OCtober 17th - 18th, 2014
Ask any reasonably cautious individual to visit the still active site of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history and they may politely decline. Add in the fact the resultant infernal clouds of this particular emission lashed down caustic missiles of molten stone, blacked out the sun and suffocated the entire local populace under scorching ash; they may suggest you seek therapy. Further explain this catatastrophe might have collapsed the mighty Minoan civilization -nearly 100 miles away- under the weight of a titanic tsunami and they may declare you a lunatic. Finally, let slip the epicenter of this apocalyptic obliteration is known today by the name Santorini, and they'll demand to know exactly how to get on the next cruise.
Our ferry from Paros breached the Santorini caldera in the late afternoon. Perched on the promontory behind us lay Oia, widely reputed as the single best point in the world from which the sunset (as noted in our post from Granada, the Generalife is a close contender). The aforementioned explosion scoured out huge quantities of stone to reveal these blood red, iron-rich cliffs.
Fira, Santorini's capital city, cascades down the slopes of Thira. The nomenclature associated with these islands can get confused quite easily: Santorini consists all landmasses in the caldera. Classically, Santorini was known as Thera. Offically, Santorini is known as Thira. Thira is also the name of the largest island, though this island itself is popularly referred to Santorini. Clear as smoke?
Used to transport goods over land prior to the construction of modern roads, donkeys, mules and horses are still a common site. These days they primarly shuttle people from the dock up to town. While riding a donkey may seem more romantic than the alternative cable car, apparently the poor beasts are forced to suffer brutal working conditions and visitors have therefore been officially discouraged from financially enabling the maltreatment. According to Greek administrators, ill-fitted harnesses cause lacerations and the repeated ascension of steep trails in sweltering heat leads to undue exhaustion. To be blunt, these issues are exacerbated by the obesity of many tourists; if your ass is wider than that of the ass, it's likely not in the best interest of their spine to carry your weight.
The golden hour really is otherwordly in Santorini. One can see why some claim the Thera eruption as the source for Plato's legend of Atlantis.
Off-season travel has countless benefits: cheaper food and lodging, empty beaches and opportunities to interact with residents chief among them. One downside, however, is the drastically reduced number of inter-island ferry trips. Consequently, we had to catch a boat leaving Fira for Heraklion at 3:00 in the morning. There was plenty of space to lie down, but the cleanliness of the carpet was somewhat suspect. The Aegean gets rioutously rocky from time to time and not all passengers have stomachs as solid as the historically seafaring hellenes.