Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oh, Santorini...

Santorini is the island that basically everyone thinks of when they picture the Greek islands. Blue water. Black rock. Square white buildings. Blue domes. The whole island used to be one giant volcano, but its eruption was so humungous that it imploded on itself. Now all that's left is the sort-of outer ring of its original volcano and a island in the middle where the smoldering cone still remains.

So when we pulled up to Santorini, it was straight into the "caldera," or the middle of the volcano that is now covered in the deep blue. And, getting over my childhood fear of volcanos (I was convinced our neighborhood lake was going to explode in a pool of magma a la Tommy Lee Jones' Volcano), I got really camera crazy when we first saw all those sheer cliffs and white towns.

The important thing for you to realize here is this: PICTURES SIMPLY DON'T CAPTURE IT!

So if you're looking at these pictures and saying, "Meh, no big deal," you are sorely mistaken, my friend!

My problems with stopping at Santorini are as follows:

1. We had few total hours at this port. Why would you ever set up an itinerary this way? This is obviously the island everyone wants to go to the most!
2. The tender system just takes too long. We ended up waiting for a tender for an hour on the ship! That's one precious less hour we could be spending on the most beautiful isle!
3. There are only 3 ways to get up onto the island proper, which I will elaborate on ... NOW!

Can you see the zig-zag lines across this picture?That is the path up to Fira, Santorini's capital. The old-fashioned way to get up there is to either walk up the many steps or have a donkey carry you. I, of course, was in love with the idea of taking a donkey. However, we were warned that it was a very malodorous trip because the donkeys are sweaty and there is donkey poo EVERYWHERE along the track. (Yes, the walkers take the same path as the donkeys, bless them.) The third new-fangled way to get up to the top is by cable car. It's so much faster (only about 2 minutes once you're in the car) and leaves you NOT smelling like a donkey for the rest of the day.

We decided to take a cable car up (after waiting in a LONG line) to save time and then take the donkey down. Who cared if we smelled like donkey at 11 at night, anyway?

We walked around the shops of Fira for a short while. This is where we bought my favorite Greece souvenier - a painting. :)
We knew we wanted to go to Oia (at the upper tip of the island - see map) for dinner because Oia is arguably the most beautiful town, and is known for being the spot to watch the sunset from. Michael, however, was simply too famished to carry on, so he bought a little waffle. This is unlike your standard Eggo, being a little sweet and crunchy.
JP and Shannon pointed out this little gem to me:
We took a terrifying busride over to Oia. (Hairpin turns, steep cliffs, bus driver talking on the cell phone, etc.) and hurried off to dinner because we knew that time was passing too quickly.

Our view was wonderful. So, apparently, was Michael's Greek beer.




Like I said earlier, pictures just can't capture it. Words can't really either. I hope you'll just take my word for it: it was beautiful.
We left dinner with the understanding that our server had called a cab for us.We waited for the cab. And it never came.

Eventually we came to a point where we knew we would miss the ship if we waited much longer. So we walked along the main road hoping to come across the bus stop we arrived at on the way in. I'll admit, there was a time when I was considering exactly how we would manage to find our way to the next port while was my passport was still on the ship. (If you miss the boat, you are responsible for finding your way to the next stop).

We found the bus stop, but there were at least a hundred people with the same idea we had. A bus pulled up and it was utter pandemonium. After elbowing our way through the crowd, we did make it on to the bus, thank goodness, but were standing up and crammed in the whole way! Then, after a jog through Fira, we found the line to the cable car stretch on forever.

Luckily, they held the boat for us and everyone else in the line. We were on the second to last tender to the boat. It was a close one, but we made it!

This was the first port of call I'd ever been to where you get back on the ship at night. Look how cool the cruise ship looked in the inky night:
We ended the night with a drink on the back of the ship as we pulled away from Santorini. The lights of the town seemed to hover off the ocean, which was an incredible sight.

Next up: Mykonos

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