On Monday, we barely made our connecting flight to Santorini due to delays in Istanbul. But our plane from Athens departed on time.
The brief flight cruised at only seventeen thousand feet for twenty-three minutes. We were under the clouds and enjoyed an unobscured sunset view of the islands.
Santorini airport was tiny. We were the only plane there. A man with a sign led us to an unmarked sedan and drove us up the hill towards our hotel. He pointed out some sightseeing information along the route, but we didn’t retain it.
Our first hotel was outside of Thira along the main high road. The host was a bundle of energy and she greeted us with the enthusiasm of a person who doesn’t get a lot of visitors. We mentioned that we might be interested in renting a 200cc scooter and within fifteen minutes, a friend of hers puttered up in a 200cc scooter. But the scooter was too dinged up and overpriced for our tastes, so we bid him goodnight.
As we left to find food, the host approached us and tried to understand the rejection.
J and I were tired, hungry, and frustrated as we walked down the main road. The supermarkets had closed, the center of Thira was too far away, and the food at the late-night bakeries was lackluster. We turned back without food and went back to sleep in a room full of mosquitoes.
Not the smartest door design to have a sharp rusty rod sticking out of the floor.
Tuesday, we started over.
Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200km southeast of Greece’s mainland. It sits on the edge of caldera on the remains of an enormous eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements of the formerly single island. This unique geography creates beautiful views and the opportunity to see much of the island from any viewpoint.
After breakfast, J and I set out on foot for a walk into Thira.
A garbage can straight out of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
The cliffs of unfinished hotels.
Our first taste of caldera views.
Mini van in mini landfill.
Abandoned factory near the landfill with Thira and Oia in the background.
One of a large amount of abandoned building skeletons on the island.
Boats at the edge of the old Thira port.
Looking back at Thira.
Bucket of ass poop.
Let’s get rowdy.
Old scooter, color-matched.
Check out our wires.
Winds of drying.
Golden light upon a hotel entrance.
Upstream color: yellow.
Metal fence for maximum rust.
The blue door to sudden death.
No pork zone.
Another view of Thira with a property made from volcanic stone.
Grey paint on otherwise blinding stairs.
Cat on a mission.
The little door under the stairs.
Despite our thirst, we hiked down to Skaros Rock. Once the site of a medieval fort, all that remains are rocky ruins. The path cut through flowers and down some steep, crumbling stone stairs. On the edge, we found a small Orthodox chapel in the shade.
I don’t trust this rail.
Approaching Skaros Rock.
Looks Greek to me.
Flowery path along the rock.
Cruise ship in slow rotation.
The gates to the cliffside chapel.
The chapel overlooking the vast waters of the caldera.
A hidden room under the trail.
Another chapel on the hike back up.
Abandoned cave houses.
For lunch we ate at Avocado. The restaurant didn’t have a view, but the food made up for it. J was overjoyed to have a salad (with avocado).
Pasta with cured pork.
We bought groceries and walked an alternate route back to the hotel. For dinner, we had a snack platter dinner of crackers, feta, and cherry tomatoes. During the meal, we decided to get a rental car instead a scooter.
Wild west architecture with a Greek twist.
Blue dome over blue water.
Personal size church.
Sparrow with twig.
A tourist-free back alley.
I got your boat bus money.
Massive steps along a massive retro bank.
Aw, he’s cute.
An abandoned hotel construction.
BMs for days.
Folk art warning.
Dog of the vineyards.
Santorini sunset seen from near the dump.
A view overlooking the Kameni Islands.
On Wednesday morning, our rental car was dropped off at the hotel: a white Fiat 500 convertible.
We put the top down, bid our passionate host goodbye, and sputtered out of the parking area. The car was an automatic with Tiptronic shifting, though I had trouble at first. Like a manual, the car rolled until the engine engaged.
We drove to our next lodging, an AirBnB called Ramni House near Baxedes Beach. It was a wonderful and relaxing three unit building right on the water. The place had ample outdoor lounge areas, beach access, and two hammocks were right outside our room. No tissues in the toilets, please.
After checking in, we drove up the hill to the town of Oia and found a free parking lot. While excellent restaurant views are easy to come by on this island, we ate lunch at a reasonably-priced cafe with excellent views.
Our daybeds in the shade.
Don’t spill, please.
Ghetto bus stop.
Oia church view.
Looking at Oia with Finikia in the distance.
The igneous chapel.
Looking down at the port.
Fence with barbed wire.
One of many shop dogs.
The donkey trail.
Man unloading water from ass.
Their prices are through the roof!
Leader of the pack.
Don’t look back in anger.
Church of pastels.
The donkey loaded with goods.
They just call it salad here.
Our cafe view.
Greek cucumbers growing in a traditional Greek cucumber jar.
The main Oia church.
Lady of the water.
The happiest (or most stoned) dog in town. I gave him a lot of pets each every time we went to the grocery store.
In the late afternoon, we came back to relax on the beach for a few hours. As sunset approached, we drove the short distance back into town to see if we could get to the port below the town. We could.
On the way back again, we pulled off the road and watched the sunset from the convertible. The mass of incandescent gas disappeared behind the hazy shape of another island. The sky barely filled with color.
J on our private beach.
Looking up at Oia from the port.
Blue meets yellow.
Thursday, we explored the rest of the Santorini by car.
Our first stop was the hill town of Pyrgos. It was largely abandoned except for a few construction workers, elderly men, cats, and donkeys.
In flip-flops, I walked down a slope full of stinging nettles. I also let a lot of dust into my camera body and had no way to blow it out.
Windmill style villas.
The church of Pyrgos Village.
Abandoned cave house.
Quaint front yard.
The blue door at the end of the walkway.
J in the shade.
Island from island.
Donkeys this way.
The Pirgos castle has been breeched.
Light at the end of the tunnel.
Next, we wound up the mountain to the tallest point of the island. At the crest was a monastery and plague-scale swarm of small flies.
It was fun to see unknowing groups of Chinese tourists react after entering the bug cloud.
The steps to the monastery.
I found my door.
We drove through sunny vineyards to to the lighthouse on the southwestern tip of the island.
We stopped for lunch at a completely empty restaurant overlooking the caldera and ordered an excessive amount of fried cod.
That part of the island seemed to have the most buildings abandoned mid-construction. According to internet sources, the 2008 financial crisis was mostly to blame, though some of the properties had to be halted due to improper permits. It’s sad to see these skeletons overlooking such beautiful views.
View of the abandoned homes of the caldera as seen from Santorini lighthouse.
Mind the gap.
Blue water, mostly clear.
Don’t mind me, I’ll just build this church way up in this concave part of the mountain.
Non Islamic terraces.
Greek salad farm: cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes.
Snails. Snails everywhere.
On the return, we drove through the small beach towns of the southern shore. Most were still gearing up for high season, but Perisa was full of bodacious beach babes and buff sand hunks.
We passed an unused go cart track that I wanted to buy.
For dinner, we made pasta with bottled water (tap water isn’t even used for cooking) at the apartment and watched the sunset from the patio.
A quick rest before sunset.
Friday morning, our rental car was picked up from the hotel. Apparently, rental car companies will drop of and pick up the cars from anywhere in Santorini.
We washed clothes and hung them to dry in the lizards’ domain.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing in hammocks, sunbathing, and playing cards. In the evening, we walked along the rocky beach and enjoyed listening to the sandy cliffs crumbling.
A fierce wind carried the clouds northward.
Who let the dogs out.
Abandoned beach bunker.
Saturday, we hiked into town along the old donkey trails. We spotted an owl and were barked at by many dogs. Lizards scattered at every foot along the lava rock walls.
The path was overgrown, so we climbed most of the hill via a dirt farm road. A farmer was bringing bottled water to his horses.
More abandoned houses.
Donkey trail signage.
White stallion and white church.
View up the donkey trail.
Almost walked into this spider.
We reached the town of Finikia, re-hydrated, and walked along the caldera rim into Oia.
Our pants were dusted with yellow pollen from the wildflowers, and I had a sneezing fit.
In town, I patted a friendly and dusty black cat while J bought ferry tickets. We had lunch at the reliable cafe, then stopped at the market to pat the massive dog that sat outside. I pulled a tick off the dog’s paw.
We took the paved road back down the hill, then diverted to the beach for the last mile.
Dinner was eggplant, feta, and toast. We watched the sunset from under blankets at the lower lounging area.
Ice plant doorway.
Ice plants in full color.
You’re the nap now, dog.
Drive by clothes store.
On Sunday, we continued to put our soiled bathroom tissue in the little garbage can.
In the late afternoon, we took alternate donkey trails and dirt roads into town. They were more overgrown than before, and I began to sneeze immediately. The air was hot and still, though dry. At the top of the hill, we looked back at the beautiful scenery we had ascended.
The crowds were thick for the sunset views in Oia. We pushed our way through, then decided to eat dinner on the roof of the reliable cafe.
Oddly enough when the light was best, most of the crowds were gone. We found the perfect spot for taking clichéd sunset photos.
Little bungalow seen from the dirt road.
Orange moss on lava rock.
Depth of field.
J in field.
Looking back at all the pollen we walked through.
Caldera boat race.
Goodnight Oia, you beautiful bastard.
The moon was bright and full on our walk home along the farm roads.
Nothing stirred the still air but barking dogs. We passed an owl on a power line, then a fox sneaking along the top of a stone wall towards a chicken coop.
Traveling has its ups and downs, but that evening I was happy.
The future is a big unknown, but the quiet evening walk with my wife in an exotic countryside made me, if but for a moment, feel like I had done alright for myself.