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July 02, 2010

Santorini {text by Andrew}

Friday July 2 - Santorini

Today, we visited Santorini.  This is a small cycle of islands forming a circle.  3500 years ago, they were a single big island with a celebrated civilization, but a massive volcanic eruption destroyed all life on the island, causing the center to sink to the bottom of the ocean, and kicking off an 800-ft high tidal wave that traveled over 200 mph through the Aegean and destroyed whatever it met.  This is believed to be the downfall of Crete and the entire Minoan civilization.  Small wonder these folks had so many angry, jealous gods in their pantheon. 

After the eruption, only the perimeter of the original volcano remained above water, as a small circular chain of islands.  These were slowly repopulated from the mainland, and due to their craggy volcanic structure, the rebuilding focused on the ridge line at the top of each island in the chain.  The resulting towns are dramatically build out hundreds of feet above the beautiful Aegean, sparkling white with the famous blue domes.

We took a tender from our boat to a small port below the town of Fira.  Passage to the top is accomplished by one of three means:  taking a near-vertical cable car, or taking a mostly horizontal donkey up 600 steps, or climbing the 600 steps while avoiding the three natural hazards of the area:  donkeys going up, donkeys going down, and what the donkeys left behind.  We took the cable car.

The top is a warren of streets following the ridge, all beautifully whitewashed, with amazing views available within twenty steps of any point.  The outer perimeter is nice restaurants, all overlooking the water.  The inner perimeter is boutiques and places selling jewelry and gold.  A level or two lower, the boutiques give way to less ritzy and more reasonable shops that don't sneer at the word "sandwich."

We wandered around for maybe 3-4 hours, had some drinks, had some lunch, and went in and out of various stores.  It got hot pretty quickly, and eventually we took the cable car back down and head back to the boat to relax.  Next, we're on our way to Naples and Pompeii, which will require a full day at sea tomorrow before docking early the day after.


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