Posts Tagged ‘Cyclades’

Santorini is supposedly one of the highlights of any Greek island-hopping holiday. It’s the place with all the blue-domed homes and churches that’s in all the pictures. It’s in a part of the Aegean called the Cyclades. Santorini is not an island so much as an archipelago. There’s a ring of several mountainous islands and one volcanic island in the centre. Three thousand six hundred years ago, it was all one, until an eruption blew the place apart; the resulting tidal wave may have spelt the end of the Minoan civilisation on Crete.

We had originally planned to get out of Athens for the latter part of Grecian trip – and head up to Thessaloniki and the nearby Chalkidiki peninsula. It turned out that we didn’t have much appetite for that. Habiba’s mum went to a travel agent and took us there later to book the trip. The men who worked there – a couple of guys in their sixties or so – were a pair of characters. The one we dealt with mainly suggested that if Habiba was bad, I could throw her off the top of the volcano to the fishermen below.

We made slightly complicated arrangements with our hostel in Athens to check out for a day, then spend two more nights (Habiba and I in a dorm one night and private room the next) before leaving for good. A taxi came to pick us up and it sped us along the expressway to the port of Piraeus. Once there, we boarded the ferry at one of several gates and some time later we were off.

The ferry journey lasted about eight hours and stopped at Naxos, Paros and Ios before docking at Santorini, where we were picked up once again and driven to our hotel. The place we stayed at in Fira was very pleasant, almost luxurious in a modest kind of way. Right at the top of the ridge, it looked over the caldera and the central volcano.

The following day, we walked down the Caldera Steps to the port just below Fira. When we’d been to the top of the steps the night before we’d seen several bony, dirty and generally miserable-looking donkeys fastened up on the cobble-stone path. They weren’t there in the morning. Walking down was a little bit of hard work, but we stopped often to take lots of photos of the stunning views. At the bottom, Noor and I convinced Habiba to take the cablecar that we’d seen running back up to the top instead of walking. When we went to the cablecar station, we found that it was closed and wouldn’t open for hours. We walked back up.

Unlike our stay in Athens, the weather on Santorini was pretty immaculate. The air was pretty chilly, but it got quite hot in the sunshine. The walk up the Caldera Steps was less pleasant than the walk down.

Afterwards, we took a local bus to the town at the northern tip of our island – Oia (pronounced EE-a). While Fira was pretty, Oia was the face of a thousand postcards and tourism advertising campaigns. We spent an hour or two wandering along the little stone paths that weave between the whitewashed and pastel-painted buildings. Every few steps opened up new photogenic vistas.

After that, we had lunch and then got a ride back down to the port to catch the ferry back at four-thirty. We had been told that it was at three-thirty, and that, combined with the rough seas towards Piraeus, meant that we arrived a lot later than we had expected – far too late to take the subway back to Athens. Taxi it was, then. Habiba and I quietly got into our temporary bunks at about three and the next morning, we transferred to our own room for a night before embarking on some final sightseeing in Athens.

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