Tonight the full moon is reflecting on the Aegean Sea outside our bedroom window. I actually thought I had left the outdoor light on but upon checking it was the lunar orb working it’s magic with the watery mirror before us. As cool breeze caused us to wrap in blankets on the deck earlier this evening, the four Calgary friends, drank local Greek wine under the stars. We find ourselves perched on a cliff on the north side of Santorini, one of the many Greek Cyclades islands.
Santorini is the stuff of which postcards are made (well actually it really is). Think white buildings with blue domed roofs, hundreds of feet above the ocean) The island was once completely circular and thus named Strogili, which means round in Greek. In the late 18th century BC, some mother-of-all-earthquakes hit the island, destroying the entire port city of Akrotiri. Not 200 years later a volcano blew the entire island to pieces (this must be the Webster’s dictionary definition of ‘bad luck’)
Today as we look out from the hotel there remains a small island (the caldera) from where the great volcano burst those millennia ago. The major land mass of Santorini looks like a backwards C with the caldera as a dot in the middle. Small islands remain in the wake of the great explosion. The last major earthquake to shake this paradise was in1956. If history has any repeating rhythm of natural disasters all should be well for the folks of Santorini for another couple of thousand years give or take a century. In other words we’re not worried.
When we last ‘chatted’ the four of us were leaving Istanbul. Our chauffeured van departed the hotel promptly for the airport and ground to a halt 20 feet down the road. The snaking, narrow, ancient streets of Istanbul become clogged by the slightest of delays…someone dropping off a package at a local market can within seconds cause the spider web to become a concrete based mass of honking horns and hand waving. What ensues is motor vehicle acrobatics as drivers find any way…and we do mean any way…to get their load to their destination. Up on sidewalks, around pedestrians, bolting through openings made for vehicles half the size…we gasped and winced and cringed and tried to make ourselves smaller as if that might help the van squeeze through openings.
The hot Turkish sun blazed through it all and at a point near heat stroke, D leapt over the back seat in search of cooler air at the front of the van. The driver, thinking perhaps he was losing his fare, dashed out of the van to assist D in the midst of chaos on the road. Running around the vehicle he threw open the side van door to ensure she was settled and not on an escape path. On his way back to the driver’s seat our guide seemed to grow more focused. The van’s side mirrors were folded up, air conditioning on full blast and with yet even firmer determination he did magic tricks that David Copperfield would be proud of in making that van half of its actual size. He guided that large vehicle through spots we would have guessed big enough only for Smart cars.
Upon safe arrival at the airport the four of us burst into applause and gave the driver a generous tip. Frankly not only were we thankful to catch our plane but to have arrived with all limbs still attached.
In a matter of hours we found ourselves at the small Santorini airport. Although the island boasts a million visitors per year, a great majority come for just a few hours during high season via cruise lines. ( There are currently four cruise ships visible near Fira, the largest city on the island (somewhere you definitely want to avoid if you are looking for peace and tranquility ) So the airport in Santorini can be a sleepy little place.
We walked out to find the sun shining down on this volcanic rock island. We were greeted warmly by our driver who took us via one of the two roads on the island to Finike, a small, quiet village outside of the postcard town of Oia.
Upon arrival we were greeted at this six room, family run hotel as if we were the long lost relatives once thought perished in a natural disaster. There were many smiles and shaking of hands from all three generations, all wanting to make sure we were comfortable and happy. Let’s see …you will do my laundry for free?( Did I happen to mention I was on a two week cycling trip?), the mini fridge is included? (“We want to make you feel welcome”) and a rental car thrown in. Oh and the panoramic view of this seaside paradise, well that is just part of the package.
Across the road is a little local ‘taverna’ and restaurant. We walked across the road for a late dinner and refreshment. We were greeted at the gate no less enthusiastically. They had seen the over sized bus drop us off. It was a night of amazing food ( you must try the local specialty of fried tomato balls if you come to Santorini) add some Mythos beer or some of the local wine which has a history of being produced on this island for 3500 years and life is very good indeed. The music began from the grey haired and bearded owner. With cap on and a large smile one would think he could solve many world issues. We settled into Greece with a shot of Ouzo from our hosts as a gift. Yiamas ! (Cheers)
Tomorrow will include some serious relaxing. As predicted Deb has us scheduled to hike the cliffs to Fira. We’re told it should only be 2-3 hours. I’ve been bribed with the promise of more Mythos when we get there for lunch.