Friday, February 16, 2018

Santorini's charms: Magical Greek isle has drama, donkeys and spectacular Mediterranean views

Santorini's rugged hillsides are shaped by volcanic eruptions of more than 3,000 years ago. A tram offers a pleasant ride up.
Close-up of the turning wheel, which keeps the pleasant cable car ride going.

Pulling away from our ship, we approached the volcanic rock of Santorini.

'KALIMERA' -- GOOD MORNING -- FROM THE AEGEAN'S  SEDUCTIVE  SANTORINI

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE SIX MAJOR STARS in the Cyclades shine brightly, each with a beauty unique to it alone.
Located in the central Aegean Sea, Santorini is perhaps the most famous of the group -- followed by Mykonos, then the less visited Naxos, Paros, Andros and Tinos.
The approach to Santorini is memorable -- sheer cliffs
surrounded by winding harbors and topped by houses.
The famous donkey
ride up the hill to Fira.
Today, we take you to Santorini, also known as Thera, where we hiked to the rim of an ancient volcano that exploded in about 1,600 BC.  Then we took a boat ride around the warm-colored limestone cliffs which make the island famous.  And we capped the day with a ride up the famous tram, where we caught bird's eye views of the pink, brown, black, white and pale green, topped by  white village. We passed on the donkey ride -- we did it years ago. It's become controversial because of abuse and neglect of these charming and hard-working critters by some ride operators.
SANTORINI WAS called "Kallisti" for centuries, meaning "the loveliest" and in several visits, we've come to agree.  We love the blend of Cycladic architecture, volcanic rock, Venetian elegance, fine food
Cookie and Keller board the tender
to take them back to the ship.
 and friendly folk.
Our Santorini journey began in Fira, with a fine museum of bronze age
relics, many fine restaurants and a stellar view of the sea below.
The late autumn morning was chilly but we bundled up for an energetic climb to the caldera, a lovely crescent of cliffs about 1,150 feet above the sea where we could see the other islands in the background, and listen to stories from our knowledgeable and animated guide.
She does not buy the myth that Santorini was the mythical Atlantis, mentioned in both Egyptian papyri and by the great philosopher Plato.  She, like Plato, believe Atlantis is in the Atlantic. We do know that this cataclysmic explosion destroyed the Minoan civilization on Crete.
Greek food on Santorini is classic -- tasty lamb and beautiful
salads of olives and feta, plus hearty flavorful tomatoes, cukes,
 lettuce and red onion produced by the island's volcanic soil.
SINCE ANTIQUITY, Santorini has relied upon rain for both drinking water and irrigating the island's bountiful crops. Although water is imported as well, one still sees cisterns collecting the rain.  The locals drink stronger stuff,  and say there is more wine than water on their island.  Indeed, wine is the island's major export.
I relished a glass of the retsina, having many years ago developed a taste for the unique pine-citrus blend. Keller opted for the Greek version of lemon soda -- tasty, too. We dined on skewered lamb, delightfully seasoned with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, and a fine Greek salad with generous olives and feta. We also shared a side of keftedes, delicious spicy meatballs.  And we split a  piece of Santorini baklava, that ambrosia of honey-nut pastry which both Greeks and Turks claim as their invention. Baklava and a Santorini sunset, wow. We toasted the day at a cliff-hanging tavern in Fira, our last stop before heading south to Malta, then back to Barcelona.


St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands was spared the wrath of the
most recent hurricanes, and remains beautiful. 





NEXT UP:  St. Croix beckons -- oceans away from the Greek Isles. Come along to visit a turtle refuge, mahogany forests, stately sugar plantations, gorgeous beaches, friendly people and a national park famed for its  archaeological sites, mangroves and coral reefs. We biked around the island one day -- a memorable time indeed. Remember to explore, learn and live, and visit us Fridays when we post a new, fresh look at global travel, the arts, nature, family and fun.


3 comments:

  1. San Francisco Island LoversFebruary 17, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    Lovely ..... We enjoy Santorini every few years. Thanks for fine memories.

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  2. Savvy piece. Wise to pass on the donkeys....we saw one operator prodding them with sharp sticks and nails. Too bad because the island is truly a wonder of nature. And, yes, to the fabulous food.

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  3. So glad to see the tram up and running...we did the donkey up, walk back a few years back. Love the idea of the donkey ride but you are so right that theor treatment is unkind. Good job.

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