Monday, November 15, 2010

Santorini, Greece

We have been so excited to share our stay in the land of the gods--Greece. We didn't spend anytime in Athens but headed to the most beautiful island first, Santorini. As we drove up a steep set of switchbacks in a packed van, I couldn't help but gawk out the window at the water getting further away below us and the ferry boat becoming toy-sized. We tumbled along on the side of a cliff, which was formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Since we arrived at night, we had to anxiously wait for the next day to get views of the island and the Aegean Sea.

The following morning we were nearly blinded as we stepped out of our hotel room. The buildings are so white it hurts to look at them. Rows and rows of bright white blocks. Many had painted their doors, trims, and shutters bright blue, the color of the clear skies. Outside every front door stood neat potted plants and cacti, the clay pots often cemented down so the wind wouldn't take them. We wandered around a maze of narrow stone streets and painted steps that connected the houses. The buildings of the city are clustered tightly on top of high, ragged cliffs that dropped sharply into the sea below. We were not expecting such breathtaking views. Restaurants trying to lure in tourists advertise "sunset views" on their signs. We chuckled to ourselves because you can get an excellent look at the sunset [and more] from just about anywhere along the sidewalk that lines the cliff. It didn't take us long to agree that this must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

During the ancient times, Santorini was in the shape of a circle. The volcano’s enormous eruption destroyed the center of the island and caused it to sink, creating today’s caldera. It is now in the shape of a crescent moon. The volcano is a small island next to Santorini which can be visited on daily boat tours. The first eruption took place around 1500 BC and the last in 1956, though the volcano is still active today. Some believe that the destruction of Santorini is related to that of the mythical Atlantis.  

Thus far, Santorini has been our longest stay in one city—10 days. There’s something about the beautiful island that stops time and relaxes. We spent many days just relaxing around home, enjoying the quaint city streets and views. Our hotel wasn’t fancy, but it became like home, thanks to the hospitality of the owner, Giorgio. We got into a routine of waking up way too late (even though we set an early alarm daily), walking around town, blogging in the afternoon, snuggling up to a movie on our laptops, and drinking chamomile tea with honey in bed every evening. Maybe it was the sudden weather change. The season seemed to transition from summer to autumn in the time we were there. One of the first days we were blessed with 85 degree weather and actually laid out on the roof lounge chairs in our swimsuits. Towards the end of our stay, we experienced insane wind and thunderstorms. The wind howled loudly even through our closed windows all through the night, and it made sense to us why the island is dotted with old windmills.