Santorini

After two hours of the sea passage from Naxos, the same our ferry "Blue Star Naxos" approached Santoríni (Thíra) and started to sail along the western coast of the island. Many tourists with cameras moved to the left board of the ship to imprint a majestic spectacle: the huge dark rock, at the apex of which there are stuck the white small houses. In one of the such small houses we should spend 5 days.

The island has the form of a half moon, of which the internal semicircle together with the bottom of adjoining sea space are the Caldera - the huge hollow which was formed after volcanic eruption in XV century B.C., which as it is supposed, destroyed Cycladic-Minoan civilization. Before the eruption there was a big and round island, and after that there remained: Santorini, Thirassiá - the small island that limits Caldera from northwest, and Aspronísi rock in a southwest. Later, as a result of activity of still alive volcano, in the center of circle were formed two more islets - Paliá Kaméni and Néa Kaméni. There is a scientific theory, according to which the mysterious Atlantis was located just here.

On the northern horn of a half moon above the Caldera there rises the settlement Oia (it is pronounced "Ía", and further Ill use this word; many times there I saw confusion of tourists, who dont know the rules of Greek phonetics {they actually should not to} and saying "oia" when asked the way, for example). Closer to the center of island, the almost continuous line of small houses is situated, these are Imerovígli (Merovígli), Firostefáni settlements and the capital Fíra (Thíra). Further on the south, at the foot of rock, the Athínios port is located where we finished our voyage.

Click the images to enlarge them.

After going ashore the situation with the search for a tablet of hotel repeated, only this time it was more difficultly to find it - there were more arrived people, and area of the port was less. This time a minibus transported to the several hotels. At once started the climb of approximately 200 m along the zigzag road; the ears popped as in the plane. We passed up to Fira, where the major part of the passengers landed, and then they carried us too.

Our hotel "Irini's Villas" is located in the southern part of the settlement Imerovigli, the highest place above Caldera. Sunset is not visible from here, but are visible: Kameni islands, Thirassia, the southern horn of Santorini, the adjacent settlement Firostefani and large cruise liners, which come to the island every day in number about 5 pieces, they seem like toy ships from this height (about 250 m). However, from above this sensation of height is lost, when one looks downward, he does not distinguish either 50 metres it is beneath or 250. The apartment rooms with the small terraces stepwise get down, forming by themselves several levels of those small houses on the cliff. The colors of houses are traditional Cycladic - white walls, blue windows and doors. On one of these levels is located the terrace with little tables, beach beds and small pool-jacuzzi of triangular form. Our apartments were located just above this terrace. And above us there passed a popular tourist path along the Caldera, so a multilingual noise of conversations and enthusiastic exclamations were heard till the late evening.

Our accommodation consisted of living room with the high ceiling, mezzanine, three windows, sofa, table, conditioner, TV and kitchenette; it adjoined a bathroom and a bedroom without windows and with arched ceiling; it adjoined also a terrace behind the door with a table and a remarkable view.

Having settled in the room, we went along the above-mentioned path towards Fira, took pictures on the way of splendid views, which are opened from the top of precipice. We reached the cableway, which delivers people downward to the port of Fira. After the cableway station the shopping district starts with the numerous souvenir, jewelry and other shops. We was amazed of a quantity of churches on our way, they are at every turn there.

We had a dinner at the restaurant "Skaros" above the precipice not far from the hotel. We ordered stewed mutton with vegetables and local wine (about 30 Euros for all).

Next morning a torrential rain started. All stairs turned to waterfalls. As soon as the rain ceased a little, a breakfast was brought in the room, it consisted of coffee, a biscuit and sandwiches with a ham, jam, honey. Two young women served our small hotel: they welcomed visitors, cleaned in numbers, prepared breakfasts.

After the rain the sun appeared, the spouse took a place at the pool, and I went to Skáros the flattop rock of black and red stone on a cliff, which projects in the sea before Imerovigli. Once there was a Venetian fortress from which have remained only insignificant fragments. A path leads there from the settlement; a small church stands along the way. Behind and below of Skaros is located one more church, which overhangs above the sea. On the Skaros, in general, is possible to climb, I saw a couple standing upon it, but its difficultly enough, I and the others tried to do it singly, we couldnt. Probably, this is a business for two. As a souvenir I took from there a small stone - pumice of brick color. Unsuccessfully trying to find a way downwards to the sea, I passed on a footpath, skirting the Skaros approximately 10 metres below the rocks foot. An eagle flew along the cliffs, uttering the short alarming cries, next to me ran a vagrant dog. There was sensation of sublimity of the surrounding landscape and my insignificance in it. I imagined what would be if one would make a step aside, whether it is possible to stop rolling down or not

After a lunch I went along the familiar road to Fira. After the cableway station and the shopping district at the crowded square it is located the large Cathedral, with a dome, colonnade and belfry, all in white. Behind it and to the left inland the central bus terminal is located, whence the lokal buses go to the all settlements of Santorini. By the way, in Imerovigli there is a bus stop on the route Fira - Ia. Timetable and prices are here. The conductor sells tickets inside the bus, unlike in Naxos where it was necessary to buy tickets in advance.

Near to the Cathedral and the bus terminal there is a Prehistoric museum where I decided to come. Tickets cost 3 euros, but that day they were free of charge. In the museum are represented things, which were found in the Akrotíri. In that place archaeologists under layers of volcanic deposits dug out a settlement of the Cycladic civilization, which flourished in the island before the volcano eruption of XV century B.C. - the statuettes of people, cups, mugs, the fragments of wall painting, the gold statuette of a goat.

Next morning we were woken with a peal the Sunday began. And we, after having a breakfast, went together to Fira to get a bus to Kamári the settlement with a beach from black sand. But, unfortunately, during our trip it starts a rain, and we did not even bathe, returned back to hotel.

After a lunch the weather cleared up so we went on foot to Ia (8,5 km according to Google Earth). Beyond Imerovigli the road passes to the descent and a row of five-stars hotels with big territories and pools (for example Pantheon) appeared, but we would not like there, in them there is no the romantics of the life on a cliff for which we arrived here Then started the flat but lengthy ascents and descents, in all 2 times. And at the tops of hills there are omnipresent churches. Sometimes the footpath became barely passable, as passed over stones. The route had the moderate popularity; ahead and behind us on a sufficient distance walked the similar couples of tourists. Beyond the last descent there was Finikiá settlement, and further - Ia.

It amazes in Ia the abundance of gift shops, or shops of applied art (artshops). Here one can to purchase even, for example, a wooden door with the picture or a small carriage (but how then to take it away?). There are a lot of images of church with the dark blue dome, white houses and sunset the popular symbols of the island. We, however, did not buy anything here. The architecture in Ia is more attractive, than in other places above the Caldera, but the level above the sea is lower, it is located far enough from the center of the island, and every evening crowds of tourists come here to admire sunset.

A sunset meanwhile approached, people came more and more, and we hurried to occupy a place at this free-of-charge representation.

Everything passed quickly, the sun acted according to its talent and left, the public exploded with applause and enthusiastic shouts and moved one after the other to the exit. We were lucky to get quickly to a door of the bus and to occupy the places near the entrance. The bus became cram-full and started to go; even so the conductor someway could to elbow his way through passengers and to sell the tickets.

Next day I went by bus in Períssa - one more settlement with a beach from black sand, and decided to pass along the coast from the huge white rock Mésa Vounó until I should tired. First time all the time there was a never-ending black beach, sand changed to pebble and back, Perissa changed to Perívolos. Weather was remarkable and it was easily and pleasantly to walk, always it was possible to stop and to bathe. The people on the beach were less and less, and finally beach umbrellas with straw roofs ended and the wild beach began. It was possible occasionally to meet here only couples that sunbathed naked, at my approach covered, probably because of an inscription on tablet: "Nudism is forbidden", which was met by me on a way. After going around the southern extremity of the island, I came to the Cretan Sea. Here I had to depart from the coast as the beach ended. and inhabited constructions projected directly in the sea. It is the Vliháda village.

After passing a little through the village, I came to the port of Vlihada, and then to the beach. Here after the narrow strip of black sand, there rise the wall from the soft light grey sandstone with the whimsical patterns on its surface, which gives to a landscape absolutely unearthly appearance. The public beach ended soon, the group of nudists laid further, and then there was a long empty coast where one can experience sensation of absolute rest and solitude, there is nobody around - only you and the sea. Here and there in sandstone were made the small open cells, in one place there was a pair of rooms larger, with locked doors, and in front of them there was a canopy with little tables and chairs, everything had rusted and had been neglected, probably, several years ago. The local sandstone is a fragile material and sometimes it collapses in the wind; at a distance of 50 metres before me, a cloud of dust rose when the part of wall fell off. Though, the light-colored sand of the wall does not reach anywhere to the sea here, throughout the coast the entance to the sea is from black pebble mixed up with a black sand.

Once the way was blocked with a rock, which should be bypassed from above through vineyards. Grapes on Santorini are the small round bushes, 30 centimetres in height, that laying on the reddish dry ground (Though local wines are known enough, we have brought a bottle of sweet Vinsanto for 35 euros for home).

Soon I came again to the sea, stones replaced pebble, and it became more difficult to go. After a while I approached a village that proved to be Akrotiri. Further behind a rock, probably, there was the well-known red beach, but I had neither a strength, nor a wish to go there, besides at this time the bus drove up and I returned to hotel.

This day we cooked for a supper the stewed octopus that was bought frozen in the nearby shop (9-10 euros). We like it.

Next day we went together to Perissa, sat there in the cafe, bathed in the sea last time. The rest of the day we spent on the hotel's terrace near the pool and precipice.

And by night the clouds started to fly through our settlement. A surprising spectacle! Everything were in light white haze, above us and above adjacent Firostefani it turned to a dense cloud, and past us it flew in light of the lamps and disappeared in the darkness. After getting up at 6 in the morning and after leaving the room, I found out a dense veil of fog around and zero visibility. So Santorini said goodbye to us.


All-round night panorama from the terrace of our accommodation in the "Irini's Villas" hotel

So the day of departure came. At 11 a.m. we left our accommodation, put luggage in the hotel's reception and began to await the transfer bus till half past two at a little table near the precipice. Our room was occupied immediately, I went to walk on Imerovigli last time and bought there as a souvenir a faience handbell with a picture (3-4 euros). In due time we ascended to the road, got on a bus and went to the port. We were faced with the eight-hour sea passage to Piraeus.

According to the general impression, Santorini is the unique place, where the majestic and frightening natural beauty of Caldera is combined with the refined in its simplicity and joyful beauty of architecture of the island. In its own way it is unique the opposite coast of island, first of all by its many-colored beaches and by its "unearthly" appearances.

One more remark. If it was possible to characterize Santorini with one definition, I would name this island "photogenic". Some tourists, judging by the opinions, are disappointed when they arrive there, not finding there that especial beauty which they saw in photos. And actually, recalling our stay there, we did not experience any trembling, when we looked at all beauties of the island: small, as if toy houses on closer examination become completely real and proportional, the precipice of Caldera is not such impressing, a sunset in Ia is a usual sunset. But everything miraculously changes in the photos. And in fact, the pictures that we make have the property to replace personal memories, more and more in the course of time. And that which seemed simply picturesque place, and no more, turns to "a dream"

     

Piraeus and the return

So, the time came to come back home. We occupied the places on the ferry in a hall with seats of "aircraft type" as outside there was rather cold because of wind. However many passengers came in Naxos, a steward started to check tickets and all owners of economy class tickets were asked to go outside. On the open deck we put our sweaters on, took something from a fast food and occupied a little table. When we approached Attica, it darkened absolutely, and only the faint lights of the far coast were visible. Finally about midnight we reached Piraeus.

According to plan, we should find a stop of the bus, which goes from here to the airport at night every half an hour, get the bus, reach the airport and await for the plane, which departs at 9 o'clock in the morning. However, the plan had not worked at the first stage. Probably, we got out of the habit of big cities. Having on hands the detailed map of this area and the satellite photograph, after learning the plan of port at the stand, we could not find this ill-starred stop. Meanwhile all the passengers departed, there were only we who remained in the port, lost in unfamiliar city, and several homeless people, who were putting themselves to bed on benches.

Here a moustached man drove to us on the Mercedes, I have asked him about a bus stop; he explained (it proved to be that we should go beyond the territory of port), and offered us, as the alternative to our plan, to stay at his hotel nearby for 67 euros, and in the morning to go to the airport. We took counsel and decided to accept the offer, as we were getting tired and wished to have a sleep; we got in the car and quickly reached the place where I immediately paid for the room.

Hotel "Delfini" is located actually conveniently, in 100 metres from our bus stop. They offered us a room on the ground floor; the corridor from the room leads directly to the street. It was a small room without windows, a door to terrace is tightly closed, a bathroom required repair, but the most interesting was a large water bed - a source of new unusual sensations.

Next morning we got up at half past six, handed over the keys and went to the bus stop. There were a lot of people, the working day started. Buses drove up one after another, it was even formed a queue of them; we had not to miss the ours. Finally our bus drove up to the stop and... it passed further without stopping. It proved to be that if we want to stop this bus, we should hitch it, to lift a hand. After waiting for 15 minutes more, we got in the following bus, were in one and a half hour in the airport 20 minutes prior to departure and then got safely in the plane and arrived to Moscow.

     

Conclusion

I sum up. What does Greece fascinate with?

With its nature: with the clean sea, with remarkable beaches, with whimsical rocky shores and caves, with picturesque mountain landscapes, with its vegetation, maybe not too rich, but unusual. With its history, which everywhere left the tracks of different epochs and has impregnated by itself this land. With its people, the same people, which made this history, with its philosophical, contemplative attitude to life. With culture of this people: with kitchen, with music, with churches about which I want to tell particularly.

Churches in Greece can be met in the most unexpected places, at the top of hill, on the coastal cliff, just in an uninhabited place. And in cities, settlements, villages they are at every turn. In the small settlement Imerovigli I have counted 7 churches, although it is possible that there are more of them. In Athens the churches of Byzantian style prevail: the tile roof, not plastered walls of the color of stone. On the islands dominates Cycladic style: absence of the tiles; whitewashed, sometimes partially painted walls; blue, sometimes white domes. And all of them have external simplicity, elementary geometric forms: cube, hemisphere, semicylinder; there is no pretentiousness, no gilding, all the crosses are from stone. And they organically fit into landscape, giving to it the marvelous sublime beauty.

It altogether makes this country by that place where we would like to come more and more.

Certainly, we would like to see here a little more forests and verdures, a little less protracted construction, but it is a trifle. And we would like to wish Greeks to be more enthusiastic in promotion of their goods abroad. It is not possible to find retsina in Moscow, and this is terrible! Apparently we have to return...

21.03.2007
     
Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.