Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"everybody in santorini knows tony!" [spring break part 2 of 3]

Oia, Santorini

After spending the first night of our break sleeping in dirty Athens, Sami and I boarded a Blue Star Ferries boat to Santorini. After a long, grey 8-hour ride, stopping in several ports along the way, we made it to Thira, Santorini where the sun tried to break through the thin grey clouds. Immediately spotting the "Tony's Villa" sign held by a dark Greek man, we walked over and introduced ourselves to the infamous Tony. An artist first, hostel owner second, everyone on the island knows Tony. He tapped shoulders, shook hands and rubbed cheeks with his beat up hands as we walked through the port landing toward his van. During a bumpy, honk-filled 20 minute drive through the island to Perissa, the town where we would be staying, Tony explained that he is known all over the island for his art and its his job to say hi to everyone he knows because of it. With our bags in our upgraded private room (three cheers for us!) we walked the 100 or so meters down to the famous black sand beaches of Perissa.

Knee deep in the water somewhere

It was chilly, but we were determined to enjoy the beauty and slipped right into island mentality as we slipped right out of our shoes, running into the waves. Immediately a larger wave came up, soaking the bottoms of my pants. We found a beach side restaurant, got a glass of wine and took a deep breath. Later we tried some calamari and real chicken gyros--delicious! Later we walked around town, found an empty bar with wifi, then to the local church.

Boardwalk on beach in Perissa 

It was Greek Orthodox Easter weekend, and apparently the Greeks celebrate with firecrackers and drinking. Saturday night everyone goes to church and at midnight the "fireworks" begin. Expecting a beautiful nighttime light display, we made our way down to a white-washed, blue-domed church. Unfortunately we were met with the sound of crashing bells and firecrackers. It was an interesting cultural experience though. The next morning we got a delicious breakfast (greek yogurt and french toast with honey for Sami, and a Mexican omelette for me) and attempted to lay on the beach (too windy to stay around).

Perissa church

In need of something to do, Sami and I hiked the "mountain" behind the town. This rocky man-made trail was a little rough, but every time we looked over our shoulder we had an incredible view of black sand, sparkling blue water, and white-washed buildings. When we reached the top, we had a view of a nearby town and another beautiful ocean view. The wind was really strong up there, so we found shelter behind a wall to eat a snack, and then carefully made our way down the mountain, seeing all sorts of lizards and bugs, and even hearing a rattlesnake. Upon our return to the town, we realized everything was closed in observance of Easter, so we slowly made our way to dinner at Ntomatini. It was the only place in town that had anything happening: a local band played traditional Greek music, women danced on tables, and everyone drank raki, another traditional Greek liquor. Raki has a general cinnamon flavor, and is pretty strong, but mixed with honey it becomes sweeter and a little easier to drink. Good thing too, because the waiters brought every table a tiny bottle on the house for everyone to enjoy. People must have been enjoying the raki: they were dancing everywhere they could, yelling with friends, and laughing loudly until very late. We stayed for hours just enjoying the scene, and tasting the local wines (the red tasted like olives, yuck!)

Halfway up our "mountain" hike

Easter dinner at Ntomatini, includes raki and dancing in the street.

Monday, our last day in Santorini, our main goal was to see the sunset in Oia. After some difficulties with the Greek ideas of punctuality, we finally found a bus to take us to Fira, the capital and most touristy town of Santorini. We walked around for about an hour, got our souvenirs, and hopped back on the bus to Oia. Oia is the town that is in nearly every photo used to attract tourists to Greece, and is a photographer's dream come true. Built into cliffs jutting out of the ocean, it is characterized by the typical white-washed buildings, steep stone stairs, wandering cobblestone paths, colorful doors, and the famous blue-domed church roof. Oia is one of the most famous cities in the world for sunset-watching, and Sami and I risked missing the bus in order to see the famed sunset. On top of a cliff sticking out from the town, among ancient ruins, we perched ourselves front and center for the best view. Unfortunately there was a cloud hanging just above the horizon, ruining the usual sun reflection on the water, but the colors in the sky, the orange-toned water and the sailboat floating created a picture-perfect scene. We returned to Perissa, and rested up for another day of travel, the next day we were headed to Mykonos!

Steep cliffs of Oia
Oia sunset

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