This is the REAL Greece

Trip Start Aug 16, 2010
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Trip End Jan 02, 2011


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Where I stayed
Dana Villas

Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Holidays sometimes seem to be all about waiting – for planes, buses, ferries & sometimes, (unfortunately) to check-in to your hotel. Today was all about waiting for the ferry to take us from Crete to Santorini.

Our ticket said it left at 6.20pm which was then revised to 7pm – it seems there are variations of "African time" all over the world. We were at the port at 4pm to drop off the hire car and had planned to leave the luggage & wander back into town, but we had already spent most of the day wandering around, so opted to sit in the terminal until we could get on board. Not such a hardship as there was a café to sit in.

It was almost boarding time when Blackie found out we didn't leave from the passenger terminal – at the 'domestic ferries’ boarding area as we assumed (& where we had been waiting since 4pm) – but directly from the dock, a few minutes’ walk away (of course).

Off we trot (well, struggle, dragging all our gear) to where we find a straggle of people (unaccompanied by anyone official) milling about on the jetty watching a large car ferry back up to the jetty. Once the ferry docked everyone made their way on board at the same time as people & LARGE container trucks left the ferry. There was no organization at all. Occupational health & safety seems to be unheard of.

We line up to deposit our luggage in the secure luggage cage (The signs says you need to show a passport when you drop off & pickup your luggage, sounds secure, & that no responsibility will be taken for anything left outside the cage) to be told “Santorini? Over there (outside the cage) on those pallets”. Of course!

I took a seat at a table by the large windows thinking how romantic it would be watching the ocean & seeing the lights of Santorini as we approached, to find out the only thing I could see was my reflection! Lights on inside, dark outside, you get the idea. I even went up on deck – same thing – black, everywhere I looked.

If it wasn’t a little rough & I wasn’t feeling squeamish, I would have enjoyed the trip. As it was, I felt like constantly asking “Are we there yet?” After the episode on the plane, I played it safe & didn’t eat & only drank water. It was a relief to finally land in Santorini at 11pm.

Leaving the ferry was just as chaotic as getting on, but we eventually found our transfer. I knew Santorini was hilly, but I hadn’t expected this. It looks like a great rock rising up out of the sea, with houses perched on top, clinging precariously (I only saw this clearly from the plane as we left 4 days later). The road from the port zig zags up the hill, almost vertically, but without the crash barriers you would expect. I had my eyes closed more than once. I couldn’t believe it when the driver turned on the interior light so he could see to send a text! Luckily Blackie was directly behind him & didn’t see it. He had already almost come to blows with the driver when he dared to try to put his golf clubs on the roof rack & tie them on with flimsy string (they sat in the front passenger seat)!

A porter was waiting for us when we arrived at the hotel, which I thought was a nice touch until I realized we would never have found the hotel, let alone our room, without him. Santorini is a maze of alleyways. After 14 flights of winding stairs, through 4 different properties & 197 steps (Blackie counted them) we arrived at our room. Thank God for the porter – he carried our ‘new’ bag, which weighs over 20kg now. I had my handbag, bag & Blackie’s backpack, that was enough. Blackie had to lug his bag & the golf bag. These are not your regulation, orderly steps; they are irregular & inconsistent in size so you have to concentrate where you are walking. Some are one step wide, some one and a half, keeping you on your toes, so to speak.

The room was UNDER the pool area – I thought it was going to be a dungeon – far from it. We were the lowest point on the cliff & had uninterrupted views of the caldera from our private balcony. Amazing. (We found out later that the travel agent on Crete had asked the hotel to upgrade us.) As soon as the door to the room was opened, a cat ran in & made itself at home on our bed (& oh, what a comfortable bed). He adopted us. Blackie named him Ralph, bought biscuits for him & let him sleep on our bed at night – not bad for someone who hates cats! The best views of the sunset were from our balcony – we didn’t need to go to Oia to see spectacular sunsets. We also had a view of the ferries & tour ships arriving & departing. A great way to start & finish the day. It wasn’t just the difficulty negotiating the steps to leave which kept us in our room. Still, we would plan our days to reduce the number of times we had to climb those steps.

Santorini will also be remembered for the food. We ate at two restaurants (both recommended by people we met) – Mama’s House & Naoussa. While the food at Mama’s House was great, the entertainment provided by Mama was the main attraction. She has a son who lives in Karrinyup & will be there for Christmas & has threatened to phone us when we get back & invite us for a meal! Both times we ate at Naoussa, they gave us complementary wine & dessert. Impressive. No wonder it is the number one rated restaurant for Santorini on Trip Advisor.

For Blackie’s birthday we hired a convertible Smart Car for a day to tour the island. I had wanted to try the 4 wheel all terrain vehicles (quad bikes), but was glad we went with the comfort of the car in the end. Especially as I (foolishly) suggested he might like to drive down to the port & back. He knew I was rather terrified on that road when we arrived, so was pleasantly surprised at my idea. I suppose I knew he would treat it like a rally drive, but it was his birthday & he is a good driver, but I made good use of the hand grips on the door & shut my eyes more than once. To my delight, and his frustration, we ended up behind a tour bus half way down & had to slow down. A similar thing happened on the way back up. Being on that road in daylight, seeing how close you are to the edge, how far you can fall, and being on the wrong side of the road all combine to ensure your stomach is in knots the whole time. Apart from that we had a lovely time, exploring Oia, with its narrow winding alleys & views of the caldera, to the black beach on the other side of the island, to the highest peak, stopping for coffee and lunch and we were still finished in 4 hours!

It was while we ate at Naoussa that we saw ‘the donkey man’, leading a pack (is that the correct collective noun?) of donkeys down the narrow winding street, down to the old port. We decided for our last day, rather than take the usual boat trip to the volcano (we did enough walking just to leave our hotel) & hot springs; we would take the cable car down the hill to the old port & the donkey ride back up. These donkeys needed no directing – they knew their way. All but the two we were on were let loose & made their own way up the winding steps, while ours were tethered to the ‘donkey man’s’ donkey. It was a surprisingly comfortable ride, though I did notice I was holding the grip on the saddle rather tightly, especially when my donkey stumbled slightly on a step. It was a long way up, but surprisingly quick. Neither of us would have made it if we’d had to walk, it was so steep. We were encouraged to have many photos taken with our donkeys – even kissing them – when we reached the top. Then we were asked to contribute to the cost of their feed (on top of the fare) because we obviously cared for them deeply – the photos proved that! It was nearly 600 steps from the old port to the top of the hill. We know, not because we counted them, but because someone had painted the numbers on each step! We finished the day sitting in the hot tub with a glass of wine each, staring out at the lights of Santorini.

And all too soon, it was time to leave. We gave responsibility for feeding Ralph to some Kiwis at the hotel, along with leftover wine & milk. It was only then that we found out that Ralph had been two-timing us. He had been visiting other peoples’ rooms when we were out. I felt so used! The porter took the ‘new’ bag & the golf clubs up to Reception (still some 50 or so steps from the road, but more than 100 from our room & where we ate breakfast) & must have thought we were taking the other two bags ourselves (as you would). We assumed he came back for the other bags while we were at breakfast. It was only discovered they were still outside the room when the airport transfer arrived. The poor guy must have run all the way down to our room & back with both our bags, because he was dripping with sweat when he got back to the road. Oops! He was given a healthy tip to compensate.

Everywhere you look, Santorini is its own cliché – blue domed churches, gleaming white houses with blue doors & windows, narrow winding roads & alleys, old men in fishermen’s’ caps sitting drinking coffee and magnificent sunsets. We found we had to stop ourselves from constantly taking photos of these things. When is enough enough? And sadly we left Santorini, for we had other places to explore.
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Comments

Patricia on

Great postcard photos, Cally.

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