Arriving in Santorini our first day the weather was sunny, warm, and beautiful. Taking advantage of the phenominal weather, we took a sailing expedition to the Santorini Volcano and hot springs. (http://hollandlm.tumblr.com/post/37383678495/day-trip-to-the-santorini-volcano-and-hot-springs-in).
The second and third days of the trip, the tropical rains of the Aegean Sea moved in, and it was time to find some rainy day activities on the island. Don’t underestimate the flooding that comes with these storms. The roads were entirely washed out on our walk home from Fira in the rain, so be prepared for the sewage in the streets. A pair of Wellies would have come in handy.
We had already explored the attractions near our hostel in Karterados near Fira (http://hollandlm.tumblr.com/post/11670036088/hostel-review-caveland-hostel-karterados-santorini), so it was time to pick up a rental car to better explore Santorini. There are plenty of exciting things to explore on the island that are definitely outside of walking distance. The entire island from North to South will take no more than an hour to cross including time for getting lost on winding island streets, so it’s easy to make a list of island attractions you want to visit during a one-day driving trip. Another great island transportation option is renting 4-wheelers to explore, but that wasn’t the best choice for a rainy day. Be prepared for driving a manual transmission automobile, and driving on the right side of the road for you Brits and Aussies.
We started at the South end of the island, at the black beaches of Perissa. We originally went looking for the famous red beaches near the Southwest tip of Santorini, but the roads are poorly marked and after much searching and no finding, we settled for the much easier to find black beaches of Perissa. Perissa is clearly a more tourist-focused town with developed beach resorts and tropical food options along the shore. While the summer season is probably packed with tourists, the beach was all but abandoned on a rainy cold autumn day.
Wanting to make it to Oia before it was too dark for picture-taking, we hopped in the car and headed to the Northern tip of Santorini. Oia is the cliffside town you see in postcards of Santorini. There actually seems to be more Santorini locals living in Oia as there seem to be more churches, community centers, and non-hotel homes. Oia has all of the white buildings with blue doors you dream of on Greek Island vacations so bring your camera to make your own postcards.
The walkways are beautiful smooth marble, which can be a bit of a deathtrip on a rainy day in a cliffside town so take it nice and easy exploring on a rainy day. The top of the cliff is the main walkway with all the tourist shops and art galleries. The entrances to the restaurants and hotels are on the downward slope side of the city, with cramped stairways and small signs that will take you to those private expanses.
Like so much of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, stray dogs are everywhere. For a town as beautiful as Oia, even the stray dogs are cuter. Grabbing some sweet Greek treats for walking the streets of Oia, you make many new best friends who will follow you for blocks and blocks begging for a bit of your sweets.
Although we managed to dodge the heavy showers for our afternoon trip to Oia, by late evening the downpours were back. We didn’t travel half way around the globe to stay in at night, so we got a group together from our Caveland hostel, and enjoyed a trip to a local nightclub in Fira. The people at the bar / club were very Mediterranean, despite the resort location. Lots of very forward men moving in for a dance, much more forward than the American bars we were used to. The one uniquely European feature of the nightclub was the stripper dance cage seen above. That’s not exactly new, but the high end Russian prostitutes dancing in it was new to me. There were a few wealthy looking older men in this nightclub, and each of them was accompanied by at least two more young Russian escorts. They kept to themselves and didn’t stay in the club long, but it was definitely the first time I had seen such an obvious pay for services exchange in such a small club.
While the sun was shining and the seas were calm our first day in Santorini, but by the time we were supposed to be heading off to Mykonos, the seas were ruff and all the express ferries, seen above, had been cancelled for several days. Apparently the ferries are frequently cancelled. According to some of the locals, because Greek workers dislike labor, but also obviously because the Aegean Sea is frequently rough and dangerous to travel.
Rescheduling travel to skip Mykonos, and catch the first flight we could manage back to Athens was a pain. People who frequent Santorini know to rebook travel as soon as the skies get gray, so we were apparently the last people to get the memo. Luckily, with all my business travel, my Star Alliance Gold status allowed me to skip ahead in the line to make a flight back to Athens. We added an extra day to our stay in Santorini, and would arrive in Athens a day early. The last minute flight was not cheap, but was going to save us more money than rebooking our InterContinental flight back to the US.
The Santorini Airport in Thira was everything you would expect from a small island airport. One landing strip / runway / taxi way. No mechanical arms to dock to the aircraft, just four glass doors that allow you to walk out to the runway and hop onboard. Everyone who was supposed to be on the ferries was now packed into the airport waiting for flights. Apparently the pilots are much gutsier about facing the storms than the ferry captains. The good news is you will probably make your flight, though frequently delayed up to 12 hours, the bad news is the flight is incredibly rough and tests your faith in the science of flight.
Arriving back in Athens a day before our connecting flight to Los Angeles, we were unpleasantly surprised to find Greek workers were on strike again. No taxies, no trains, no busses were connecting the Athens Airport to the city. There was no way to make it from the airport to the city without bribing a private car hundreds of dollars to take you. Not wanting to risk the money, or our ability to make it back to the airport, we decided to spend the entire next day in the airport. We ate, we slept, and we explored just about every feature and amenity the airport had to offer. Luckily we were exhausted from our exploration of Santorini and found a way to sleep on airport benches as many of our fellow travelers had also chosen to do.