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Published: July 13th 2018
July 13, 2018.
Episode 5: Greece is the word.
When people think of the Greek islands, they often think of its crown jewel, Santorini. There has been a lot of lyrical waxing about the unique beauty of the place, and it’s justified. Santorini island is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged extinct volcanic caldera. It is a steep slice of land with a jumble of white-washed houses and hotels with pools strewn along its top, interspersed here and there with those classic blue-domed Greek orthodox churches. We flew in, and from the air it looks like a colossal slice of chocolate cake, tilted on its side and dripping with bright white icing. Certainly one of the most amazing places we have ever seen. Of course, Santorini is no secret. We were sharing its twisting cobblestone paths and breathtaking ocean vistas with a heaving summer crowd. As it can be costly here, we stayed at a very nice Airbnb ($90 AUD/ night) just a minute’s walk from all the action in the main town of Fira. Days were hot and sunny. So much so, that we did stuff in the early morning, snoozed in our room during the heat of the day,
and emerged again around 5pm. (Those legendary Santorini sunsets occur around 8.30pm at this time of year). At night, Fira was completely abuzz with people, occupying themselves in stylish bars or in shops with amazing décor, or eating in cliff top restaurants with incredible sweeping views across the caldera and ocean below. (Mum, Dad, Den, Wendy, you would absolutely love it). If you come here to Fira town, we highly recommend Lucky’s for delicious gyros (a cheap lunch option). We also highly recommend a restaurant for dinner called Ouzeri. It is well-priced and the food was awesome.
One day we took the local bus to Red Beach, where we swam below towering “reddish” coloured cliffs. (Otherwise, the beaches here on Santorini are black – volcanic in origin - and not as good as those on other Greek islands.) The other thing that basically everyone does here is see the sunset over the ocean from the town of Oia, at the very northern tip of the island. This is a very famous spot of sunsets. But it gets insanely crowded along the cliff-top vantage points of Oia town. We opted instead to have dinner during sunset at Ammoudi Bay, on
the water down a long path from Oia above. We had a wonderful and romantic seafood dinner at a place called Dimitri’s, as we watched the sunset, far away from the crush of people above. One of those “out-of-the box” experiences.
We actually found that the sunsets on Santorini were nothing overly special. OK, sunsets are always nice, but certainly Ross and I have seen a shitload of them around the world. You really need to have some clouds about. However, at this time of year, each day is clear and sunny in Santorini –no clouds. This means the sun just plops below the horizon, leaving a brief orange afterglow and that’s it. So, one late afternoon down at Ammoudi Bay (again, away from the jostling sunset-seeking crowds above), Ross was in a waterfront restaurant and I was walking along by the water as the sun was setting. There was no one else around. An Eastern European-looked girl and guy came by. He said to me in careful, hesitant English:
“Could you please take our photograph against the sunset?”
Of course, this happens all the time when you travel. People asking you to take their photo. I
thought nothing of it and said: “Yes, sure.” He gave me his camera. Well, he then became very very particular about where they would stand. This angle, no that angle, no without that yacht in the background; yes, with the water shining at this angle…..I thought, oh for fuck sake, just just make up your mind. Then, as he took her sunglasses off, pulled something from his pocket and got down on one knee, I suddenly realised what was going on. I snapped lots of photos of him proposing to her. She started crying and presumably said “Yes” is whatever language it was. Everyone knows what a big softie I am - I got emotional for them, too, as I was clicked away. I congratulated them and went back to where Ross was sitting in the nearby restaurant.
“I just saw what happened:” he said. “That was so lovely. Pity you left the lens cap on the camera.”
My jaw dropped. Then I realised, no of course I didn’t. Cheeky Ross!
While in Santorini, we also did a “sunset cruise” on a sleek catamaran, as I think Carol and Alicia also did when they were here. The
boat left at 2.30pm and involved swimming from the boat, snorkelling, stopping at various beaches, before glides past the beautiful cliff top towns of Fira, Imerovigli and Oia, then positioning itself for the sunset. We had a great time and met a lot of other punters form around the world. This is one aspect of travel that I love so much. Those period moments in time when you cross paths with other people, and where you get a snapshot of their lives. Where they are form, what they do, where they are are headed next. Love it.
It is in the town of Oia that you see those blue-domed churches for which Santorini is famous. While we were there, I could see the churches in question, but could not work out how to get there for the ideal photo position. The place is a maize of little cobblestone streets. I started walking in the general direction and came upon a little white dog on a doorstep - very similar to your lovely fur baby, Andrew Grundy. She followed me down some steps, then over-took me and appeared to be leading me. I followed her along a series of little
paths, up and down, until - I kid you not - we turned a corner and there before me were the blue domes churches beautifully framed against the sea below. The classic Santorini vista. The little dog looked up at me with a grin and wagging tail ! I grinned from ear to ear, and started taking pictures. I then turned to say, “Well, thank you, my little friend” but she had completely vanished !
We caught a large high speed ferry (catamaran) from Santorini to Mykonos. Mykonos is synonymous with partying. However, for these two middle aged chaps, well, we were about 30 years late to the party. The whole place was abuzz with people – mostly young Europeans, but mixed in with cruise ships crowds and well-healed fashionistas, (plus some high-healed fashion victims). We found Hora (Mykonos town) to be a charming little place, with its famous windmills, white-washed houses, and maize of narrow white cobblestone alleys and pathways. We often got lost, but it was fun exploring. At night the place was very crowded with fellow hominids. Bars and eateries were packed well into the night. Early in the morning, when I often like taking photos,
the town was a serene place. This was the habitat of little old ladies with heir shopping trolleys, old men with their walking sticks, and street cleaners. I pondered what they must think bout their island having been transformed from a quiet fishing village to party central over the years.
In Mykonos, we enjoyed eating in excellent outdoor tavernas, surrounded by white-washed walls and rambling purple bougainvillea. One night, we got chatting to two lively guys sitting at the table beside us. They proved to be Andy and Steve from Northern England and they were a hoot. We ended up sharing wine and chatting till late. Steve was an incurable Kylie fan and was very amusing, while Andy referred to Elton Johns husband, David Furnish as “Fully Furnished.” Later on, walking back to our hotel, Ross and I discussed how regrettable it was that we did not exchange contact details with them. We had such a good time.
During the day (well, when they wake up at noon), the party crowd goes to the beach. There are several beaches close to town, and you can actually walk between them via a coastal path. We first caught a bus
to the main one Platy Gialos, and I enjoyed a swim there. Very nice, aquamarine water. As I was emerging from the water, a long haired and very tanned bikini-clad young woman was posturing and posing by the shoreline. She had flowers in her hair, and clearly thought she was simply gorgeous, darling. She tuned to me as I emerged from my swim and said bluntly: “Get out of my photo.’ I then noticed an ardent guy photographing her nearby. I had a chuckle a few minutes later when a big wave from a passing ship knocked her over, and she got up as a bedraggled mess of hair and flowers.
We then spent time waking from beach the beach. We found famous Paradise beach to be underwhelming. The beach itself was unremarkable (by Australian standards) and 90% of the people were not actually in the water but were dancing on several large dance floors. We could not hear each other due to the thumping dance music. It was messy and trashy. We moved on to the gay-biased Super-paradise beach. This was a much nicer beach. The bar and eatery areas were cleaner and more stylish, and with less
obtrusive music from the likes of Bruno Mars paying in the background. As at Paradise beach, there were multiple rows of beach umbrellas and accompanying lounges. We did have a big laugh when we saw a sign that said: Umbrella + lounge : 40 Euros. Needless to say, we didn’t do it. Overall, we enjoyed Mykonos, most notably the town itself.
We spent our last two days in Athens, the ancient capital of Greece. Athens is widely viewed as the birthplace of Western civilisation, philosophy, science and, so they say, democracy . (In reality, only a small number of Greeks were allowed to vote in ancient times). Athens was the seat of a glorious empire at a time when Rome was still a shitty little village. It has given the world many things. Even the archaic Greek language still permeates our English lexicon today. Words such as democracy, marathon, tyrant, mentor, nemesis, phobia, chronology, echo, hypnosis, etc. , etc. Not to mention phrases such as ‘Archille’s heel’, to ‘harp on”, or the “Midas touch”. Various reminders of Greece’s Golden Age are scattered all over the place, a patchwork of ancient edifices amongst the vibrant living city. It was hot,
but we managed to visit the Acropolis and various other ancient sights. This included Hadrian’s Library, now just a wall or two and some ancient columns. Ross said to me as we walked towards it:
“This library…Do you think it has reciprocal arrangements with Malvern Library in Melbourne? I have a way over-due book.”
So ends another adventure for us. It was all very, very nice, and Ross in particular loved it. He loves Europe. I get that, it is truly wonderful. The history, the culture, the architecture, the buzzing atmosphere.
Craig (and Ross).
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