It is almost impossible to believe but it is true. Santorini really is as pretty as a postcard. When you see the view for yourself, THE VIEW, the one made famous in so many postcards, calendars, and travel books, you can’t help but pinch yourself. It’s real!
Mind you, all that beauty does come at a price, getting up to the cities, Oia (the prettiest one, shown above) and Fira (pictured to the right) takes a lot of work. There are only two docks accessible by the cruise ship’s tenders and even from there you have to make a choice. Walk the trail with its 600 steps? Take the gondola with its lengthy line ups? Or brave the rather (pardon the obvious pun) mule headed donkeys? Or take another boat which will take you to a bay with bus access? We opted for the latter.
The bus ride up the hill is amazing! I didn’t know whether I was gasping at each view as it appeared or at the fact both ends of the bus seemed to be hanging over the edges of the hairpin curves!
Santorini is actually a series of islands that are formed from the caldera of a sunken volcano and the small, rather new island of the cone. We are on the biggest piece. The bus took us to the top most point and from there we could see all around. I couldn’t get over the water! It was the clearest, bluest ocean I have ever seen. It felt like if you had just the right filter on your sunglasses, you could see clear to the bottomless depths!
Guess what? There are grapes grown on Santorini and we found them! They are grown short, spreading right across the ground like ivy, to avoid the almost constant wind. We had a lot of fun trying out the various blends at Santos Winery. Again, the view was incredible, although I must admit that from a distance, those white-washed buildings of the towns splashed on the top of the cliffs do look a bit like giant bird droppings…
When we got to Oia (pronounced EE-yah) we were in for another surprise. The bus had to park outside. The whole city has no vehicle transportation inside the walls. With all the steps, there aren’t even any of the scooters so common in the rest of Europe. All of the restaurants and shops are serviced not by trucks but either hand pulled dollies or loaded donkeys. Donkeys are extremely important here, so important in fact that the hundreds of steps are made long with narrow rises strictly for the benefit of a donkey’s gait rather than a human’s step. Once you realize this, it starts to make sense why the above mentioned restaurants and shops are so expensive! Not only does everything have to be shipped in to the island but it is then transported by labour intensive foot and hoof methods!
Santorini’s difficulties are also its strengths. Its inaccessibility has meant it has been able to hang on to its beauty even into the modern age.