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EXPLORING SANTORINI
 
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EXPLORING SANTORINI

Arriving at the dock in Santorini was magical and equally chaotic. I looked up at the rim above and turning to my husband asked, "Is that snow?" A very naive question given the time of year and location, but this great dark stony island was graced with a topping of white that aside from snow might as well have been whipped cream. At this distance I didn't realize I was seeing homes and small hotels all painted bright white flowing down from the rim as if snow or cream. 

The ferry's arrival was met with dozens of men and boys hawking taxis, hotels, restaurants and tours of all kinds. As is the fashion in Greece everyone was talking with great enthusiasm all at the same time. I was a little overwhelmed, but of course my Greek husband was right at home and fell into the frenzy with a bit of glee. He was having such a good time that most hawkers had met their goals and gone on their way when we decided on a very genial fellow who sold us on the idea that his property was so very well located. In truth this didn't really mean much to either of us, but he was so ernest and enthusiastic we could hardly resist. As it turned out he took us to the lovely little Hotel Nefeli pictured in the photographs below. The view was extraordinary and it was extremely well located, saving us several flights of stairs when we left for exploring and dining.

 

 

Transportation in the Santorini my husband remembers involved a great many of the furry fellows pictured in the photograph on the right. In the small harbor at that time, visitors to Santorini climbed on board one of these little fellows who then climbed the hundreds of stairs to the top where hotels and eateries were found. Colorful as it may have been back in donkey days, having ridden on a wooden saddle just once in my life, I was thrilled that a road now replaced the stairs and cars had replaced the donkeys.

In the photograph of the old harbor below you can still see part of the stairway to the top.

After finding the perfect hotel so easily, we set off toward Ia and the car rental agency our hotel recommended. It proved as easy and pleasant as our hotel arrangement and getting into the little vehicle we set off for food, a place recommended by the car rental agency staff.

The food in this little open all day every day place was extraordinary and the people just as wonderful. Ah, souvlaki and huge pita breads greased with olive oil and heated on the grill. Once filled with perfectly cooked hot lamb, fried onions, fresh lettuce and tomato and smothered in tzitziki, heaven had to be somewhere very close by. The little eat in/take out restaurant is just outside of Fira heading north toward Ia on the left had side of the road. Look for Niko and Niko pictured below and say hello for us.

The tragic part of finding this fabulous souvlakia was finding the associated pastry shop right next door. When you die and go to heaven you may very well end up there. Incredibly the owner kept insisting it was his birthday and no matter what or how much we ordered it would end up being his gift to us because it was his birthday. Feeling a little guilty about the gifts probably saved us 1000's of calories. His charming wife is pictured in the photograph on the left.

And, we now carry forward his idea. When it is my birthday or my husband's, we always give presents of some sort to folks we especially appreciate having in our lives.

As evening arrived with us still clutching our box of bakery treats we headed back to our little hotel to enjoy the sunset and a glass of wine on our patio with its extraordinary view of the sea filled caldera, the heart of a still active volcano. Santorini is in fact the rim of the volcano and you may be lucky while there to hear many of the Greek stories about this island and its history.
The following day we headed off to Ia, a small town just up the road and also facing the caldera. Ia is a delightful town of tiny hotels, chic eateries and fancy shops all exhibiting the Greek talent for spare, elegant and somewhat playful architecture as you will see in the photographs below.

Leaving Ia, we backtracked passing Firostefani  heading toward Fira the island's main town. Leaving there we followed the road on the rim ending at the lighthouse looking back toward Fira and the other end of the island, Ia.

Then we headed inland, passing wildflowers and grape fields, churches and more bakeries per square mile than in any other place in the world (I think) eventually descending to the other side of Santorini, the side with beaches.

 

Along the way while descending to a rocky beach we discovered some of the old caves that are said to be once home to the island's people and the inspiration for much of the excavated architecture that so delights visitors today.

I didn't take photographs of the sandy beaches and beachside hotels only because it all seemed so ordinary on an island that was so extraordinary. But, Santorini does have many visitors more interested in sun and sand than views and architecture and for all visitors there are gourmet restaurants and chic places to shop.

I leave you with two photographs that seem to typify this glorious little place, beautifully cared for fishing boats and a view of the rim with the scale of a visiting cruise ship in the sea below.

 

 

 

 

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