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Published: April 12th 2008
Ah, Santorini! What a glorious place! We anchored between two docks - one with a road, the other a path (shared with donkeys) or a cable car, rising to Fira Town. Santorini, the southern-most islands in the Cyclades group, was once an active volcano until 1628BC when it blew apart resulting in four separate islands now linked by ferries and water taxis. Fira Town and Oia (pronounced eeeya) are on Thira, the largest section where we were.
As we sailed closer, it appeared that the cliff tops were covered with snow because it was so white. But, on closer observation, we saw that there was no snow, of course, but rather white houses atop and into the sheer cliffs. Our tender headed to the dock near the road. As we approached, I noticed the zigzag route up the cliff, and when we boarded our bus, we headed toward the middle, not the front, so we didn’t have to see the bus hang over the edge as we swung wide to make the hairpin turns up the hill. I took the aisle, and let Bruce have the window seat! The ride up was both exciting and incredibly beautiful as we made each turn and looked down at the sea below. We saw a large black ring close to shore and, when we asked our guide what it was, she said she didn’t want to talk about it over the mike, but would come down the aisle and tell us. Last year you may have read about a cruise ship that sank near a Greek island. Well, it sank here. Our guide was on her way to lead a tour when she saw the ship turn on its side. A little while later, it just went down. I believe only one Frenchman was missing and presumed drowned. I don’t remember what the name of the ship was, but they towed it here rather than leave it where it would block the whole entrance to the island. They put a ring around what is left to prevent any more fuel or oil to escape.
I digress. We continued on into Fira Town, passing through the caldera which at this time of year was still passable, but in summer, the street is closed to bus and auto traffic as pedestrians clog the area. The town is charming with all sorts of shops and cafes and other buildings painted white with blue trim. Everything looks so clean and bright and inviting. We continued out of town past pistachio trees and unique vineyards. On Santorini, grape vines are trained into a circle and twisted into a basket shape quite close to the ground. This is done because of the strong winds that blow over the top of the island making it difficult for grape vines to grow in the traditional way. Then the grapes drop into baskets in the center of the circle when harvest time arrives. We did make a stop at a winery and sampled the wines of the area along with some wonderful cheeses and, of course, olives. The most famous wine is a sweet wine quite like a port.
We then drove through the countryside to Oia, a charming village where we sampled pistachios and a delicious sesame pistachio candy. We had time to poke around the artisan shops down narrow walkways and walk to the town square for another view of the island. It was such a delightfully warm, pleasant day that it was hard to leave this setting. We lost a couple of people who either chose to stay here a bit longer and take a taxi back to the ship or took another bus. Perhaps they were lucky because on our return trip our bus broke down. Luckily, a car stopped and had the right part to get us on our way after about a half hour delay.
Because of the delay, our time in Santorini was not long enough to allow us time to explore Fira Town so we returned the way we came - down the road with the hairpin turns. It was an incredible day and left us with the strong desire to return to what has become one of our very favorite places on our whole cruise.
The sail away was fun, too. We had music, Greek appetizers, and wine as the ship sailed away and again the “mountain” tops looked like they were snow capped as they faded away in the distance and we were on our way to Venice.
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