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Embedded Photos: 1.Cave Room 2.Fira from Hotel 3.Balcony Sunset 4.Santorini Patios
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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March 11. SANTORINI (CYCLADES ISLANDS) "Chilly Sun in Santorini"  It was a small bit of fortune that our ferry arrived late into Santorini.  It had called on several ports during the night and we were delayed at one for some unknown reason.  This meant that we arrived after the sun had come up.  There were a number of accommodation booths at the ferry dock but we trusted that we could find something on our own and followed the local people onto the one and only public bus that came to meet the ferry.  The bus made long zigzags up the steep hill to the top of the island and dipped down its east side before dropping us at the bus station in Fira, the islands largest village. 

Santorini is one of several islands that make up a large caldera ("cauldron"), the result of volcanic explosions andPorto Fira Hotel, Santorini, Greece earthquakes over the centuries that collapsed the island and left just bits remaining to form a circle of islands.  The last major event was an earthquake in 1956.  Santorini is the largest of these islands and its western coast drops off steeply and overlooks the vast caldera.  The island slopes downward to its eastern shore until it meets the Aegean Sea. 

Bus stations are never a town's best feature and Fira's bus station was no exception.  We walked up hill to reach a central square in Fira where we found a cafe open and not much else.  Exploring the little cobblestone alleyways between Fira's whitewashed buildings yielded nothing more so we returned to the cafe to kill some time while we waited for the island to come to life.  It was pretty chilly but the sky was clear.  The only people around were a hand full of local people that had gotten off of the same bus and a couple of Korean tourists that we trying to get to Oia, on the other end of the island. With all of the shops closed and the wind trapping bits of litter in the narrow streets Fira didn't immediately give off the atmosphere we had read about. But, as people started to slowly emerge and a few more places opened, it slowly livened up.  

After our breakfast of coffee and pastries, which set up back a whopping 8 euros (!), we checked in at a nearby travel agent to see what accommodations were available.  They offered us a new place down the eastern side of town but said nothing on the caldera side was open.  We didn't believe her and went to check out hotels on the western cliff of Fira anyway. The village clung to the edge of the caldera and buildings, mostly hotels, spilled down inside the dormant volcano.  The rich deep blue water in the caldera was smooth and we could see up the coast to Oia and across the water to the smaller island of Thirasia, both dotted with their outcroppings of white washed buildings and church domes.  Very little looked open in the village and we were initially discouraged.  The hike down the narrow passageways of the towns oldest area was unappealing with packs on so I sat and watched our things while Rob searched out a couple of hotels.  He returned in about fifteen minutes but had only found one hotel open, the Porto Fira Suites, and it was ranked on the mid-high end of things.  Since it was still early in the season they offered a very good price, nearly half off, which made us stop to think.  The budget accommodations not only weren't discounted for the off-season they just weren't open, except for a mangySantorini, Greece looking hostel.  So, we assessed the option of taking a hotel away from the caldera and then paying to eat in the cafes and restaurants that gave us the nice views or staying at the Porto Fira and buying groceries to eat on the patio that overlooked the caldera.  With the cost of things the two options probably didn't come out that different. Of course, sitting in a cheap place and buying groceries would have been the most cost conscious option but then we wouldn't really be enjoying Santorini at all.  In warmer weather the beaches would have been nice but in March it was the caldera view that we were after so we finally caved in and stayed at the Porto Fira.  

Our room at the Porto Fira was absolutely spectacular.  It was a traditional cave-style room, typical of Santorini, with a large patio of stone mosaics that overlooked the caldera.  We had a sitting room with a TV in the front part of the suite and at the back was a queen sized bed that sat on a stone pedestal carved out of the rock.   The bathroom had an enormous whirlpool tub with jets and the walls were covered in slabs of marble.  The arches door ways and rounded ceilings made it feel very cozy and the white washed walls with blue painted wooden windows were charming.  For 70 euros/night (normally 120 euros) it was an absolute bargain.  And, breakfast was included!   

The first thing I did was wash off the ferry filth in that rumbling jacuzzi tub.  Bathtubs had been a complete rarity in most of our travels but between our recent splurge at the Marriott and this experience I was starting to wonder how much more of that showering in curtain-less communal facilities I wanted to take!  All cleaned up and excited about our new hotel we were rejuvenated and, in spite of our only 3-4 hours of sleep on the ferry, we wanted to get out and see Santorini.  

We originally set out to just see Fira, get some lunch, and visit the Citibank ATM but we ended up letting the cobblestone paths lead us along the edge of the caldera, winding up and down and around the little white buildings and across the island until we had walked all of the way to Oia.  Fira ran into Firostefani which blurred into Imerovigli.  It was hard to tell where one ended and the other began and it looked like the far end of Imerovigli was still expanding along the ridge, just one hotel after another.  The otherSantorini, Greece villages were newer than Fira and the telephone lines had been more carefully obscured and the architecture was more uniform and pristine.  Both of them were entirely closed but it was easy to imagine was tourist madness must engulf Santorini in the summer if all of those places filled up!  As we came to the end of Imerovigli we kept following the pathway as it climbed a high point on the ridge and met a small white church with a glistening blue dome.   The trail seemed to come to an end and we started to scramble down the hillside to meet the highway when it reappeared.  It was faint but the cobblestones were still there, remnants from the old road that connected one village with another.  Weeds and bushes had grown up between the cobblestones and finally the trail came to an end and met up with the highway.  We kept on the highway from that point on and were sure that Oia must be just around the bend but it was three long bends later before we finally spotted the villages of Finikia and Oia.   

Our walk had taken us over four hours and covered 12km.  That wasn't bad for two people with only 3-4 hours of sleep!  The buses from Oia to Fira were less frequent in late afternoon and since Oia looked even more dead than Fira we didn't take time to look around.  A bus was due to arrive within fifteen minutes after we reached the bus station and the next wasn't for two hours.  We hadn't planned for such a long walk and were desperately hungry and looked for something to eat near the station but the only gyro stand had to crank up their spit and heat up the meat so we settled for a couple of cokes and a bag of chips.  The bus was a brand new slick touring bus, a big improvement over the one we hadSantorini, Greece caught up from the ferry.  We were back in Fira in about fifteen minutes.   

The sun was going down and we wanted to catch the sunset from our deck so we grabbed some gyros, a bottle of Santorini wine, some Kalamata olives, and a few other groceries before heading to the hotel.  It was a crisp evening but it was a beautiful sunset.  Our patio had a small table with two chairs and was the perfect setting.  But, after the sun had set it got very cold and we retired to our cozy little cave and cranked on the heat.  We indulged in another bath before the the long ferry ride and our strenuous day totally got the better of us.  We passed out out by 9pm.


GREECE Athens Jan 27-Feb 4

EGYPT Cairo Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6 Feb 7 Aswan Feb 8 Feb 9 Feb 10 Luxor Feb 11 Feb 12 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Nuweiba Feb 16-17

JORDAN Petra Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Amman Feb 22 Feb 23-24 Feb 25 Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 Feb 29-Mar 1 Dead Sea Mar 2 Mar 3

ISRAEL Eilat Mar 4

EGYPT Cairo Mar 5 Mar 6 Mar 7 Mar 8

GREECE Athens Mar 9 Santorini Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 12-13 Crete Mar 14 Mar 15-16 Mar 17-21 Athens Mar 22