Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday - Santorini

Day 26 – Santorini
This morning came extra early thanks to us losing an hour overnight. We are back to being 6 hours off of EST. We had our breakfast in the room and had to be at the designated meeting location by 7:45. We took our tender over to shore. The island is magnificent. It’s hard to believe how it was actually formed. After our short tender to the island, we boarded a motor coach for the trip to Oia (pronounced Eia) which is on the far end of the island. We basically drove back and forth around hairpin turns until we reached the top. These drivers must have nerves of steel.
Santorini is composed of 3 islands – Thira, the main island, Thirasia, and Asporonisi. The island was once much larger but in 1450 BC the volcano called Strongyle erupted and caused the middle of the island to sink, thus creating the caldera where our ship was anchored.

Our first stop was the town of Oia. It has a population of only about 1,500 people and yet it has 50 churches, as you can guess, mostly Greek Orthodox. The town is very cute, but with 4 ships anchored and about 25 tour buses you can only imagine that the narrow streets were almost impassable. There were numerous steps and a tremendous incline for Mom to navigate. We only had an hour to take photos and to shop, but there really wasn’t time. I would like to have spent more time there.

Next we went back towards the direction we came from and started climbing again. We were on our way to Mount Profitis which Is the highest point on the island, 550 meters high and home to 4 monks in a monastery. Monks were home, but we did get a sweeping view of the island below us. We could see the “cupcake island” named for its white strata at the top which looks like icing. It was here that we got our first glimpse of the grapevines that cover 60 percent of the island. We had not noticed them before as they looked like low shrubs on the ground. Since Santorini is so arid and windy they have to cultivate them in a way that suitable for this climate. They get their moisture from the humidity in the air. Most of the island is pumice which also absorbs any moisture in the air and provides it to the vines. Due to the wind, the vines are wrapped in a basket type manner with the grapes towards the middle in order to protect them. It is really fascinating. I did find some random vines which still had the grapes in the middle, though they were dried up almost like raisins. I took them back to the bus, where Mom was waiting (she did not want to get out at this stop due to the heights), and she promptly tasted one of them! She said it was very sweet and tasted like a raisin. Go figure!

We were then off to the Antoni Winery which was only a short drive from the scenic outlook point. Here we were greeted by the owner, Kostos Antoni who took us down for a brief overview of the winery. This is the oldest winery in the Cycladic Islands. We were taken out onto the terrace where we tried samples of 3 wines – a white, red, and late harvest along with bread, cheese, grape leaves stuffed with rice, and fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed the food and wine and of course the gorgeous views.

After we’d had our fill it was again back to the coach to take us to Fira, the capital. We had a pretty tough walk from the bus up to the actual street. We ended up just sitting for a while and taking it all in. It was about 13:00 and we hadn’t had lunch, so we decided to try a restaurant recommended by our guide. It was called Ampelos, a very traditional Greek taverna. Mom had not been feeling the greatest, so she opted for the soup, but I went for the full blown Greek lunch of chicken Souvlaki, and wow was it great. Mom tried a piece or two and had to agree.

Lunch was a leisurely one, and now it was time to walk around the town. There must have been a hundred jewelry stores selling everything from gold to sapphires of every color. We bought a couple of items, but were primarily concerned with getting toward the cable car that would take us back down to the port. It was either the cable car, 538 stairs, or a donkey ride – we were opting for the cable car! Once we reached the embarkation point we realized how far down we had to go, and in only 2 minutes time! There were 5 cars, ours had 5 people in it. It is literally almost a straight down trip. I have video of it, coming soon! After safely reaching the bottom, we carefully got out and walked down more stairs to the dock. I think we must have navigated over 200 stairs today alone. I am truly amazed at Mom’s ability to get around on this difficult terrain. We boarded the “bobbing” tender and waited while they filled it like a can of sardines. The ride to the ship was not a long one, thank goodness!

Once back on board we went directly to our stateroom and collapsed!

It has been an amazing, but tiring day. I did go up on the top deck to take some photos as the sun set on Thira (the name for the main island of Santorini). We ended up cancelling our dinner reservation in Toscana as neither one of us is up for it tonight. Maybe tomorrow… We did get to talk to Dad and Hunter while we were in port. It is now 18:00 and we are getting ready to pull up anchor and sail for Rhodes. Hopefully the weather will hold and we can enjoy a day in the sun. I may head into town, but I think Mom is ship-bound for the rest of the trip! Today was such a wonderful day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading these posts have made me so envious. Your description of Santorini is just how I picture.
The Greek Isles are my list, it is all sounding so wonderful that I will have a hard time picking which to do first.
Continue on a safe journey.
Jo Ann at AAA