Santorini is built on the rim of a volcano overlooking a caldera. Even though we sort of, kind of knew what a caldera was it never hurts to double check. For the rest of you who are also not sure, a caldera is a “large, basinlike depression resulting from the explosion or collapse of a volcano”. Just what we thought but it never hurts to clarify. Lonely Planet advises, on arrival into Santorini, to catch a big open air ferry to receive the most spectacular view of the caldera.
However the ferry we caught depended more on budget so we were on the speedy one that was all enclosed. This did not lessen our amazement at the sight of the caldera as we coasted into the port. The sheer cliffs that drop straight into the ocean with their tinges of red and pinks strewn through the rock, give way to the crystal clear waters of the Aegean. You can still tell the outline of the still active (no its not extinct) volcano with the rim almost apparent the whole way around. Along with the truckloads of other eager tourists we nudged (okay pushed) our way onto the shuttle bus and gripped the seats tightly as the bus wove its way up the windiest, narrowest, most gut-wrenching road I have ever been on to drop us off at the bus stop where we then proceeded to board another bus.
We had emailed our hotel previously to ask for directions (remember the 5 P’s) and knew exactly what we were doing. After disembarking off our second bus we then had to walk downhill, lugging 25kg of luggage, praying to God it wouldn’t roll away, dodging traffic to reach our hotel. Angeliki greeted us and showed us to our awesomely located room. We were staying in Firostefani which is the next ‘village’ from Fira (Thira). Fira is the main hub and has the hustle and bustle of all those monster cruise shippers every day. Our hotel was a 400m walk from the hub and even better, we had a room with an ocean view. Before you ask, we didn’t have a view of the caldera because you would have to sacrifice an organ for that but a view of the other side of the island. The first thing to do was to view the caldera from the top so into Fira we went. For those of you who have been to Santorini you understand what I am about to say, for those of you who haven’t….pay attention.
Viewing the caldera from the white and blue of the village is enough to bring a tear to your eye. The absolute and utter beauty and natural wonder lets you know that you must be standing in one of, if not the most beautiful place on earth. Look to your left and you see the escalator of white cubist residences scattered down the hillside with bumpy, lumpy winding paths leading you in, out and around. Beyond them is the endless blue of the ocean until it meets the light haze on the distant horizon. An endless blue sky as far as the eye can see with not a cloud in sight. Look to your right and you see more of the same but with a whole different score of shadows lighting them. The buses and boats down at the old port look like nothing more than toys as they scurry around at the water’s edge. Donkeys ramble up the path of 570 steps, ferrying tourists up and down all day with their donkey bells jangling with every step.
Then comes sunset……this is when you look straight ahead. Santorini is famous for its sunsets and now I know why. Bars, restaurants, cafes and even the village edge become crammed with people happy to stand for an hour or so to watch the day end. If you can grab a seat then you’re one of the lucky ones. The sun taunts you with its slow descent into the haze. Every few minutes the sky changes colour and the shades of blue begin to change to pinks, reds and oranges. The days we were there, there were no clouds and the colours would radiate straight out along the horizon like spilt paint following a crack in the concrete. All of a sudden it begins to disappear behind the island in the middle of the caldera and then within moments it is gone. It has become sick of teasing us and just wants to go to bed. What amazes me is that something that happens every single day in our life as we are rushing around to do all our ‘important stuff’ becomes like a freeze frame of life when you are on Santorini. Basically nothing I say can really describe the beauty of this moment and the sunset alone is worth the trip. If you haven’t been to Santorini then put it on your list immediately.
Back to our sunset mission, we scouted for the best spot, rounded up some beverages from the corner store and sat on a concrete wall waiting for ‘the moment’. As the time got closer and closer more and more people began arriving, all there to watch the sunset. When it was finally over we decided to do our ‘dinner dance’. Making our way back up the hill we were met with a traffic jam of people. What we hadn’t realised while we were perched on our concrete seat was that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people had congregated in every available, nook, cranny and perch to watch the sunset.
The sunset at Oia is supposed to be the best sunset view on the island, we disagree. When the sun sets from Fira, the island in the centre of the caldera splits the light like a rainbow of warm colours making it more magnificent, we think, than Oia.
Nights in Santorini were spent walking the lanes, finding good food and wine while days were spent in the sun. It was sad to leave but only because we did not know what awaited us.
About the Author: Angela Beresforde: Australian Primary School Teacher/lover of good writing and appreciator of beauty.