Santorini, Pearl of the Aegean

Monday, October 10, 2011 –

After a great visit Sunday to Mykonos and Delos, we cruised south on the ms Wind Surf to where the Aegean almost meets the Mediterranean. We went upstairs for breakfast as our ship approached one of the most beautiful islands in the world: Santorini.

For years I have admired photos of this quintessential Greek island at a famous Greek restaurant in my hometown. For me, Santorini was the picture postcard of the Greek Islands. From the spectacular blue Aegean to the white homes dotting the cliffside, it’s almost a dream. However, it was right in front of me waiting to be explored.

Santorini gondola

Santorini gondola and donkey path

Approaching by ship is probably the most spectacular way to arrive in Santorini. Upon arrival, you can clearly see the islands turbulent history with volcanic activity. Santorini has an explosive history of volcanic activity, as evidenced by the ruins at Akrotiri, a Greek Pompei. Steep cliffs rise dramatically from deep azure waters.

A Holland America ship in front of us

A Holland America ship in front of us

To visit most of the island, you have to climb upwards. The crew of the Wind Surf anchored us offshore, and then Mom, Dad, Jeff and I boarded tenders that took us to the harbor shore. The only way up to the capital of Fira is by donkey, cable car of foot. We boarded a cable car for the 1,000-foot climb to Fira. The views were amazing incredible!

Geologically speaking, Santorini rests on the eastern ridge of what was once a larger island. Santorini forms what looks like a crescent with the remainder of the former island across the bay separated by the Aegean. In about 2,500 B.C., one of the largest volcanic eruptions of all time blew in the bay where our Wind Surf was anchored today. The walls of the island, that formed the crater, collapsed as the Aegean Ocean poured into the former crater. The blast destroyed Akrotiri and caused a huge tsunami that many believe destroyed the Minoan civilization in Knossus, Crete. Also, some believe the lost civilization of Atlantis may have been destroyed by the eruption.

Views of the Wind Surf below from Fira

Views of the Wind Surf below from Fira

It’s hard to describe how beautiful the views are from the top. As far as you can see, white-washed buildings hang tightly to clifftop villages. Across the bay, the Aegean sstretches outward from black volcanic sands where part of the volcano is active on the island of Nea Kameni. We could see the Wind Surf anchored gracefully below with its tenders operating across the deep blue water. It’s an image that has been completely burned into my memory.

After walking through Fira and exploring the town, we decided to take a bus to the northern side of the island. Our bus took us down impossibly narrow roads with dramatic views of the Aegean. I was glad that I didn’t rent a scooter after seeing how some of the bus drivers passed them on cliff-hugging roads!

About 30 minutes later, we arrived in the picturesque town of Oia. We were completely seduced by its narrow cobblestone streets and blue-domed churches. Most of the white-washed churches were actually small chapels, and actually adjoined the property of quaint white houses overlooking the bay. We took a number of photos, and even with the clouds and a light drizzle, the landscape was fantastic. Jeff and I split a hamburger for lunch to hold us over until dinner.

View from Oia

View from Oia

Upon our return to Fira, we shopped for a little while in the nice shops. Then we took the cable car back down to the harbor to catch our tender back to the Wind Surf. The sea had really picked up and we didn’t have a true gangway to the shore. As people were being helped aboard the tenders, the crew reached out to grab people in a leap of faith. As Mom prepared to step off, they literally pushed her on and grabbed her just as the tender was rocked by a huge wave. It was quite the adventure leaving the port!

About an hour later at 4 p.m., we set sail from Santorini. Jeff, Dad and I went on the top deck to admire the views. As we sailed south, we could see the village of Akrotiri. One of the most dramatic sights was Mt. Profitis Illias with towered over the southern part of the island. The beautiful St. George monastery glimmered under the sun at its summit. As rounded the southern tip of the islands, we bid goodbye to Santorini as we passed the Akrotiri lighthouse.

Later that evening, we were starving from our travels on Santorini. Tonight for dinner we were having

Canadian thanksgiving. The turkey, dressing and trimmings were absolutely sumptuous, along with a wonderful flan that I had for dessert. We watched the sunset outside the dining room around 7 p.m. That night we visited the casino and watched some television on our relaxing journey to the island of Rodos.

Categories: Europe, Greece, Santorini

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