Greece – Santorini (2010/10/14)
On January 3, 2011
It’s already 10pm when we stepped out of Santorini Airport. Although it’s very late, there is only one road from the airport to Firostefani, where our hotel is located, very close to Santorini’s town center Fira, so we couldn’t miss it. As we were ramping up along the zigzag street, we realized we were climbing to the cliff top. We asked a local resident (who has a tiny cat:-) for direction and parked our car by a small church. The church’s shape and color was in typical Santorini style – white walls, blue domes and the tower bells. Passing through a narrow alley, stepping down a few stairway, here was our hotel, Efterpi Villas. I had never seen a hotel so compact, yet so elegant – it should only appear in fairy tale. In fact, all hotels around us were like this. The narrow alley that we passed by leads to the Fira along the cliff top. At 11pm, many people just walked back from the town. We had a dinner at a family restaurant by the cliff. The breeze was warm, you could smell the romance in the atmosphere.
We waked up the next day morning with a perfect view of the island Nea Kameni, (the only thing less perfect was there was a power line running through in front of our window). The owner of the hotel cooked the breakfast and brought it to our room. Santorini is the remains of a massive volcano eruption around 1450 BC. Nea Kameni island in the middle of the crater emerged after very recent activities in 197 BC and 1707. After the devastating earthquake in 1956, Santorini’s central town, Fira, was rebuilt with churches, hotels and restaurants cling to the edge of caldera to enjoy the magnificent views. The view of white-washed wall and the blue-domed churches with the Aegean sea as the backdrop is so unique that anyone who sees the picture of Santorini for the first time cannot believe such a place does exist in this world.
After breakfast, we walked along the Agiou Mina street, the ally by the crater edge, to Fira. Fira is the hub of the Santorini island. Like other town centers of Greek Islands, its narrow streets are packed with small shops, restaurants and bars. We did some shopping, visited catholic quarter and had lunch at one of the restaurants. Octopus is a typical local dish but we didn’t expect it was so huge on the plate. The view was unbeatable. The only regret was that it seemed the bad weather followed us here, the sky was cloudy most of time.
By the afternoon, the wind gradually cleared the sky. We drove to the north of the island. It is said that the northern tip is an ideal place to watch the sunset. We passed an lovely square with a church and several shops, so we stopped to take pictures. One of the best scenes I saw on the island was a roof paved with white cobbles here. Looking over the roof, the sea was shining and the remote island became a little blurred. It’s one spectacular view I will never forget.
Kept on driving for another 300 feet, I noticed a few tour buses dropped hundreds of visitors off at the parking lot. It meant there must be something worth seeing. We followed the tour group into the alley, until then we realized we were at the town Oia, where all those postcard photos are taken, not at Fira but here. The lighting of the afternoon sun was wonderful, but there were too many people, I had to wait in line to get a spot to take pictures or hold on several minutes for a view with less people in the frame.
There were only a few restaurants and hotels at the very northern tip of the island. The sun was low. Many people were either dining or standing by the cliff to wait for the sunset. However, I found the cloud gathering at the horizon and getting darker and darker. I doubted very much that anyone could see the sunset so I took some photos at the windmills and left. While driving back to the hotel, the wind became very strong and the cloud was moving fast from the cliff side. At some points, the dark cloud was so dense that we couldn’t see the road. The fierce wind kept on blasting throughout the night. We fell into sleep accompanied by the whistling sound made by the wind blowing through the power line.