Santorini - the most fair


Santorini is an island that has to be visited for its beauty to be appreciated. I went there in October, when the pace was more tranquil. Despite, a lot of restaurants and beach cafés closing for the year, there was still a wide choice of places to eat or relax with a drink. All the towns and villages are in close proximity to each other, so anyone interested in visiting them would have no trouble, especially with the choice of car hire firms. Moreover, there is the volcano that can be reached by boat. The weather was a respectable 25°; 77 Fahrenheit in old money. If this is not hot enough for you, then Santorini ought to be visited in July or August when the temperatures are much higher.

The island was original named Kalliste, the most fair, but that was changed to its classical name Thera in the fifth century BC when  commander Theras, son of Autesion of Sparta who, as Herodotus of Alikarnassos (484-424 BC) tells us, colonised it (Santorini.com, 2013). The Venetians merchants played an important role in the Aegean, leaving behind many Latin names. The locally produced liqueur wine Vinsanto’ is one of them. It comes at a price tag, but it tastes like the nectar from the Gods.

I stayed in Kamari, a name that derives from the Latin Kamara, meaning room. The classical lore recounts how at the end of its beach there was an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon (Wikipedia, 2013), which resembled a room. The distance between the seaside restaurants, cafés, and the beach is at most ten yards. It is a friendly town with a variety of shops and tavernas, both by the promenade and in the back streets. My accommodation was a self-catering apartment in a quiet side street, which was a five-minute walk from the sandy haven by the sea.I was told to be careful of the traffic on the main road at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, which made me smile as I cannot recall counting more than ten cars a day. Perhaps the story was different at the height of the season. A seaside hotel would set you back quite a bit. But Kamari was not the most expensive of resorts.

Oia’s topography is breathtaking. The town is built on the cliff-side of the island, which is craggy in places. This translates to a lot of steps before the entrance to the local hotels, or restaurants can be found. The town though, is at its most picturesque just before sunset. Before the mortals lies the great and calm expanse of the blue sea, and on the yonder the sun slowly goes to sleep for another day.

Santorini Oia
Oia 

Helios, the Greek God of Sun, puts his best display here, with a mesmerising orange carpet that he lays before the eyes of the mere mortals. His brightness lives on, even after he has lain his head down for the night. The town at night is showered with bright lights from the shops which, combined with the narrow passages, create a prismatic effect of colourful effusions.


Santorini sunset at Oia
Sunset at Oia
And there are plenty of bars, and restaurants to while the evening away in good company. Oia is the end destinations for most of the boat tours, which arrive at the foot of the town around 6pm. There are mules that will take you to the top in around 5 minutes, or you can walk if you choose. Do bear in mind that it is a long uphill hike, especially after a day of being sun-baked during a boat tour.

The tour I went on started from the old port Athinion. Our boat, King Thera, was a schooner skippered by Captain Lambros and his son, with a bar offering hot beverages, alcoholic drinks, sandwiches, and water.  The schooner sailed close to it, thus on approaching the isle where is it situated, the dark lava deposits could be admired. There was a €2.00 entrance fee to climb to the top of the volcano, which I thought it was worth it. Firstly, there is scientific equipment to be maintained. Secondly, it is a historic area that has to be upkept. Make sure you bring sturdy shoes and a bottle of water (which can be bought aboard the boat) as the climb can be exhausting in the hot weather. The view from the top is magnificent. After the volcano, we sailed to the hot-springs. Our schooner anchored just outside the hot-springs gulf, due to its draught. A dive, or a climb down the steps next to the boat had you in the topaz waters next to the volcano. It is worth bearing in mind that if you did decide to swim to the hot springs you swimwear will stain. The springs are meant to be good for your skin, but clearly not for your garments.

Following the hot-springs, we sailed to Therasia for lunch. This is another small island that was separated from Santorini after a volcanic explosion. It has a round 300 inhabitants, who live at the top of the island. I enjoyed lunch on a pier, provided by the taverna that was owned and run by Lambros’s  family. The food was cooked in an open kitchen. 

Santorini Lunch at Therasia
Lunch at Therasia
It was like being at home, but with a bigger choice and no washing up to do. Our captain, was born and raised in Therasia, where he now lives with his wife and two sons. This means that his family make up 1.3% of the isle’s population. In comparison to most other towns, this is a significant number.

King Thera then sailed for its last two stops. One at Oia, for those who wished to see the sunset, and the last one back to Athinion for the coach to our hotel. It is also worth touring the island by car. Armed with a good map you will be able to see as much, or as little of the island as you wish. Driving back southbound from Oia you will pass the neck of Santorini. This is very much like standing on a very high bridge and being able to see both sides of the island.

Santorini is an island of natural beauty and rich classical history, with sunsets that are not to missed. Perhaps that is why in the ancient times it was aptly called Kalliste, meaning the most fair. There are plenty of boat tours to choose from, which will take you to the volcano, hot-springs, and the town of Therasia, where you can enjoy lunch by the seaside. It is also worth touring the island by car, to discover some of its hidden gems and sights. With plenty to see, and fresh food to be enjoyed, the only thing you will be left wanting for...is a longer holiday.



Santorini Volcanic berth
Volcanic berth














References

Santorini.com (1997-2013), ‘Naming Santorini Through the Ages’ in The Island / Naming Santorini, [Online] at: http://www.santorini.com/santorini/namingsantorini.htm

Wikipedia (2013), ‘Kamari’, [Online] at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamari

1 comment:

  1. Well written Conn! We visited Santorini for the day last year when on a cruise and fell in love with it. We'd love to return for a longer visit and will keep this blog in mind for ideas of things to do.

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