Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.
Those of a certain age will remember the television series Gilligan’s Island. The premise was of a group of quirky people who head out in a charter boat for a three hour tour of the Hawaiian islands. The weather turns rough during the tour and the seven people become castaways on an unknown island. The television show (a total of 98 episodes) depicts their many humorous efforts to get rescued off the island.
That was a fictional story, but for about an hour and a half I was reminded of that television show and really thought that I along with my tour mates were going to become castaways in the Aegean Sea! So sit right back and hear the following tale…..
It had been a fabulous day trip to the island of Santorini. As with the trip to Mykonos, it involved a boat trip from the island of Paros, this time leaving from the Piso Livadi port.
Santorini is actually a municipality made up of eight islands; two inhabited; Santorini and Thirasia, and six uninhabited islands; Nea Kameni, Palaia Kame, Aspronisi, Christiani, Eschati and Askania. These last three are about 10 kilometers south of the island of Santorini and are privately owned and public access is restricted.
Five of the islands used to be one large volcanic island until the volcano eruptions caused the center of the island to collapse and allow the sea water to rush in. Thus leaving Santorini, the largest of the five islands having an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi), with a caldera (from the Latin caldaria, meaning “cooking pot”) reaching upwards of 300 m (980 ft) high and steep cliffs on three of its sides.
In the thirteenth century, Santorini was named such by the Latin Empire for the Saint Irene. In the nineteenth century, the name Thera was revived as the official name of the island and its main city, but the familiar name Santorini is still the most popular and is used up until today.
We visited two of the cities on Santorini during our fateful trip; Fira and Oia. Fira is the capital city of Santorini. Both Fira and Oia (pronounced “EE-ah”), sit high above the sea on the edge cliffs of the caldera.
Arriving to the island of Santorini by sea is wonderful. The views of the glistening white buildings perched at the top of the caldera cliffs are stunning.
After arriving to the new port of Athinios that has road access, we boarded a bus which zigzagged its way up the cliff for a scenic tour of the island and headed to the city of Oia.
According to the 2011 census, the island of Santorini has a population of 15,550. It has a small, but flourishing wine industry using the indigenous Assyrtyko white grape variety. The vineyards are not like the ones we are used to seeing. In fact unless someone told you what they were, you would probably drive right by them unnoticed. These grapes grow well in the arid volcanic-ash mineral rich soil and can also be used to blend with other varieties of grapes.
Oia is located in the northern tip of the island of Santorini and from the 16th to the 19th century it was named Pano Meria (meaning “upper side”) and then was changed to Oia in the latter half of the 19th century. The town has an elevation of 150 metres (490 ft) and has the nickname “Eagles nest” because of the visibility of the Palia and Nea Kameni volcanoes. The Ormos Ammoudi port can be reached by taking 300 steps down from Oia.
Oia is one of the most popular places to visit, so be prepared for crowds as you traverse the narrow alleys in the town, especially during peak travel times.
Many of the homes that are built into the caves and cliffs were originally built, one above the other, by the ship captains and crews that were part of the active sea trade during the late 19th to early 20th century. During a 15 year restoration project, many of these houses on the edge of the caldera became guest-houses, hotels and restaurants.
The houses are painted in white lime water. This permits the rainwater to run down and be collected for other uses. An additional explanation given for the white painted homes is that during the 400 years of the Ottoman rule of Greece, Greeks were not allowed to fly their flag. So in quiet defiance, in Oia, they painted their homes in the colors of the Greek flag. Regardless of the reason, the crisp white and blue homes are beautiful and elegant.
After a pleasant visit to Oia, it was back on the bus and heading to the capital city of Fira. Fira is located in the middle of the caldera side of the island. I actually preferred the city of Fira. It was larger and had better panoramic viewpoints to capture the stunning views.
There is also a cable car that will take you down and/or up to/down from the port area. For each direction the trip costs 5 Euros. You can also take a donkey or just walk the 588 steps.
If you ever do visit the island of Santorini and stay in one of the caldera towns, be sure to stay at a place with a swimming pool of some kind. The weather is very hot and it takes some time to get to one of the beaches to cool down in the refreshing sea.
The weather started getting rough,
And the tiny ship was tossed.
Our beautiful day took a turn for the worse during our return trip. The waters became very rough and the boat rocked back and forth and side-to-side. The crew ran around mopping up water and handing out seasick bags which several passengers availed themselves of! Those of us who were not comfortable to sit in the enclosed cabin were soaked to the skin by the tall waves that splashed up over and onto the deck. I do not have any photos of this trip as I did not want my camera to be damaged, however, here is a short video that a fellow passenger took from inside the enclosed cabin. The blurriness is actually sea water splashing onto the windows.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Naxos Star would be lost.
Actually the name of the boat in the television series was “The Minnow”. However I have taken artistic license for the sake of this blog post and changed the name of the boat to the one that we were on that day! The fearless crew did their job well and we all arrived home safe and sound if not a little shaken and wet. Two passengers actually got on their knees and kissed the dock upon arrival!
The tour was longer than three hours and it was a rough trip home, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was worth it!
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