Published: February 25th 2009February 25th 2009
Santorini in the morning
Everyone looks down from the summit to the caldera, but look at the beautiful morning sky above!
A week spent on the Greek Islands is to experience a magical part of the world. I’ve had the chance to add my footsteps to the countless thousands who preceded me, to post this journal from the iconic Santorini Island. The middle of a northern hemisphere winter means ferry connections have been problematic, so I've just had the one overnight ferry trip from the port of Piraeus to Rhodes town. There's no choice but to use island hoppers of the aerial variety to keep moving, as time continues to march on during this trip. So let’s get to it…
You haven’t lived, dear reader
, until you’ve been shouted at in Greece! I may have felt like the Colossus of Rhodes when I stepped off the ferry on arrival in Rhodes town, but a Greek shop owner quickly cut me down to size. Although the language is all Greek to me, the local population do seem prone to the odd bout of shouting in this country. My initiation came when I dared to set foot inside a lady’s restaurant during a passing hail storm. She rounded on me with a high volume tirade within an instant of opening the door
Old Town, Rhodes
I stumbled across this beautiful side street while strolling around the Old Town.
and sent me packing, all I could manage was a meek “OK, no!” as I quickly scurried off. But for all I know she may have just been wishing me a rather robust good morning! Anyway, I slinked into another restaurant nearby, and the couple were happy to serve what turned out to be an excellent lunch.
Then it was time to explore Rhodes town, the ancient sea faring capital of the island of Rhodes. The town is the former home of the Colossus of Rhodes, which towered over the entrance to the harbour in ancient times. The Old Town is a comprehensive medieval walled town, and two days exploring on foot barely scratched the surface. The main attractions are spread out, and I actually found the going a little bit tough compared to the Old City of Carcassonne in southern France. However, a general approach to sightseeing in a spread out attraction, for me at least, is to put the maps aside and discover things at random. Later on you can compare your experiences to what's shown on the maps, you probably won’t see everything, but it’s great fun to just get out and explore. I stayed in
the quality Hotel Lydia in the New Town, as budget accommodation is scarce on the Greek Islands.
I then organised a flight on a propeller plane to Iraklion, the capital of Crete. This was without a doubt the most unusual flight I’ve experienced in my years of travelling. The short commute went without incident, and everything proceeded as normal with baggage checks, announcements, gates etc as you would expect. However there was one small difference, there were only six passengers on board the flight. Perhaps the airline just needed the plane back to meet a schedule, but can you imagine checking in with five other people. We all looked at each other and it felt like we were sharing a taxi. Anyway, we got to Iraklion and I ended up sharing a taxi into town with a girl from the flight in the pouring rain. “Great weather, huh?” the taxi driver ventured in a casual manner. "Brilliant!” came the reply.
I arrived pretty late and checked into another somewhat pricey Hotel Castello. A bed is a bed I always say, and why spend over fifty euros a night when travelling. Next morning I went to explore other accommodation
Old Town, Rhodes
One of the entrances to the fortified town.
options, although the guy told me the previous night with hand on heart there weren’t any. Nevertheless I quickly found a room nearby for twenty euros, so I grabbed my stuff and was outta there in a flash! Iraklion is a bustling city with a great vibe of energy when you walk in the centre. I enjoyed spending a couple of days in the capital of Crete. A short bus journey out of the capital is the world famous Temple of Knossos, and I was pleased to discover free entry on a sunday. This major archaeological find from a little over a century ago depicts the culture of the Minoans at around 1900-1700BC. They were an advanced civilization, and the site has excellent pottery on display as well as frescoes painted by the Minoans. It was a great experience to walk around the excavated site and imagine life in an earlier epoch. Nobody knows what happened to this ancient culture, but it's believed they may have been wiped out during the cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Santorini. This was the biggest eruption in recorded history.
Speaking of which, my next flight with an enforced stopover in Athens is the legendary
Minoan girls are hot!
Detail from a fresco at the Palace of Knossos in Crete.
island itself. Some of the most extraordinary sunset photos I ‘ve ever seen are from atop the caldera on this magnificent island. Santorini is an iconic travel destination with a catastrophic volcanic history adding to it's mystique, and I’m glad to be spending three days here without the madness of the summer travel season. It’s winter alright and I’m rugged up, but the crowds are missing and the hotel prices are reasonable at thirty euros. I’m actually typing this in the room of the flash Hotel Antonia, probably the best of the three I’ve stayed in while visiting the Greek Islands.
Although the views from town suggest your arrival in paradise, Fira is a bustling little capital and Greek drivers are much the same as elsewhere. They tear around town with some degree of abandon, and if a tourist were to step out on to the road without concentrating, you could end up in a nasty holiday experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if some tourists come a cropper, given the way the locals drive around town. Who knows, maybe the drivers slow down in summer but I doubt it somehow. Nevertheless the sunset views from the white buildings on
top of the caldera are absolutely gorgeous. Accommodation with views of the caldera are double what you pay in the rest of town, so I chose a nice hotel with a hundred metre walk to the summit for sunset views. You can still enjoy a coffee at one of the restaurants in time for sunset. I’ve often dreamed of visiting Santorini after seeing those amazing photos, and it’s a thrilling experience to finally be here in person.
This past week of travel has been a wonderful introduction to the Greek Islands. Of course spending just a week is barely scratching the surface of what’s on offer in this beautiful part of the world, but it’s a start and something to build on. The number of island options is almost overwhelming, but I’m pleased to have visited Rhodes, Crete and Santorini on this trip. Of course there's still the party options of Kos, Ios, Mykonos and a host of others I haven't had the opportunity to get to on this occasion, but I'm certainly looking forward to exploring more of the islands in the future. The Greek Islands are one of the most famous and sought after travel destinations in
Featuring the famous blue domed roof.
the world, and you could island hop year after year while unearthing new treasures each time. The Greek people are brilliant hosts no matter where you are, and I’m becoming addicted to the yeeros shops serving up the national dish for around two euros. Life is good in a Greek democracy and, basically all of you should be here now!
It's not true that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to the power of his persuasion. On the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses." Aristotle
As I continue my travels, until next time it’s signing off for now
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