Postcard-Perfect SantoriniEUROPE, Scenic Wonders, STAFF — By Catherine Nichols on March 17, 2013 at 21:14
By staff writer Cathie Nichols. Photos Copyright © Cathie Nichols.
IMAGINE POSSESSING THE ability to step inside a postcard whenever you wanted. Which postcard would you step into?
I recommend any postcard from Santorini, a Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
Visiting Santorini was never on my radar until a recent combo trip to Turkey/Greece, and now it’s all I can think about. Somehow, some day, I will return to Santorini and stay for more than a day because a day is not enough time to explore the whole island. A day is only enough time to quickly glance at magnificent vistas, snap a few pictures, and snatch a few meaningless souvenirs.
My daughters and I arrived on Santorini at the Port of Fira in a tender from a cruise ship. After getting off the small boat, we had a decision to make: ride a donkey up the to the top of the mountain, hop into a cable car, or walk 588 steps up on a hot and humid day while the sun beat down on our heads.
The decision seemed obvious since our time was so limited: we took the cable car. Never mind my fear of heights and claustrophobia. Although I am not religious, I found myself praying as we entered the glass-enclosed cubicle dangling from a thin wire hanging precariously above jagged cliffs that traveled at a high rate of speed up the steep slope to civilization.
After stepping out of the cable car, we made our way through the narrow pathways to where all the shops were, and fashioned a plan. The goal was to make it to the beach, so we had to find a way to get there.
Being from California is a definite disadvantage when it comes to thinking of alternative transportation: we are absolutely in love with our cars. Fortunately, someone in our party thought of taking a bus to Oia, so we began looking for the bus station.
At the bus station, it was chaos and it took some time figuring out which bus to get on—but we did manage to make it and began the journey to the other side of the island. The road was narrow and I tried to look out at the beautiful ocean rather than peek down at just how far we’d fall if there was an accident.
After arriving in Oia, our party decided on lunch. One thing I’d like to say here is that if you’re looking for the kind of customer service you normally receive in the U.S., don’t bother visiting Santorini. ‘Nuff said!
Sometimes when large groups try to coordinate trips, it can be disastrous, and sometimes it’s just fate. Ours changed direction when one part of the group finished eating sooner than the other. The slow eaters were left behind while the eager eaters decided to “take a quick peek” around the corner. Because their “quick peek” turned out to be much longer than expected, we slow-pokes decided to go in search of them.
The only thing missing from this disaster in a foreign country is someone uttering a suggestion from a horror film: “Let’s split up.”
Needless to say, we went around this corner, then that corner, backtracked, then went back around the same corner and down a different path . . . and somehow ended up back on the square where we’d started. The only problem was that the rest of our party was nowhere to be found.
Eventually, we made an executive decision and just went on ahead. Our time was so limited on Santorini that we had to move on or we wouldn’t see anything.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked the people I was touring with, but it was nice to have whittled the group to only five. It made stopping and taking numerous pictures of the astonishing views much less chaotic.
If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it this very same way—the fewer people to keep track of in a foreign country, the better.
Following the path down to the ocean was easy; the steps were large and meandered past private homes, hotels, restaurants, and churches. Every home faced the beautiful Aegean.
It’s so rare when I’m jealous of any homeowner but Santorini made me emerald green (the color of the water closest to the shore) with envy. Each home seemed perfect. I have since read that although the homes look somewhat small, many of them burrow into the side of the mountain. I really wish I could have toured one while there, just to see.
The relentless sun, paired with the high temperatures, made finally arriving at the ocean that much sweeter. After asking for additional directions, we started walking on a well-worn path, but to where? Being on vacation can make one less concerned about all those “little” details. It is, after all, about the journey and not so much the destination.
We followed the path strewn with volcanic rock and huge sink-holes to a favorite swimming area where everyone removed as much clothing as possible and jumped into the refreshing water.
In the near distance, we could see a boat that took tourists to a mini island and we watched as they jumped from a very high point into the water. One guy did a belly flop and I thought for sure he’d need medical assistance (he did not).
Fortunately, the rest of the group eventually wound up right there with us and we each joyously remarked on how that could have happened.
Staring up at the mountain from the bottom, knowing we had to get all the way back to the top, left us all drained and exhausted before we’d even started the trek.
The executive decision this time was to take a donkey ride up. We paid our fee, got on our donkeys, and rode partially up the steep mountain. Looking back down below, we realized it was better to ride the donkey up rather than riding the donkey down, and in fact, it became our tag line from the Santorini trip: “Donkey Up, No Donkey Down.” We were going to have T-shirts made.
Santorini is a must-see Greek Island. Of course you must get the dead skin nibbled off the bottoms of your feet while there, and make sure to grab a cone of frozen yogurt. It is so delicious. Yum, yum.
My favorite part of the whole trip was realizing that some places are as beautiful as their photographs.
Cathie Nichols (aka @Bloggoneit) is an author-in-training and is in the process of writing a book. Sometimes overwhelmed with three kids, a husband, a dog, a cat, and an overactive imagination, she finds her sanity by escaping life through a super sappy movie or tweeting about twending topics.