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Thursday, 10 October 2013

A Sojourn on Santorini in the Sun

If you’re a regular, you’ll have noticed I’ve been a bit idle recently. Earlier this year, I retired from Santorini, site of the original Atlantis, has always fascinated us and we therefore decided to see whether it lived up to its reputation for both beauty and culture.
employment, and my wife and I reached that milestone, the Silver Wedding. 25 years of marriage, happy and fulfilling, called for a special celebration and we chose to commemorate the occasion on a Greek island we hadn’t previously visited.

It’s not a cheap destination, but a place where many of the hotels cater for couples rather than families, and we felt such freedom from children would suit us for a change. Our fortnight there was wonderful. The people of the island were lovely; friendly, warm, kind and eager to serve with relaxed efficiency. The rest was definitely welcome and the various trips we made served to enhance our knowledge of the island’s history and it’s precarious geological position.

On the small island of Nea Kameni (‘newly burnt’ – it’s only 500 years old), we stood at the edge of the current live crater of the volcano and heard our brilliant guide, Kim, explain that we were now standing on probably the most dangerous place on Earth. She did add that seismological equipment meant that we, and the islanders, would however receive about 5 days notice of any eruption!

Our hotel, 28 Boutique, was within sight of the 7th century B.C. settlement of Ancient Thera, reached by a snaking narrow road up to a saddle some 290 metres (about 950 feet) above sea level. It looked challenging, so we climbed it, passed occasionally by the less energetic in hired cars or touring minibuses. Once at the site, we climbed to the centre of the ruins at a little over 360 metres (about 1180 feet). Extensive and well-maintained and presented, the remains give a good idea of life up to and including Roman times. Well worth the visit.

We took the clearly marked but less manicured footpath (more like a goat track in parts) down to Perissa, where we intended to catch a water taxi back to our resort of Kamari. High winds meant the boats weren’t sailing so we could either catch a local bus, call for a taxi from the capital, Fira, or walk back the way we’d come. We did the latter and enjoyed the trek, taking advantage of the alternative views provided by the different direction of the walk.

Another outing took us to a local winery for a tasting, an almost abandoned village and to the beautiful town of Oia, to watch the sunset amongst thousands of other tourists, many from the cruise ships that visit the island every day. I had a more important motive for visiting Oia, however. There’s a bookshop there, Atlantis Books, which I was determined to find. Glad I did. I left them a signed copy of Breaking Faith to add to their amazing international collection of fiction and nonfiction books and bought a copy of The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus, which I’ve intended to read for a long time.

We visited the Spa of theGods, overlooking the caldera, where we were massaged in a cave by two slender Greek maidens with skill and surprising strength, leaving us utterly relaxed. A luxury we allowed ourselves in spite of its expense.

A visit to the local outdoor cinema in Kamari allowed us to watch Great Expectations under a clear sky whilst drinking from the bar. A very pleasant experience.
Akrotiri, the site now considered by many historians and archaeologists to be the location of the original settlement of Atlantis, was interesting but, covered and formally directed, lacked the immediacy and intimacy of Ancient Thera.

A cruise on a local sailing boat took us to the small island of Thirassia, population 150, where we ate at the small tavern on the harbour, Captain John’s, enjoying some local delicacies and drinking local wine. We then braved the choppy seas to watch the sun as it set behind the tiny (and newest) island of Aspronissi in the caldera.

An excellent holiday and the reason for my silence over the past days.

Back home now and ready to continue with the fantasy trilogy and other projects I have in mind. So, you’ll find some book reviews appearing here in the next few days, along with character sketches of some of the major characters in Joinings, volume one of the fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, due to be published by Fantastic Books Publishing later this year.

I look forward to your comments, as ever.
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