Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where Mykonos is perfect for chilling on the beach and strolling through the white washed town, Santorini is full of stimulating activities and has a much more vibrant character. It is only half the size that it once was due to a long history of violent volcanic eruptions and epic earthquakes. Volcanic explosions caused the island to not only break into two but the middle portion of the island sank into the sea causing a caldera that the water quickly filled. Another eruption in 1707 created the islet to appear in the middle (more on that later). A massive earthquake in 1956 killed scores of people and destroyed most of the houses on the island. And that is only a sampling of the tumultuous natural history here.
The main port of the town (Fira) is at the base of a massive and intimidating lava-layered cliff. You are given three options to get up to town: take a cable car, walk the 588 steps, or ride a donkey. We were lucky enough to arrive at the other port away from town and our hosts picked us up which was fabulous. We didn't get in until later in the day so we only had time to check in, clean up, and head out to explore. The town itself isn't that pretty (except for right along the cliffs edge), but it is the surroundings that leave you in awe. Looking out over these cliffs with the islet made of volcanic rock in the middle of the caldera is pretty amazing. The island has black, red, and white beaches and the sunsets from certain places are idyllic. The town of Fira has all the usual shops and restaurants to keep the throngs of cruise trippers busy. Our host recommended one restaurant in particular that we headed to for dinner. It is very modest inside, yet packed so that is a good sign. It doesn't have a menu, only a few items in Greek on a chalkboard. The servers translate for you. We got...
Server: "Meat or fish?"
Us: "Meat"
Server: "Roast lamb, Pork, Chicken on small Pasta, Souvlaki is on the stick"
Us: "Roast lamb and Chicken please"
It was amazing; they certainly know what they are doing in the kitchen here. After the meal we mentioned to our server how good it was and he simply said; "I know, everything is wonderful here" with a perfectly straight face. He must be used to it.
The next day we decided to rent a quad to buzz around and check out the island. The engine on our little 4x4 seemed a little stressed on the inclines as we thought we could probably walk faster. Anyway, we first went to the town of Oia. It is the place with the best sunsets and also home to the church with the blue roof overlooking the caldera that you see on so many postcards from Greece. It was packed with cruisers and we couldn't imagine this place in high season. After lunch we buzzed on down to the other side to check out one of the black beaches made so by the remnants of volcanic rock. Apparently beach mats are essential in the hot summer even though it was overcast when we visited. From there we putted up to what we thought was the wine museum, but it ended up being some random art gallery in an old winery. It was amazing art, but the guy running it was a little odd yet accommodating. We thought our quad was going to die on the way back but we made it just in time before it started to rain a little.
Our last day here we headed out on an excursion. We first had to go to the port at the base of town to find our boat - 588 stairs down. The walk down was a little more engaging than we thought. We had to dodge piles of both donkey crap and donkeys. Sometimes at the same time if you know what we mean. It was insane as a new cruise ship just pulled up and there were tons of 'asses' climbing the stairs. We managed to navigate our way down and found our boat. The first stop was Nea Kameni, the islet (or mouth of the active volcano) in the middle of the caldera. We got to climb up to the crater and see the views from the top as well as some of the sulphur plumes. It isn't active in the way that you can see lava from the top, but the sulphur smell was good reminder of where we actually were. It was really neat to see the volcanic rock rise up straight out of the water. From there we went across to another islet (Palia Kameni) where there are natural hot springs. The boat can only get so close to the springs so we had to swim from the boat. Most were waiting to climb down the ladder into the water, but Meg and I decided to jump over the side. The water was a perfect temperature and got warmer as we moved into the hot springs. People were covering themselves with mud from the edge as it is said to be good for you. Meg started to follow suit, but it was too "squishy" to go near and quickly turned around. I wouldn't even touch the bottom... After getting back to port and playing dodge the donkey again we headed back to organize ourselves for our trip back to the mainland nice and early tomorrow. We fly to Athens, take the metro across town, and ride the rails up to Meteora.
Megan and Kevin
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