Santorini Sunsets and Sights.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Where I stayed
Antonia Hotel Santorini Fira
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Vistited the volcano island.

Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"See you tomorrow and we will take some coffee and I will showa you the mappa" said Listeria who had picked us up from the ferry port of Santorini at 1.00am, and now just given us the key to room 13 at Antonia Hotel.

We wearily climbed the white marble spiral stairs and dropped our packs. The first thing we noticed was we had double shuttered doors opening out to a gloriously big balcony AND a clothes line. (For those of you who know we travel light and therefore for us washing clothes is a necessary obsession, this was a great discovery!) The next thing we noticed was we had a double bed again, at last, after many twin beds. It was nice and firm after some un-comfortably soft ones in Russian hotels. Perhaps the Russians think we need soft mattresses after sleeping on hard train beds?

Already we are loving this family style Antonia Hotel at Santorini.

It had been a huge travel day to get to Santorini. We began the day in St. Petersburg catching a taxi to the airport at 6.30am. Then a one and a half hour flight with the budget airline Air Baltic, took us to Riga in Latvia. Not having had breakfast we were hoping to get it at Riga airport in the hour before our flight to Athens was due to board, however the whole hour was taken up with security checks and passport control. Why is it, when you have been through rigid security at St Petersburg, including one of those new Xray machines that view the whole body, boarded the plane and gone through the transit passage only since, that you have to go through it all again? It is a mystery as to how you could have been expected to have added something untoward in that time, to your luggage or person. Anyway it was very thorough and then we had to line up to enter the EU through passport control, which we thought we would be doing in Athens since this was a transit only.    

Rushing to catch our next Air Baltic flight to Athens, we just made it, but without water or food. Luckily, although a budget no frills airline, there was food and drinks for sale on board. Arriving in Athens we went straight out the terminal and found the bus that would take us the one and a half hours to the port of Piraeus. Once there we bought ferry tickets for the 7pm slow ferry to Santorini. The port area seemed a but shady and unsafe. We actually witnessed an arrest of some African bag sellers and a group of other Africans (we presume illegals) ran straight towards us, fleeing the police (nearly turned and ran with them thinking they were fleeing a riot or similar, given major strikes were sheduled the next day).  

The ferry was quite a surprise. It was huge and inside seemed more like a luxury hotel than a ferry. There are so many ferries leaving from Piraeus that a bus (free) is needed to take passengers out to the far distant departure points for many of the ferries.  As we got off the bus we met a Father and daughter duo from NZ and paired up with them to spend the 6 hour trip in comfortable lounge chairs discussing their travel and ours.

So we were ready for our lovely firm bed in Santorini. We awoke refreshed and threw open the shutters to our balcony but found disappointingly grey skies. We “tooka the coffee” downstairs with Mario who comes from Albania and has worked at the hotel for six years. He gave us a map and many ideas of the best things to do in our two days. 

Walking the short distance to the Caldera for the classic picture postcard view, and breakfast, were the first two things on the agenda. We were pleasantly surprised to achieve a cooked breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice for six Euros each. We had expected Greek Islands to be very expensive. Even with grey skies, looking from the cliff top of Fira down to the Caldera way below was stunning.    

Next was grocery shopping to get a supply of luscious Greek olives, crusty wholemeal bread, vine tomatoes (that actually smelt just freshly picked)) cheese, and of course some red wine. Also breakfast cereal, milk and yoghurt (our room has a fridge) to save on buying breakfasts.

We set off to the local bus stop and found a bus going to the village of Kamari, which was near to where the mountain hike starts to see the ruins of Ancient Thira.  We saw a sign offering transport up to the ruins to save hiking but were unimpressed when the price was 7 euros each. The bus all the way to the village had only cost 1.60 Euros. We set off climbing and met a Dutch couple coming down who said that it would take us an hour to get up there and we would need an hour to see the sights, but it was closing at 2.30 pm so we wouldn't have time as it was now 1.15pm. This was pretty depressing news, so we decided we would have to come back the next day and despondently set off back to the bus stop and caught the bus back to Fira. Our other choice for an excursion had been the excavations at Akrotiri. Some academics believe the buried town of Akrotiri may have formed part of the fabled Atlantis. However, on inquiring when we got back to Fira, we were told the excavations had been closed for five years due a tourist being killed there in a collapse of the ruins.

The lack of tourist infrastructure to sites and tourist information is quite amazing and annoying. Nowhere did we read about the early closure time of Ancient Thira or the complete closure of the Akrotiri site. Anyway it gave us an excuse to hit the red wine early and savor the picnic foods we had bought, from the comfort of our balcony. The sun came out a little and all was well with the world as the red wine mellowed us out.

On our second day a fierce wind blew up but we headed off early to catch the bus then climb,  and finally, get to see the ruins of Ancient Thira. Despite the wind we made it to the top in 50 minutes. For the afternoon we had booked a three hour boat trip taking us to the still active volcano island in the Caldera and to a place where hot spring water meets the ocean. On a less windy day (the wind was literally howling) it would have been a pleasant outing, but it was marred by huge swell, cold winds, and very little volcanic activity.

Our last meal out in Santorini was very special. We chose a restaurant right on top of the cliff (Niki's) with a supurb view for sunset and revelled in the spectacular view. We shared an appetiser of Greek grilled vegetables then both had grilled swordfish and of course some wonderful Santorini red wine - amazing!  

Locals say of their island "On Santorini there are more Donkeys than inhabitants, more churches than houses, more wine than water". We sampled the wine, avoided the donkeys (and their shit!) and admired the churches. Love Santorini!

Footnote: The island of Santorini features in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die.

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