Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 4: Santorini

Quote of the Day:
There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast. ~Paul Scott Mowrer,
The House of Europe

Santorini, or Thera, was our 4th island after Tinos, Naxos and Amorgos in our September get-away hike on the Greek Islands:

Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 1: Tinos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 2: Naxos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 3: Amorgos
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 4: Santorini
Hiking the Greek Islands, Part 5: Mykonos

Santorini, still called by its ancient name, Thera, on some maps, was one of the most unique, but also most touristic island we visited. It has a year-round population of

This island is a surreal relic of what was probably the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, around 1650 B.C.. The center of the island collapsed producing a caldera that the sea quickly filled. In fact, this is thought of by some as the location of the lost Kingdom of Atlantis.

The amazing thing about this island is that the sparkling white and blue towns are built to saddle the caldera itself. The houses typically have round, vaulted roofs to sustain tremors. Well below are the beaches reachable by stairways, donkey rides and cable cars. The two main towns are Thira, or Fira, and Oia to the north.

We started our caldera walk in Thira, ...

and then the trail between Thira and Oia, a distance of 7.6 miles.

These farms below were a patchwork of green.

The multicolored cliffs along the way were truly awesome. The rust is oxidized iron ore.

Our walk ended in Oia, at the northern tip of the island. Built on a steep slope of the caldera, many of Oia's dwellings nestle in niches hewn into the volcanic rock. We found the shops open, but too crowded to easily see the wares, and our whole group headed back to Thira for a sunset dinner.

This was our last evening with the whole team since we would be leaving the tour the next day to go on a "deviation" to Mykonos.

We shot this from the restaurant. Could anything be more ideal? What a perfect example of Santorini's famous sunsets attributed to the traces of ash still lingering in the air from the volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago. These islands off shore are the now detached continuation of the rim of the volcano of the original, larger island of Santorini.

Dorians, Venetians and Turks occupied Santorini, as they did all other Cycladic islands, but its most influential early inhabitants were Minoans. They came from Crete sometime between 2000 and 1600 B.C. They are memorialized all over the island with examples of their art found on frescoes in Akrotiri, an archaeological site. This one, one of the most famous, is called "The Blue Monkey".

We were intrigued with these frescoes. Our research led us to a fresco artist's blog and his amazing fascination with Minoan art.

The representations of the Minoan women are definitely reminiscent of our own comic book heroine, Wonder Woman.

The Boxing Children is another notable Minoan fresco. It is the oldest portrayal of the art of boxing. The bodies in profile show Egyptian influence.

The next morning, we met our ferry to Mykonos. This port was the busiest we had encountered. Passengers were rushing down the gangplanks along with buses and trucks to allow the hoards of other passengers, competing with buses and trucks filled with potatoes and tomatoes, waiting to board the ferry. We pushed along and got on board unscathed. Another triumph in our great Greek ferry adventure.

Next and last stop on our Greek Isle hiking trip, Mykonos and Delos.