Saturday, August 22
Survived another flight and arrive safely at my hotel. The driver takes a promissory note for my first born and tells me to enjoy my stay in Thira. I panic for a moment thinking he has dumped me at the wrong location, but this is my hotel, so I can only assume the man knows nothing of Santorini.
It is sweltering here, so my first order of business is a swim and a drink. There is no hop on hop off bus here, so I need to get my bearings. I set out my maps on the bed and wonder if I might get bored.
The little balcony in my room lures me to it's doorway. After a few minutes I step out in a trance-like stare. The views immobilize me. I forego the swim, the drink and the planning to park in a chair and watch the sunlight play on sea.
Across the ink blue water another volcano sneers at me. It is the child of the Minoan eruption which literally blew it's top in 1613AD and rocketed the top of the mountain into the sea, leaving the crescent shaped caldera of an island on which I am centrally perched. Tiny boats float along like white rice in a bowl of dark soup waiting to be boiled by the active volcano directly below.
Santorini is only 15 miles long. I am in Fierostephani close to Fira and flanked by Oia and Imerovigli. I chose this central location because I hallucinated I could walk 7 miles. Apparently I can, but it is never by choice.
There are two ways to get around in Santorini; a single road linking town to town and a narrow walking path that meanders from one end of the island to the other. I had seen many charming photos of this path and decided it was early enough to take a hike and be back for my first Santorini sunset.
At first the path is delightfully downhill. It is smattered with adorable shops, enticing open air restaurants and as if placed there by the Greek tourist association; kittens. Nothing adds ambience like a kitten, and I react as though I have never seen one before. These are the same little varmits who have the power to choke the air from my lungs and swell my eyes to blindness, but I pick one up anyway and rub it all over my face.
The views from the path are glorious and it's hard to know where to look. It's all fun and games til I realize this path (like every other path I have walked), is a trick. It snakes along and suddenly becomes an undulating tangle that rivals the head of Medusa. Contrary to the notion one can only be walking downward when walking down a mountain, the path is taking me up, down and around like a 5 star roller coaster.
It's hard to be pissed at the path. There are fuscia and orange flowering vines and white washed villas with straw brooms leaning against shuttered old windows. An adorable old woman leads a donkey past me and mothers are setting out food on pretty little porches.
I am pissed at the path, but 3 hours later, as the sun fades, I arrive at Fira. Exhausted and hungry, I find a welcoming little Bistro facing the sea. It is here I experience my first "No singles" rejection. "No tables" says he. "Lots of tables" says me. "No tables" he barks and though I am always up for a fight, I remember my vow to be a happy traveller and move on.
I approach the next place more cautiously. "Can I have dinner here?" The woman looks at me as though she has to explain how restaurants work and says "Yes. Dinner. Please." I won't take another step without clarification. "Can I eat here alone?" She beckons me forward and responds with a confused half smile, "Yes. Please."
I pass tables dotted two by two with white linen wearing honeymooners cooing like doves at each other. I exchange glances with them like only a leper can and look out at the sea while the woman noisely removes the vacant place setting (in case any lovebirds missed the intrusion).
Get over it kids, I am your future.
I nosh on Dolmades, zucchini and crusty bread slathered with butter, accompanied by sweet syrupy wine. Under the influence of a few more glasses, I immerse myself in the view. The cooing turns to soft music, the heat to a cool breeze and the sunset hugs me like a familiar old friend. I am so happy I want to order a pillow and blanket and grow old here.
The Greeks are wonderful hosts. They don't rush me from my table or drop a bill until I am soundly smashed and bloated. Lest the bill float off into the night, it is weighted down with a complimentary shot of Ouzo. In the darkness, I thank my hostess who smiles warmly and tells me to enjoy my time in Thira. I don't have the energy to ask why everyone expects me to go to Thira, so I smile back, pay the bill and down the drink.
I am not one for hard liquor, and Ouzo is pretty damn hard, so with a false sense of revitalization, I brazenly opt to take the road home.
The road is busy and lined with tourists waiting for taxis and buses. I am too sophisticated for such and opt to walk. Though at first there is a sidewalk, it gets bored with itself and disintegrated to a dirt path and finally nothing. A voice in my head speaks the obvious I had yet to consider; If you walk down a mountain, chances are, you will have to walk back up to get home.
The lovely buildings of Fira are replaced by random lots with dented bikes and ATVs for hire. Soon there is nothing but darkness, the headlights of lost tourists and distant sounds of drunken laughter. I pick up my pace and even with my wobbly toddler gait, I arrive at the alley that leads to my hotel in no less than 17 minutes.
Showered and pleased with myself I wrap in a blanket and return to the chair on the balcony. Like the abundant stars above, the towns below twinkles with white light. In the bowl, cruise ships lit like Christmas logs anchor for the night. It is surprisingly silent here and I imagine we have all been hypnotized by the beauty of it all.
I rest assured I can easily spend 5 glorious days here on my balcony.
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