Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Santorini Up And Down

The island of Santorini is actually the tip of an ancient volcano, or rather four ancient volcanoes that have formed repeatedly in this location to blow a giant hole in the ocean, leaving the partially complete cirlce at the top, forming five separate islands, the older three being Thira now called Santorini, Thirasia, and Apronisi along with the newer volcanic islands of Palea Kameni, or Old Kameni, and Nea, or New, Kameni.

The first volcano to start this process erupted about 180,000 years ago. The second continued the orogenic work of the first some 70,000 years ago with the third following on some 21,000 years back. In tectonic terms, this is all very recent. The fourth, and apparently most spectacular, was about 3,600 years ago, well within the span of historical memory, and may have inspired the legend associated with Atlantis. The volcanic structures beneath the sea are still active, producing the small Kameni islands within the middle of the caldera, rather like a lava dome builds in any active volcano. This island is living geology at work.

Yesterday we had a tour of the above water portion of this volcano, this caldera in the sea. Our driver, in typical Mediterranean fashion, showed up about an hour late. He arrived, as to be expected, in a vehicle totally unsuited to wheelchair access. He looked at me, we looked at the mini-van, and he went off to get a different car, one into which I could transfer, one where he had to tie the trunk closed in order to contain my folded up wheelchair.

Once thus readied, we headed off, our tour guide wildly driving the narrow, twisting streets of the island, paying little heed to others on the road, to things like traffic signs. Having blown two or three stop signs, I asked him if they were just a suggestion. He said "I know the road. I know the traffic. I can see that nobody is coming. No need to stop." And on we went.

Our tour took us from one end of the crescent shaped island of Thira to the other end, from one side to the other, from the highest point on the mountain edge to the black sand beach at the bottom. I only felt truly at risk when he was chatting on his cell phone, meandering his way up the mountain side on a narrow road, paying little heed to oncoming traffic or where exactly the edge of the road met the cliff that marked our dive to the top.

He dropped us for dinner at a fabulous local taverna specializing in locally caught seafood. I wanted grilled octopus for dinner to which the waiter replied, "I have to warn you, it is frozen. It is not the season for fresh octopus." I ordered their special octopus in tomato sauce instead, good even with frozen octopus. Cheryl had local prawns and we both had main courses of local fresh fish. Ouzo beforehand and wine during completed dinner nicely, along with baklava for dessert.

Once again our driver arrived. Once again he hurtled us along narrow, windy roads. Once again we climbed the side of the caldera to arrive at our small hotel. Once again we spent an evening with a bottle of wine watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea.

Today we take leave of this small bit of paradise, heading by ferry to Athens, a four and a half hour ride on the high speed ferry. We like it here. We wish we were not leaving, but leave we must. Tomorrow a new adventure awaits us.

1 comment:

  1. Richard, it is so great to read your blog! I wish you a great and memorable time in Santorini!