Santorini 2010

OK my friends, so you got me: it is indeed Santorini the answer in the quiz, well done!

Flashback in 2010: summer is just around the corner. A young couple in love looking for a Greek island to spend their vacation. Somewhere romantic.

The choice was easy. Santorini is a world famous tourist destination for couples. We were not following the trend, though. The pictures of the island in each and every travel guide had such an effect on me that I started enjoying sunsets with the seven colours of the rainbow, with an iced coffee at hand, next to a blue domed church and the volcano right in front of me, before even buying the ferry tickets. OK, that was just me keeping my imagination busy. You see, for her it would be her second time on the island.

At first glance, while disembarking, Santorini did not win me over. Athinios is not a natural port. Just a couple of car rental agencies, along with a couple of cafes, carved on the caldera hills. We had to take the bus and start going up the hill for me to realise where I was. One look at the volcano from up there was enough to rekindle my enthusiasm in the places that my eyes would witness over the following days.

In Fira, the capital, we got lost in the cobbled streets by the caldera for hours. People from virtually every place in the world form part of the most colourful maypole of facial features, skin colour and spoken languages I have ever seen or heard in such a small place, while local salesmen try to attract customers by extolling their merchandise and herds of donkeys go down the stairs to the old port every now and then. Did I say donkeys? Well, of course, for those of you who don’t know, donkeys are the traditional means of transport in the island and used to be the only one until the late 70’s. The whole scenery was so spectacular, with the cycladic architecture over the hill on one hand and the view at the volcano on the other that I needed time, more and more, to digest the information coming from my optic nerve that this place actually exists!

If you ‘re looking for long beaches of golden sand and turquoise waters, you won’t find them here. Imagine that, due to the volcanic eruptions and the earthquakes caused by them throughout the ages, a large part of the west coast has sunk, taking away the coastal area as well. Nevertheless, at the south and east coast a big surprise awaits the visitor: first, the Red Beach right next to the Minoan village called Akrotiri and then the long black sand beach starting from Perissa and ending in Kamari. I personally would visit the first one again if I had more time, you can see for yourself why.

You didn’t expect me to finish this post without mentioning the famous Oia’s sunset, did you? Well, Oia is a traditional village that maintains its character by law. A walk at the fairytale caldera street, with blue domed white churches and shops and houses dressed either in white or in shades of brown and red, colours of the soils of Santorini, is enough to convince you it is the most picturesque place on the island. You can hang me if you like, I’m guilty. For some reason, I prefer the sunset from Fira.

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