May 24, 2019

Santorini and Day 4 of our Greek Islands cruise

****Somehow in doing my copy/paste I lost the first 3 -5 paragraphs, once I pasted it, I deleted in error my draft and when I went to work with it to add the photos, they were gone.  I am going to try and recreate them but I likely won’t be able to as it had been written a few hours ago, before lunch.  So if something doesn’t make sense, make a comment and I will rectify it.

Santorini is about 29 sq miles in area.  The island and its surrounding islets are formed from the rim of an ancient sunken volcano that exploded in about 1628 BC.  When the volcano exploded, the centre of the island sank to the bottom of the sea and thanks to that fateful day the island is considered by many as the single most spectacular sight in Greece.  It certainly is an impressive sight to see from the sea.  Once again we were in deep dark grey cloud so we could not take in all the different levels and colors of lava.

As part of the cruise package Celestyal Cruises offers three free half day tours.  In 2018 they were voted Best Mid – Size Ship: Shore Excursions by Cruisers Choice, Cruise Critic. One of those was a bus tour with guide of Santorini.  We arrived in Santorini at 8AM and will be here for two full days leaving at 11PM on the second day.  It was very cool and we even had some drizzle but as the day wore on the clouds lifted little by little and we saw the sun for the first time in many days.
For some reason we were the last ones onto our tender which meant that we were first off and first onto our luxurious tour bus giving us the front seat with great views.  In the photos you will see the beauty of the island but also how crowded it is.  In fact only 8,000 visitors are allowed onto the island daily due to the traffic and congestions both in the towns and on the roads.  We were witness to that and it really was not pleasant.  It is visually dramatic from the water but up close in the small areas of the towns on the top of the cliffs we saw a different story.  Fuel is even more expensive here.  There is only one port that has a narrow and very winding road up to where the people live.  Our ship stopped in front of the old port which has a 588 stop staircase up to the top.  You can walk it or take a donkey up or down, I don’t know the cost.  There is also a cable car which holds 36 people for the 3.5 minute trip up or down for 6 Euro each way.  A wealthy family donated the cable system to the island as a gift to its people.  Any extra monies left over after maintenance, wages, etc. are given to one of 14 charities each year.  The same family also has donated a medical evacuation by air for those who require it.  There is now an international airport here making it easier to get off and on the island.  Our knowledgeable guide who was born on Santorini remembers how life was before schools and a hospital.  When her brother was old enough to go to secondary school the family had to move to Athens.  Now one only needs leave the island to attend college or university.
There are 13 – 15 vineyards on Santorini but they only export 30% as they drink the rest themselves.  The vines are very different from what you would see in one of our vineyards in that they are kept low to the ground and pruned to grow into a circle like a basket.  The grapes grow within the bush as well as on the outside.  This was done to protect the vines from the extremely strong north winds that they get.  Water is scarce on the island and there is no irrigation however the extremely porous earth which is really crumpled pumice like volcanic ash holds whatever water that falls ( 35 cm annually ) and manages to allow the vines to grow.
The locals try and catch all the water they can into cisterns to last a full year.  That way they don’t have to buy expensive water.  Most homes have domed roofs because there are no trees ( other than pistachio trees ) on the island so there is no lumbar.  Each house does have at least one flat terrace in order to catch the rain water.  By the way, the homes are whitewashed once per year as it keeps the bugs away.
We were first taken to and had a chance to walk through an authentic and unspoiled village with its distinctive architecture and character.  It was like being in a real Greek village where there are no tourists.  The most touristic town is Oia, pronounced ‘EE AA”.  Here we saw the blue domed church shot that is featured on anything about Santorini.  Lots of shopping which we aren’t into. Instead we stopped to try a glass of the local wine and  ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, bread, butter and jam & honey, all for 24 Euro. After walking through the capital, Fira, we took the cable car down ( included in the free tour ) to pick up a tender to the ship.
We had a late much on board, then relaxed until dinner.  Because of the back to normal weather we were treated to a lovely sunset.  I met a special woman, Nancy, who was also enjoying the setting sun, turns out that she loves watching them as much as I do.  She is from S. Carolina  and one of her earliest memories as a very young child was drawing pictures of sunsets.  Most kids draw a flower and a house with a sun high in the sky.  What a neat memory.  We ended up sitting at a table for dinner with two ladies from Romania. They shared some of their travels experiences with us.  It will take us two days to get back home later in June while they are only ninety minutes away by air.  They are already planning their next mini vacation.
The evening show was called ‘Hellenic Voyage’ and featured a traditional Greek party complete with the Greek folkloric traditions.  The dress code was blue and white, the colors of the flag.  The waiters wore special dark blue jackets with white embroidered edges.  It was a festive evening.  We did a bit dancing after the show but were in bed before midnight. It was another full day.

This is a church that you can only get to by boat.



Taken from the ship, The zig zag of the steps with the cable car to the left.  This is our view from our balcony.

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Santorini and Day 4 of our Greek Islands cruise”

  1. Kathryn Tycho says:

    Beautiul. I wonder how much being over run by tourists benefits the locals. Enjoying your trip.

  2. George Yates says:

    Another interesting day you enjoyed with some fun experiences.

  3. Santorini is so beautiful – I loved our stay of 3 nights there. The views are magnificent. We flew into that airport from Athens, tiny little thing but it works. So many beautiful churches in Greece. I had the best salad ever there – called a Santorini salad – almost like a Greek salad but with a Santorini twist (can’t remember what that was though lol)

  4. Cat in KC, MO says:

    Beautiful photos and I can see you are still “rocking it” Barefoot Contessa! 🙂

  5. SandyM says:

    Theses photos of the scenery are wonderful and I love how the blue color in the photos of the towns just pops out at you. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply to Kathryn Tycho