||Oct. 25-29, 1998 Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos,
When people recollect their own images of the Greek Isles, it is most likely a mental
snapshot from the storybook island of Thira, more widely known as Santorini, that they
have in mind. The mountains of its rugged, dramatic landscape are crowned with towns whose
little streets are crammed with buildings all designed in the architecture of the islands.
Simple lines and smooth surfaces, whitewashed with bright white from top to bottom,
proudly trimmed in glossy, royal blue. An island almost perfectly representative (if any
one of the islands can be), of its Cycladic brethren, Santorini is probably the top on
most visitors list of favorites.
When we arrive that morning, the Zeus II
is the only ship docking at the normally bustling pier at Skala Thiras. This, one of the
islands two major piers, is tucked within the flooded crater of a long extinct
volcano. This same volcano exploded thousands of years ago to blow over two-thirds of the
former islands land mass high into the sky, and then back deep into the ocean. Local
lure dictates that the great explosion was Poseidons way of stealing the lost city
of Atlantis back to within his grasp beneath the waters of the surrounding sea.
or not, docking at the waterline on the inside wall of a crater meant a long, almost
straight up climb to the rim. We had 3 choices - on foot, by cable car, or by burrow.
Being the adventurous types, we of course, chose the burrow. Clickity-clop, clickity-clop.
Up the gradually sloping roadway, one direction, then back in the exact opposite one. The
view on the way up stole my thoughts as the 20 minute zig-zagging ride ended in no time.
to the top, the task of finding a cab, negotiating a price, and making the very windy trip
to the village of Oia was relatively simple one. The cab dropped us off into what seemed
to be a beautiful, yet very surreal ghost town. At 11:00 in the morning, two days after
the end of high season, the village seemed almost deserted. Undaunted, we
readied our cameras and began to explore. Each little side ally-way towards the cliffs,
off of the main walking street, brought a breathtaking new view of the cliffhanging
buildings and the sea far below. It didnt take us long to begin to not only get
comfortable with, but also appreciate, having this incredibly picturesque village almost
all to ourselves.
There was no one to wave at, no one to say hello to, not even a single sole to
ask directions of. As we stopped for a moment to take in the view from atop of a ruined
fort, Laura and one of the other girls we were with, bent down to make friends with one of
the local canines. The little fellow looked a bit like a small Benji. When we decided to
continue our quest, he decided to go as well and lead the group. We all joked about our
new tour guide, but each followed him around each turn.
Oddly enough, we later found out that he did lead us to some of the best
sites on the back side of the island. Not only that, but, no kidding, he returned us to
the exact point that we had started our voyage. He took us in one big circle, full of
incredible views, and didnt even ask for a tip.
The next island on our itinerary was Naxos. Although a very charming island, the turbulent
weather and high winds that had settled in for the majority of our stay had made exploring
this relatively undiscovered island during the day both difficult and uncomfortable. For
this reason, the majority of our memories on this island were made after the sun had set.
It just so happened that two of the biggest party nights of the
trip were spent in the small clubs that hug the harbor, just a short walk from the boat. A
good time was had by all as we drank, danced, laughed, and celebrated into the wee hours
of the morning.
Our motley crew of revelers was made up of a
handful of islanders, a good portion of the crew from the ship, and a hearty bunch of
fellow passengers. Someone looking in on the scene would have taken us the closest of
friends. Seeming to know one another for years and years, we danced arm in arm, told
jokes, and carried on for song after song, and drink after drink.
The rough weather and sailing advisories were still keeping the Zeus II in port at
Naxos, when the tour company decided to send us all, via ferry, to Mykonos for the last
two days of our trip. Now the most popular of the Cycladic Islands, it was originally
visited only as a stop on the way to Dilos.
Fortunately, it seemed that this scenic island was also apparently on the top of
the suns list of favorite places, for it followed us to its shores. Our days were
spent walking through the maze of streets in Mykonos Town.
Originally intended to confuse pirates and plunderers, their layout now makes
getting lost in these quaint little ally-ways, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Seemingly designed for lazy strolling, the small
shops, boutiques, trendy bars and cafes, mixed in with the small but well-kept homes of
the few hundred or so full-time town residents, are placed too close to one another to
allow cars between them.
I suppose that this lack of
motorized traffic is what makes these streets such a friendly habitat for the island's
furry and feathered inhabitants. There are scores of cats (some friendlier than
others), dogs, and birds that comfortably make the alley-ways of Mykonos their home.
Some, in fact, seem to rather
enjoy the attention of the wandering, camera laiden tourists who happen their way.
This is especially true of the town's handful of pelicans who almost seem to pose for the
ameature photographer's lens.
Mixing with the locals along these streets as they went
about their daily routines, was as always, the highlight of our visit. We found the
people of the Greek Isles, both young and old, to be warm, friendly, and always willing to
make the extra effort to make a visitor feel welcome.
I can easily see why so many have
chosen these islands as their ultimate 'decompresion' getaway.
All packed and ready for the next stop