Santorini

Iconic Santorini

I really believed that places like this only existed in postcards, but Santorini really was the picture perfect image of Greece I had always imagined. I had left Crete, which identifies itself as especially Cretan, not only Greek, and arrived at iconic Greece, with all the blue-roofed white houses hanging over the turquoise Mediterranean sea. Not surprisingly, it was super touristic, with people from all over the world flocking to the cliff-side villages for greek salad, ouzo, and a sunset picture from Oía town. Both Oía and the main town Fira are full of tourist shops, hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars, and not much else, but the rest of the island is a quiet pastoral landscape, with vineyards and olive trees growing like bushweeds.

the donkeys, er, mules

The donkeys in Santorini are something special, but most of them are not actually donkeys but mules bigger than Icelandic horses. They´re decorated with an assortment of saddles and straps, colourful blankets and trinkets, and jingle whenever they move from the cowbell strapped under their neck. Their purpose it to carry weary travelers up and down the hundreds of cliff side steps from the ports to the mountain top villages, and watching their farmer hands hoist dainty little women up and down off their donkeys is a hilarious sight.  I decided to walk myself down and up, feeling sorry for the poor things, but made friends with one of the farmers. He needed help taking his 10 mules home at the end of the day so he tied them together, head to tail, and insisted I ride with him. We rode the train of jingling mules up and over the town, through winding alleys and narrow steps, and arrived to the open farm land hiding on the slope below the town. I untacked and fed his mules, some of which were imported from Italy (and his most prized possessions , and he gave me one of the colourful trinkety bridles to put on my horses in Iceland.

the volcano, and Fira in the background (it kinda looks like Iceland with snowtopped cliffs, no?)

I took a tour of the volcano and hotspring, two of the most popular tourist destinations off Santorini´s main island. When the tour guides realized I was from Iceland, they immediately started apologizing for how lame their volcano was compared to Eyjafjallajokull (they could almost pronounce it correctly) and that their hot spring wasnt really hot, but just marginally warmer than the sea water.

I managed to find a couchsurf host in Santorini, Giorgos who worked at a car rental and tourist guide company. After finishing work every day at 7pm, he then carried on his professional expertise by showing me around the island. We caught the famous sunset in Oía, also drove to the lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the island, and explored other, half abandoned, white house villages. His parents were visiting him so the first night I arrived home to ‘meet mama and papa,´ an occurrence I´ve grown accustomed to from all my Greek friends so far. His mom fed us home made greek food and we dined out at the only Mexican restaurant on the island. We dabbled in a Friday´s night festivities but the grand, luxus clubs were mostly half empty, since summer and tourism season doesn´t really begin til June.

cliff side villages

Everyone kept telling me ´summer´is so great in Greece, as if 30°C and sunshine isn´t summery enough. It was my summer holiday anyway, and I´m just relieved I had more of greece and Greeks to myself. I left Santorini on the slowboat, since it was a 10 hour sail that stopped at 5 other cycladic islands. I started to realize that all these little islands had the same blue-roofed white houses, and as paradise kept repeating itself, I found myself day dreaming what it would be like if I just got off at the next stop.

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