Saturday, July 19, 2014

Santorini Forever

Current Location: Middle of Aegen Sea heading to Pireas Port, Greece

So Santorini came and gone with just a blink of an eye. I don't really don't know what to say about the whole experience, there are plenty of highs and then some lows and I am still deciding if that place is worth the hype at all. Everyone I knew seemed to have something to say about that place - go this place, eat that, take this tour, don't forget to go to another island etc etc and not being cocky and all, I took none of it because most of it just cost me more money and more importantly time that I don't have in the Schengen area. I am trying to get out of Greece as soon as possible and even that I ended up wasting one day in traveling time. My next stop will be Albania and I can't wait to get back to normal prices even though I am still trying to figure out how I will be doing this since I don't have any Leks (Alabanian currency).

Anyway enough about Albania already, going back to Thira aka Santorini - everything is surprisingly very well organised, after all it is a well oiled money generating machine for the country. From the port, there are plenty of options to take you to your destination town. I have chosen Oia (pronounced as Ia) months before because it was known for being a little cute and for its best sunset. The main thing being Fira was supposed to be more commercialised.

Now having been to many island and towns in South Asia has taught me to avoid 'commercialised' but actually it's not really a bad word - there was more options of eating and shopping and hence prices were more competitive. Oia which is known to be the romantic and honeymooners destination might have a gorgeous sunset but that gorgeousness comes with a price. But fraid not, I've managed to still find small stalls selling Greek favourites like gyros, pittas and souvlakis. This particular grill house called Pito was hidden away and for good reasons. Locals and Greeks actually buy from them and a fantastic tasting boneless pork steak (made to order so it won't be dry sitting there at the stove) pita cost around €2.70 and I had that for dinner every single night when I was there. This place have been my favourite so far from Istanbul till now - even beat the price busting fish sandwiches at Galata.

The other thing about Oia is that by sunset, truckloads of tourist, tour and cruise ship groups will be jamming up every street possible to catch this 8.35pm event. Some people go as early as 5pm to 'book' a nice spot and while I might be free, I wasn't that free to stand there under the sun for so many hours. The first day I arrived, I ventured out from the usual places and found a path - experiences in Cappadocia has taught me that when there's a foot path, there were people before me who has gone this way and I found myself at the edge of the town with almost panoramic view of the sunset, town and as far as the other side of Oia.

And I was alone. It was an amazing first day feeling.

The next morning, I woke up a little late not knowing what my plans will be, thinking that I might take up the sailing tour offered by the hostel - €23 to visit a neighbouring island Thirasia and also the caldera aka volcano for some swimming and hot springs. Since it was a little late to go for the tour, I decided to go to a nearby beach which wasn't that great. Tons of debris and rocky. Nothing can be as good as our seaside that's for sure. Bathed in the Aegen sea for awhile before heading back to a quick nap. After resting and all, headed for Fira which is meant going against the crowd to see sunset from the other side. I actually thought it was more beautiful there and less crowded but then what do I know? So that's one full day gone.

Third day started out slightly early because I want to reclaim Oia from these hordes of tourist and true enough before all of them arrive, the town was quiet and it was such a nice feeling to walk up and down its narrow street and not having some strangers in your picture. These are the moments that I will remember forever - thinking that since it was such a nice day and all, I decided to take a ferry that cost €1 to Thirasia. Now Thirasia used to be a part of Santorini until years ago, some volcanic explosion broke them apart. It's made up a few very quirky, quiet and sleepy village - population 200.

So I was there waiting for the ferry to arrive and I chatted up this two Australian girls who turned out to be only 18 years old, doing their gap year and somehow we managed to get along and we went hiking together. The walk up was torturous esp under the afternoon sun but it was well worth it, it was so amazing not to see crowds and we stumbled upon a small church and before we knew it, we were being served coffee, wine and then some more wine by this local retired seaman who spoke decent English having being on ships traveling all over the world in his heyday. He was painting the church before we arrived and talked about his family and the town and it's history. We also asked him about the wine and it was delicious. He spoke about how the locals have forgotten generosity that he felt that as someone from Thirasia, he needs to show some hospitality hence the coffee and wine. He even gave us a bottle of local wine to take back with us and we can't take him enough. So then it was a long hike down to the port for a quick bath in the Aegen sea before getting back on the ferry. The feeling is wonderful and certainly one of the highlights of my life.

Going back to my hostel was another huge hike uphill and we were thinking how nice it would be if someone would offer us a ride and true enough, someone did and they said they are locals but from Thirasia. By this time, I think I am in love with people from Thirasia. They took us up despite driving a two door car.

Oh and I must talk about Maria and her quirky shop - the only time I bought souvenirs were these old letters posted to Greece and I took these two love letters and also some old photographs of strangers. It felt almost pervy or little morbid considering these people might not exist anymore. But there's an element of romance about someone's slice of life - long time ago when things were much simpler.

So am I in love with Santorini? Maybe certain aspects of it and mainly due to Thirasia. I am not sure if I will ever be back again, at least not back alone. This place is too gorgeous not to be shared with someone special, or even a friend would be nice. Which is why I think Italy desperately calls for company and I do hope at least someone somehow somewhere can join me.

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