When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

Santorini

Santorini is an island in the south of the Aegean Sea, just a little north of Crete. It is the remains of an ancient volcano that blew its top in 1613 BC. The tags are our hotel and sights to see. Santorini is famous for its sunsets, blue dome churches, wine, destination weddings, crowds and high prices.

Santorini makes up three side of the caldera with another island on the west. A new tip of the volcano is an island in the center. Several prominent hills are old volcanic cores.

We are here in the last week of the season. Nov. 1st is the start of the winter season and many stores and restaurants will be closed until spring.

We have rented a car to get around so we don’t have to rely on the buses or taxis. The buses are crowded and the taxis are expensive. The car is a Smart Car and is older than these hills and runs like a piece of crap! Twice as I pulled into traffic from a cross street it lurched and faltered leaving us vulnerable to a t-bone crash. Both drivers missed us. I learned to plan ahead and get the engine wound up a few seconds before I needed the power. A YouTube Video is available of the run down the hill and back up on a steep, one-lane, two-way road.

 

Our hotel is on the rim of the crater. It is four star with a crater view to the west and sunsets. All things that drive up the price. The picture is from the north end of the island towards our hotel. The hotel is actually over the edge from the rim but only 61 stair steps down. (That is like a 3-story building, only going down not up.) Many hotels are lower and are only walkable, no road access.

 

 

Our room selection also drove the price up. We have a “Grand Cave Suite with Personal Hot Tub”. We don’t have a crater view from our room but a couple steps outside and we have a great view.

And breakfast is delivered to our patio table hot and ready to eat.

 

 

There is a swimming pool (lots of the hotels have pools) but it is not heated. We found out that none of the hotels heat their pools making them usable only on very hot days. The last week in October does not have any of those!

We flew, a 45 minute flight, rather than take the all day ferry to the island. We arrived early afternoon and wandered the narrow streets looking for food. Then back to the hotel, looked at the view for a while and soaked in the hot tub.

The following morning we hike out to Skaros Rock, about 1 km. (2/3 mile) one way. There is a church on the very end of the point about halfway down from the top. We went all the way there and back in a couple hours. The most difficult part was that there were over four hundred stair steps down to the saddle, up and over the rock and then down to the church. And then they had to be climbed all over again on the way back.

 

That afternoon was more fun. We took a four hour wine tour to three different wineries. Santorini Island is famous for its wines and has over 20 wineries. They make mostly whites and dessert wines but there are a few reds.

We had 5 couples in the tour and the leader. There were four couples from the U.S. (Atlanta, New York, Minnesota and us from Washington State) and one couple from Ireland. Americans are famous for being brash and noisy and our leader kind of lost control of the group as the tour went along. In this winery there was another tour group and the room echoed loudly with our chatter and laughter. We got shushed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This winery was better for our noisy group. And the view was spectacular.

We all had a good time and when we returned to our hotel we hit the hot tub to relieve our sore hiking muscles from the Skaros Rock trip that morning.

The grape vines are not strung on wires in rows here. They are like bushes to protect them from the wind and harsh summer sun. The vines are actually twisted and woven together into a basket-like structure.

 

This view is from the south tip of the island. The north end is at the left with the town of Oia on the point. The town of Thera is nearly centered and our hotel is at the left edge of the white buildings of Thera. The tip of Skaros Rock is just visible in the center. The islands in the center are the tip of the new volcano slowly forming again.

The next day was history day. We toured all the ancient, historical sites. And it was free; we save 32 Euros! This day is a national holiday. It is Oxi Day. During WW II, Mussolini, based on his successful conquest of Ethiopia, told Greece to give up and surrender to him. On October 28th, 1940, Greece told Mussolini “Screw You” (but in Greek). It has been a national holiday since then.

The first known settlers on the island are from about the 2nd Millennia BC (about 4,000 years ago). In 1613 BC (3,500 years ago) the island exploded leaving the caldera we have today. The city of Akrotiri was covered in many feet of ash. It was discovered in the 1990’s and is slowly being examined. Most of the artifacts have been removed to the museum. The site is covered with a large roof to protect it from wind and rain. The ash is very soft and easily disturbed. There have been no human remains found like at Pompeii in Italy.

Although it looks like people left in a hurry; there must have been some warning earthquakes or something.

This “Blue Monkeys” wall painting was one of the ones removed. I have no idea how they were able to get it off the wall and into the museum in this good of shape. Especially when one considers the dirt and dust in the buried city.

 

 

After a number of centuries people started to re-colonize the remains of the old volcano. Around the 7th century BC several small towns were established. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods (BC & AD) this fortress/city of Thera was built on top of one of the volcanic cores. The road up to the saddle parking area has 22 sharp switchbacks and is only one lane wide with passing areas on the corners. It is a steep climb from the parking area to the city and garrison area on the actual top.

 

At its most populous there were about 6,000 people living here. With no tillable land, very little grazing land, no water wells, and few trees for firewood I wonder how they survived. Did they have farms in the lowlands and haul everything up on horses or mules? And the wind would have made life miserable. It was blowing hard the day we were there. But the views were fantastic!

 

 

We have continued our habit of eating at different restaurants and food styles that we started in Athens. Seafood is on the left and on the right a stop for some more Yellow Donkey beer from Santorini Brewing. They are the first craft brewery, and until last month, the only. This is their signature IPA and it is delicious. The donkey is a symbol of Santorini. Originally they were used to get people from the dock to the city on the rim of the crater up a switchback trail. Today they have been replaced by mules, buses and a tramway. The donkey can be bought printed on t-shirts, shopping bags, purses, dresses, and a stuffed toy.

The mules are going back down for another load. There is a push by many people to not ride the mules because of the animal cruelty factor of their work. But every article I have seen in various people’s blogs calling for a ban or advocating avoidance have called them donkeys. Obviously the writers of those blogs need to learn a little more about the animals being used before making their comments. They are mules not donkeys being used on this trail.

 

Of course we have the obligatory sunset picture. This is from our hotel. There are standard sunset picture spots where the crowds can get really thick with everyone vying for the best shot. We skipped them. Actually we did not have really good sunsets. The days were sunny with clouds floating by and a deep haze along the horizon by evening. This was our best sunset. The sunsets are so famous that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that do sunset boat cruises, sunset wine tours, sunset boat wine tours, etc.

 

We did the obligatory photo sites of the blue domes and the windmills. But mostly we just wandered the narrow streets and lanes of the old towns that populate this island.

We have had a great time and spent a bundle of money. But we feel it has been worth it. We saved up just for this whole trip and then when Covid delayed it a year we continued to save up money. This allowed us to upgrade some portions of the trip like Santorini.

Tomorrow we fly back to Athens. On Tuesday we head for the west coast of Greece to catch a ferry to Venice, Italy. The original return to Germany plan had us going across Italy to Sicily, then Sardinia and Corsica to France and back to Germany. But a few days ago Sicily had a “Medicane”. That’s what they call a minor hurricane in the Mediterranean Sea. It flooded roads, caused landslides and killed two people. Next week more rain is expected along that route. So we will go to Venice by ferry and head north through Austria to Germany. That is if the weather doesn’t snow in the passes. We already crossed the Alps once in the snow.

Our next update will probably be a week away or after we get home.

 

 

For all you guys: I went to the toilet in the Irish Pub on Santorini and found this looking down from the wall in front of me!