary industry is tourism, particularly in the summer months. It has no rivers, and water is scarce. Until the early 1990s locals filled water cisterns from the rain falling on roofs and courts, from small springs, and with imported assistance from other areas of Greece. In recent years a desalination plant has provided running, but non-potable, water to most houses. There is a small, but flourishing, wine industry, based on the indigenous grape variety, Assyrtikko. Vines of the Assyrtiko variety are extremely old and prove resistant to phylloxera, attributed by local winemakers to the well-drained volcanic soil and its chemistry. In their adaptation to their habitat, such vines are planted far apart, as their principal source of moisture is dew, and they often are trained in the shape of low-spiraling baskets, with the grapes hanging inside to protect them from the winds.

Gialos (known as the old port) is Fira's small port and sits 900 feet below Fira town. It nestles under the caldera with a path containing 588-zigzagged steps. You can attempt to walk up the steps but be warned, they are narrow in places with very low walls. The path is covered in donkey excrement and the donkeys will make no attempt to avoid you. You can take donkeys up the winding steps or the easy way is by the electric cable car for the three-minute trip. It was installed as a gift from the wealthy Santorini ship owner Evangels Nomikos in 1979.

Oia (pronounced E-ah) faces south in a fishbone layout. Oia (sometimes listed as Ia) is located on the north of the island, 7 miles from Fira. The main pedestrian street connects across the top of the cliff with many local branches. The village was also, devastated by the 1956 earthquake and has never fully recovered. Oia has several cultural attractions like the Maritime Museum which houses a small library, items from the maritime life of the area, and the vestiges of a Venetian fortress. Oia is famous for its sunset and the narrow passageways get crowded in the evenings. The most popular spot to watch the sunset is by the Kastro walls. Sunsets viewed from Oia are reputed to be among the world's most beautiful. As seen on a zillion postcards, the characteristic classic view of Oia is the bright white and blue of the church contrasting with the deep blue of the Aegean Sea in the background.

Walked back through the village to the teleferico and back to the harbor. On the tender to the ship and to dinner and laundry and resting. The view at night is magnificent…full moon and lights on at Santorini…!! Wow.

“Every generalization is dangerous, especially this one.” – Mark Twain