A Greek Odyssey – Day 1 & 2

Kalimera, Chaos, and Calm

I may lack the poetic prose of (the original) Homer, and my appearance and athleticism is perhaps closer to a latter day Homer (Simpson) than Adonis, but I do have EasyJet and Blue Star Ferries to make my epic somewhat easier, quicker and more comfortable than that of the ancients; our four week odyssey across the Cyclades began with an early morning flight from Bristol to Santorini. After a four hour flight, and a pleasantly swift passage through passport control, we emerged into the glorious Greek sunshine and headed for our accommodation in the resort of Kamari beach.

When we first decided (about a year ago!) that we wanted to spend the summer island hopping our way around Greece, Santorini was not one of the islands that made it into our top ten of where we wanted to go. Yes, we had been seduced by the stunning photos of blue domes sat atop brilliant whitewashed walls, all against a backdrop of shimmering blue sea or cloudless sky, but we had also seen the pictures behind the pictures and were conscious that Sanntorini had made it into many peoples top ten (or top two) islands to visit, and was likely to be heaving with tourists. I’m very conscious that as a tourist, I am also part of the problem, but overcrowding of many places in the Med is a very real problem.

So, given the above, what are we doing here in Santorini?

The answer is its airport. Having decided on travelling the Cyclades, from the UK (and, more specifically, Bristol) our options were limited to landing in Santorini or Mykonos, and Santorini won. So we landed here yesterday, on the first of July; a month later, in the last few minutes of 31st July, we fly back to Bristol from Athens having visited and stayed on a number of Greek islands.

(And if you are reading this for info and tips, we found it much cheaper to do it this way – fly out to Santorini and back from Athens – than if we did the trip in return. I think that this is because flights to and from Athens remain fairly stable in price, but flights to and from Santorini go up in price as the “season” becomes more established.)

So “kalimera” from Greece, and I shall try and document our travels – our odyssey – across some beautiful Greek islands.

Yesterday we did little, other than acclimatise – its hot, but a beautiful breeze is more than welcome – swim in the small, but perfect, pool at our apartment block (and I couldn’t resit a quick dip in the sea), eat our first delicious Greek meal (one of life’s toughest questions – which food is the best in the world: Greek or Italian?) and sleep after the oh too early start caught up with us.

This morning, on waking, I took myself back to the beach (less than 5 mins from my bed) and swam in the sea. There were a few other early morning bathers, but at times it did feel like I had the ocean to myself, the Aegean sea washing away my cares and worries as I bobbed in the crystal clear water, contemplating the expanse of infinity, bordered on one side by a sheer cliff face and stretching off into a distant horizon on another. Some people need alcohol, some use drugs (both prescription and illegal), some turn to religion, but I find true peace and tranquillity in the serenity of the sea. And all before breakfast …!

And what a treat breakfast was! Pastries and coffee fresh from a local bakery, with a little fruit on the side, sat on the balcony of our apartment, just watching the world go by.

I could have sat there forever, but adventure beckoned and we decided to head over to Thira, the capital of island, for a change of pace and scene. When we travel, we like to use public transport – its cheaper, greener, and (usually) less stressful than hiring a car, plus, with the latter, you remain in your own hermetically sealed bubble, “safe” from interactions with other people – but that denies you one of the joys of travelling, interacting with other people. (And if you remain to be convinced about meeting strangers when you travel, have a read of this post of an encounter between a Brit and a Kurd in Italy)

Arriving at the bus stop, it became clear that a number of others had had the idea – it was a long queue and when the bus arrived it became a bit of a free for all but, somehow, we all fitted in and off we headed for the 20 minute journey to Thira whilst the bus conductor fought his way through the bus to collect fares from everyone. A bit chaotic, but it worked and whilst I wouldn’t want this level of chaos in my day to day life, it adds to the charm of Greece, I love the juxtaposition of chaos and calm, moving from minutes of madness to total tranquillity in a few short steps.

We explored Thira – a beautiful town of whitewashed buildings, and blue domes, stunning vistas across the Caldera (the sea) dotted with islands and anchored cruise ships. It was clean, pretty, busy and we enjoyed the morning ambling along its streets, punctuated with a cool drink sat in a stunning, shaded cafe, enjoying the view and enjoying each other’s company. It is a town that is well looked after, and thriving on the tourist dollars that flow in every day, but it has retained its charm and resisted the “Disneyfication” that some other tourist hot spots have fallen for. (Dubrovnik and Rhodes old towns, I’m looking at you …)

We headed home on a slightly less crowded (but still full) bus (2 euros each, one way) and spent the late afternoon on the beach back here at Kamari, cooling of in the sea, and watching a group of local lads leap from the cliffs (my day will come …) The beach is famously black sand – but really more a car park grey gravel, lovely underfoot but not too pretty to look at. The water was blissful, the sun still strong so we sat under the shade of our umbrella and when we had had enough, we walked the three minutes back to our apartment, freshened up and strolled into town for another delicious (and enormous) meal in a Greek taverna.

Our odyssey has started well.