Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cruising the Greek Islands: Ios and Santirini

In writing these posts about the Greek Islands, I feel like I am trying to describe a visit to Oz. So much of what I experienced there seems ineffable, and perhaps that's the way it should be. Sometimes things are just to be held in the heart, as if trying to describe them somehow diminishes them.

We awoke that first morning anchored off the coast of Ios to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever been privileged to witness.

This was taken through our cabin window.

After breakfast it was time for our first swim in the waters of the Aegean Sea. One of the great things about small ship cruises is that passengers can just dive in right of the end of the ship. No one else around. Just us passengers. The water was so incredibly clear and blue, blue, blue. Cool but not cold.

The sun gradually bathed the island in light.

Later in the morning, we set out for Santorini. As we approached through a blue sea, I gazed at the brown rock that rises precipitously from the water. At the top, almost like frosting on a cake, we saw the towns of Fira and, further away, Oia (pronounced re-a). Though one might think the following two pictures were enhanced in some way, I assure they were not. These are the incredible blues of the Aegean.

Our cruise director, Nadia, had explained to all of us what the plan would be for that afternoon and evening. The port of Fira is hundreds of feet below the town, and there are only two ways up: via cable car or via a *very* steep road that zig-zags its way up. Though it is possible to walk up, most people who go via the road ride donkeys. Those taking part in the day's excursion would take the cable car. We would then walk through Fira to a waiting bus that would take us to our first destination of the day.

As the port came into view, we saw four *huge* cruise ships anchored offshore. "Don't worry," Nadia had told us. We will arrive when they are leaving." We took a tender boat from our ship to the port, and when we arrived we could see that she was right. There was no line for the cable car. We heard later that some of the big ships' passengers had waited for two hours just to take the cable car up. When we got to the top, we passed scores of people standing in line to take it back down.

Nadia on the tender boat. The prow of our ship is visible behind her.

Taken from the cable car, this photo shows our ship anchored offshore.

Walking through Fira to our bus.

Once on our bus, we drove to the southern end of the island to tour the Akrotiri archeological site. In about the year 1627 B.C. a massive eruption of a volcano buried the Minoan settlement, and it was only fairly recently discovered. Unlike Pompeii, however, the inhabitants had advance warning of the eruption and abandoned it. So far, they have identified 30 buildings, only four of which have been fully excavated.

Among other things, archeologists discovered beautiful well-preserved frescos that are now in a museum in Athens. 

From Akrotiri, our bus headed to the other end of the island to visit the town of Oia, famous for its blue-domed churches. The lead photo, above, was taken in Oia.

Then, it was back to Fira, where we were on our own until time to take the tender back to our ship. The sunsets viewed from Fira are, I discovered, renowned. By the time we arrived, hundreds of people were taking positions on low stone walls and in restaurants to view the sunset.

Mark and I decided, however, to get a jump on the crowds and take the cable car back down to the port for dinner at the taverna I described in this post. We enjoyed the views on the way down and from our restaurant that was only yards away from the water. 

I want to close this post with some words written by a correspondent in response to my last post about surrendering:
"My god, these trips are gorgeous and I understand wanting to wring every drop from them but don't many of the little islands of recollection that sustain us over time come out of those periods of rest? Surrender is the white space in the painting."
Thank you, Phyllis.

1 comment:

  1. Reading about your trip to Santorini brings back a ton of memories for me. It's one of the most amazing places on earth. My only regret was that I was there - in the most romantic place I could ever imagine - with a buddy from college. It would have been that much better with someone I had romantic feelings for.

    I never took the cable car as you described. I think that was the benefit of being very young and cash-strapped at the time. But sitting on the walls and houses, watching the sun sink into the Aegean Sea, eating dinner in an outside taverna as it got dark, AMAZING. I must go back. Thank you for stirring up my memories.