The precipitous cliff-edge villages of Santorini–officially the Greek island of Thira–invite leisurely rambles along the cobbled lanes overlooking the flooded volcanic caldera. And, of course, stops for refreshment at scenic cafes like Mama Thira’s.
NOTE: Since my 4-month backpacking trip around Greece too many years ago, I had been longing to return to this magical land of myth, history, and dramatic landscapes. I recently made a fabulous 3-week return trip there, to research additional settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. My first post in the new series, on September 30, gives an overview of my rambles with my husband Thor from Athens to the islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Naxos, and finally a pilgrimage to the ancient center of the world at Delphi.
After Thor and I went time-traveling to 1600 BC (blog #14 last week), exploring the excavated portion of the ancient settlement of Akrotiri that was buried in ash from the volcano’s catastrophic eruption, we emerged dusty and thirsty into the fierce midday sun. A quick walk downhill took us to a seaside taverna for–you guessed it–cold beers. We also enjoyed the fresh fish of the day, while admiring the dolphin mural that honored the lovely Minoan-style frescoes recovered from the ruins.
Then we hiked over the rough lava cliffs to famous Red Beach for a cooling swim.
There was an apparently unusual wave surge that day, so the usually-clear sea was stirred up. But the red lava-rock cliff makes this a dramatic and popular destination.
And one of the ubiquitous Greek churches clings to the edge of the cliff at water’s edge.
Walking back to the bus stop, we encountered this roadside shrine to an accident victim. I’ve seen small shrines all over Greece, even on remote trails. Sometimes they are just a crude metal box with offerings, an icon, and often an olive-oil lamp–not necessarily for memorials, but seemingly a way to offer thanks and devotion.
A lovely village home near Akrotiri:
Back at Fira, we took another stroll along the walkway on the caldera’s edge….
…sometimes involving some winding cobbled stairways past the close-packed dwellings and hotels:
Some of the lanes featured the choklakia pebble mosaics, this one of the island’s signature swallows:
We enjoyed a dinner at this traditional restaurant along the walkway:
Can’t beat the delicious Greek salads, with a side of bread and olives. And some retsina to toast the island: Chairete!
More meanderings, here a plush house overlooking the caldera, still-active volcanic Nea Kameni, and some of the many cruise ships bringing more visitors:
Along the walkway, child musicians. We saw similar duos in Rhodes Town, and a common thread seems to be playing and singing “Never on a Sunday.”
And no Greek experience would be complete with a cat visit or two.
Thor dubbed these “Star Trek plants,” and they seemed fitting in the dramatic landscape:
The central church with its bell-tower:
Inside, elaborate Greek Orthodox paintings and adornments.
The traditional dome icon:
Outside the church, a lovely painting of a Madonna on a crescent moon. I’ve seen many similar renderings in South and Central America.
Farther along the walkway toward Oia at the north end of the island, yet more church domes:
This dome seems to reveal Turkish influence in its design, consistent with the strong mingling of cultures in this part of the world:
Again, we reflect on the privilege of visiting these islands so far from our rainy Pacific Northwest home and culture. Here’s to honoring our differences, and our vital connections!
Next Saturday, back to the past with artifacts of the ancient Thira–Mycenean and Classic Greek/Roman occupations after the island’s recovery from the volcanic explosion:
You will now find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at www.sarastamey.com