At around 7 this morning we sailed into the flooded caldera that is surrounded by the islands that make up Santorini, the most spectacular of all the Greek islands. The present day crescent shape of the main island is the consequence of a cataclismic volcanic eruption that occurred around 1640 BC. The eruption caused the middle to sink, leaving a aldera with high cliffs; one of the World's most dramatic geological sites. The eruption caused a huge sunami that virtually wiped out the Minoan cvilization on Crete, about 120 km to the south. Two uninhabited islands in the middle of the caldera, known as 'the burnt islands', are still volcanically active, the last eruption being in the 1950s.
Santorini is a spectacular sight, especially when aproached from the sea. The water is over 400 metres deep, and the capital, Fira, is situated in the centre of the crescent and 320 metres above sea level, perched upon the cliff top as though it were a balcony. Its beautiful white-washed buildings, with blue door frames, facings, and domes, are scattered along he cliff top and over the flatter land on the side away from the caldera. There is 3 ways of reaching
As seen when arriving in the caldera. The zig-zag of the walking and donkey track can clearly be seen. The cable car is just to the left of the track.
the town from the base of the cliffs; by cable car, by a zig-zag walking track with 587 wide steps, or by riding a donkey up the same track.
The town of Oia at the northern end of the island was the commercial centre of the island until completely devastated by an earthquake in 1956. Rebuilt to its former self, it is filled with winding streets and narrow alleyways. Not as commercial as Fira, and quite pictureque. The photos of Santorinin often seen on calendars, of whitewashed churches with bright blue domes, are photographed in Oia. While Fira is a bustling town, often overcrowded with tourists, Oia is a quieter town, with a slower pace of life.
Santorini relies mainly on tourism for its economy, the tourist season running from early March to late November. It is also well known for its wine, made from an unusual type of grape growing all over the island. To escape the winds that rip across the island, these grapes grow close to the ground. The vines are shaped into a circular, or basket, form during growth, protecting the fruit from flying sand carried by the wind.
There was a moderate
sea running this morning, which meant that the Wind Star could not get in close to shore where it usually ties up to a big buoy, the water being too deep for the anchors. Instead we 'parked' further off shore, our anchors gripping the top of an underwater peak of rock! This meant further to be ferried back and forth, but this was made up for by being able to see the ship from almost anywhere on the island, and our being the only ship on the island today, with the result that the streets, shops, cable car, restaurants etc weren't choked with tourists, as they often are when several ships arrive on the same day. Our excursion stared at 8.30 and took us first by boat to a dock near the southern end of the island,primarily used for commercial purposes as the only road up the cliffs exists here. We climbed in a bus to the highest point on he island, a hill topped by a monastry which gave a good view over the whole southern half of the island. We then drove the length of the island, through Fira, to Oia, where we were let loose for 2
A Choppy Sea
Oia in background.
hours to explore and shop. We then returned to Fira, where the excursion ended. The local guide Katie spoke good English and told us a lot about the history of the island etc. Rather than return to the Wind Star for lunch, K and I had a bit of lunch in Fira and then explored that for a couple of hours. We returned to sea level on the donkeys, which I found a bit frightening at the speed that they went, but which Karen had no problem with despite never having got on a horse before!! We were both glad however that we took the opportunity while it was available. Back on Wind Star, we had our first 'swim' in the pools, which turned out to be warm and cool sea water pools. This evening the Captain had a cocktail party to introduce the senior members of his crew.
The bad news is that Karen has a confirmed case of laryngitis. We met a lady from our bus tour today who said that someone on the bus must have had it as several members of our bus group now have it. The doctor on the boat has given her
Santorini From The Monastry Lookout.
The Culdera is on the left and the Agean Sea on the far right.
antibiotics to hopefully clear up the infection. It doesn't hurt her at all as such, but she finds it very hard to sit down with all the interesting people that we have met over dinner etc, and not be able to talk!!.
Tomorrow we will have a long day on Rhodes (8 am to 11 pm) and will be tied up to a dock. It should be possible to find an internet cafe and get this off to you. Enjoy the pictures.
PS: Thanks everyone who sent messages yesterday. We are having another great day in Rhodes. More to come.
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