Greece / Prague Travelogue, Part IV

(this is part IV of my recent European trip journal. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should read part I, part II, and part III)

4-4, 6:05 PM, Fira, Santorini

The last few days have been incredible. The long ferry ride to Santorini was peaceful, and productive. I thought, wandered the boat, stared at the myriad passing islands, read Greek, and watched Howl’s Moving Castle. Like all Hayao Miyazaki’s films, it was excellent. Like the others, there was a story, but it refused to let you see any character as totally good or bad, or totally on one side or another.

When we got to Santorini, Victor, Deana, and Lisa (new friends from the Athens hostel and tour, respectively) joined us in the ride from the new port up the windy hill road to our hotel at Φίρα (Fira). The accomodations are good–2 beds, couch, bathroom, kitchenette, patio for 20 euros a night per person (Loizos apartments). That first night 4 of us booked an island-hopping boat tour for the next day, then wandered around Fira to find a place to eat. We were persuaded to sit down at a cafe/bar overlooking the sunset-ready sea, where the management ordered some cheap and good gyros from another place, and furnished us with a steady supply of ouzo and beer. We had a downright beautiful show of a sunset, and stayed for hours talking, drinking, laughing, and hanging out with our Albanian waiter, Roland. We got back home after 11, buzzed and ready to fall asleep.

The next morning (Monday, the 3rd), Rachel and I were awake early to buy food supplies at the supermarket with which to avoid paying lots for lunch and breakfast. We readied for the day, which promised to be warm, donning swimsuits and making sandwiches. We took the 600 long steps down to the old port, where we arrived in plenty of time for our 10:30 tour boat departure. The boat took us and the roughly 40 other tourists first to the volcanic island in the middle of what used to be the Santorini atoll [or caldera]. We disembarked and hiked around for an hour and a half, following our tour guide as she pointed out random craters and shared local myths. There was a continuous stream of mumbling from everyone about how difficult the hike was, about which I had many an internal smug smile, since I wasn’t breaking a sweat. Rachel was doing equally awesome, too.

Next came one of the more memorable parts of the trip so far. Our boat took us around the volcano (which, incidentally, was the site of the most violent volcanic eruption in recorded history–weighing in at 20 times the power of Hiroshima, the shock wave was heard 3 times by all the earth’s inhabitants, as the force of the eruption rippled through the air, around the earth again and again) to a smaller island, where there were reportedly some hot springs. The boat had to stay a ways out from the island because of the rocks, so all those interested in visiting the hot springs were asked to dive into the ocean and swim to shore, where the spring was supposedly just offshore, amidst a patch of brown, sediment-filled water. Everyone who went was required to be a strong swimmer, because it was probably 125-150 meters from where we dropped anchor to the spring. It being by that time a very hot day, I was glad to be the first to dive off the side of the boat and let my muscles pull my smoothly to the springs. I have no real swimming training, though, and so by the time I reached the brown patch, my form was much less than smooth, and I was exhausted. Moreover, there was not a noticeable difference between the ocean’s temperature and these “hot” springs, with the result that after I stopped moving, I was cold. [Incidentally, between the springs at last year’s dude’s camping trip at Big Sur, and now these Greek ones, I have officially sworn off any “hot” springs boasting a temperature of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s just not worth it.] I was shivering uncontrollably and having a very unpleasant time, so I made my way back to the boat, which was harder due to the current at that location. Nevertheless, moving was much better than sitting still, and when I climbed the boat ladder, my muscles full of lactic acid, I felt refreshed and alive. But even in the hot sun, with my black jacket on, my teeth were chattering for almost the next hour.

The third stop on our tour was the island of Θιράσσια (Thirassia), a gorgeous, rocky-coastlined island with only 300 inhabitants. There we had lunch and I took some time by myself to run up the cliff path and explore the town up there. when I reached the top and wandered alone through the empty streets and through flower-strewn fields, I felt an astounding sense of peace. It seemed that in that place, life and time moved together at the correct speed. I wanted to stay for hours, but our boat was scheduled to leave, so I ran back down the stone path to the dock and we were off.

The fourth and last stop of the day was at the port of Ωια (Ia), and there the 4 of us (me, Rachel, Deana, Lisa) decided to leave the tour and walk up the cliff path to the town, which is one of the most picturesque in all the Greek isles. It was then only mid-afternoon, and we wanted to see the sunset, so we killed time for a while by wandering, sitting in the shade, reading, and napping. Everywhere I looked, beauty attended my glance, and I wore out my camera with photos of houses, churches, the sea, other islands, etc… As sunset neared, we got gyros at a stand and walked to an old tower on a point, from which was supposed to be the best view. Unfortunately, a swift-moving cold front decided to bring many clouds, which blocked the sun and spoiled (we thought) our hope for a beautiful scene. Sadly, we made our way to the bust stop, where we arrived just in time to see the sun dip in between two cloud layers, and light the entire sky with absolutely unreal shades of pink and purple. Had there not been power lines and ugly houses in the way from that spot, it might have been the most beautiful (albeit short) sunset I’ve seen. Oh well–that’s the result of lack of faith!

[Then it was time to leave for dinner…to be continued…]

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

2 replies on “Greece / Prague Travelogue, Part IV”

” …I felt an astounding sense of peace. It seemed that in that place, life and time moved together at the correct speed.” Mmm… I so wish I could bring the peace I’ve felt in similar moments (though quite different places) back to where and when I do my daily routine… great way of putting that, btw; they move together at the correct speed. Maybe when they move at different speeds, the problem is that you’re sort of attached to both of them, and so feel torn apart.

I’ve definitely done the lack-of-faith-in-the-sunset thing before … I gave up once on a PCH sunset; as I realized my mistake while driving home, I couldn’t find anywhere to stop with a good view , which seemed to add insult to injury. I’ve never given up since.

yeah–unfortunately we can’t become unattached to time, nor can we affect its speed. Our lot is to manage the form and “speed” of our lives…and maybe, just maybe, there is an “optimal speed”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *