When I saw Key West for the first time twenty five years ago, I knew almost immediately it was a place I wanted to be. So too with Santorini.
You just know.
My day yesterday started with an early morning flight from Athens to Santorini. Olympic Airlines. A one half hour flight. On a big jet. Packed.
The plane took off. The pilot said we are heading to an elevation of 17,000 feet. Once we reached that point, the plane started its descent. You got it! The plane ride was an ascent to 17,000 feet and then an immediate descent into the Santorini airport.
Again young stewardesses. That is the word. Stewardesses. Thin. No more than size 4s. Hair swept back and up. For the little hats they perched on their heads when we landed.
Nikos met me at the airport. I never had met nor known Nikos before. Nikos and his wife Maria own some cave houses which they rent out. I was booked into one of those cave houses.
Nikos about 5′ 6″. Thin. Muscle bound. I would estimate around 60. Skin tough and weather beaten by the sun.
He embraced me like a long lost friend. A mutual acquaintance had arranged for me to stay at Nikos’ place. Nikos pointed out on the drive to his caves that he never picks anyone up at the airport. He was only doing so because a mutual friend had told him to take good care of me. I was grateful
The formal name of the caves is Filotera Cave Houses. I do not know what filotera means. I googled it and could only come up with a list of motels, hotels and other cave accommodations on Santorini. Everything is filotera here.
The ride from the airport was an experience. Uncomfortable.
Nikos’ place was an hour drive from the airport. Straight up a hill. Mountain may be a better description. A very narrow two lane road with a drop off on the upward side thousands of feet into the sea. I was up up and away.
Drivers speed here. They come at each other at horrendous speeds. The road was very curvy. At every turn I saw an accident in the making. Especially when a bus came at us!
The views were spectacular. The heights dramatic. I have never been closer to God. In more ways than one.
Maria met us. Her appearance as her husband’s, except Maria was shorter and on the heavy side. It was hugs and kisses all around. I met the whole family. Daughter and grandchildren.
It was Maria’s birthday. She sent a piece of her birthday cake to my cave.
These caves are another world.
Santorini was once one large island. About 1,500 years before Christ (everything is before Christ in this part of the world), there was a huge volcanic explosion. Reportedly the largest ever known to man before and since. Broke Santorini into several islands. Santorini the largest.
The very first volcano was a long time back. Six hundred fifty thousand years. ago. The most recent in 1950.
Natural tragedy appears common to the area. There was a violent earthquake in 1956 which destroyed many old structures on the island. Earthquakes and I are becoming common place on this trip.
One side of Santorini ended up being a very high and steep cliff running from the heavens thousands of feet into the ocean. Caves developed. Home for me is one of those caves. Fear not, the accommodations are wonderful. Do not let the term caves scare you. All modern amenities. Only negative, no windows. Not for the claustrophobic. I have my own small white terrace hewed out of the cliff in front. A place where one can sit and contemplate his navel.
I can see the four islands made by the volcanic eruption. The eruption actually split a big island down the middle into two islands as well as several small ones. Smoke and sulphur can still be seen coming from the volcano itself.
Tradition has many tales. It is claimed that Santorini is the place where Moses and his people made their exodus from Egypt. The plagues which afflicted the Pharoah and Egyptians are the same as were experienced on Santorini at the time of the volcanic eruption. Also, the breaking up of the island is said to reflect the parting of the waters by Moses. Another historical claim is that the Atlantis of old was a part of Santorini and now lies somewhere below the sea in the area.
The waters are extremely deep around Santorini. Especially in the area of the volcano. So the tale may have some truth.
Sunset is big here. As in Key West. I rarely go to a sunset anymore in Key West. Seen one, seen them all. Too many people.
I went to the sunset last night. When in Rome, etc. Never again.
The sunset was around a corner of the island. I had about a one mile walk to it. Uphill all the way. Sometimes at a 45 degree angle. Steps everywhere. No consistency between the distance or height of each. The paved area marble. Slippery.
I was exhausted when I arrived at the annointed place. Pleased I had not fallen. Crushed into and with a mass of people just as in Mallory Square.
My sunset hours the rest of this trip will be spent on my little terrace with a drink in hand.
Many outdoor cafes along the top of the cliff. I stopped at one and enjoyed a delicious dish of mousaka. Prices dramatically cheap.
Then back to my cave and sleep. The weather cool. I slept like a baby all night. The first time I have done so on this trip.
This morning there was a knock on the cave door. Yes, there are doors. It was a boy with coffee and bread. Nikos had sent them to me for breakfast. The bread was hot. Just out of the oven. I broke off a chunk and enjoyed.
More tomorrow. Do not miss any of it. This is one exciting place!
Enjoy your day!