Sunday, October 5, 2014

Santorini Sunrise.

Catching the sun rise in Santorini.

Today did not start off on a good note. It was zero dark thirty when again, the loud music from somewhere outside our apartment was blaring. TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!!!!  That's what I wanted to shout out! I had set the alarm for 2:45a but was awake well before then. So much for getting a decent night's sleep!!  No time now to focus on lack of sleep.  We have a flight to catch.   I'll make up for the lost sleep (hopefully) tonight. 




I rustled Bro up at 3a so he had time to get ready, get his suitcase packed and clean out the fridge. As I had expected, we were bringing all our leftovers with us! :-) In reality, not a problem as we'll be staying in an apartment in Santorini.

Dimitris had instructed us to just leave the keys on the dining table and close the door behind us.  The front door to our building is locked at night and I wanted to make sure we could get out without a key so we did a test run yesterday and the locked door opens on the inside without a key so we are good to go per Dimitris's instructions.

I headed down first.  When I reached the front door, I noticed a parked car.  It was our taxi!  Very relieved to see him as I always worry if they show up or not.  As I stood, waiting for Bro to come down, I realized that the loud music was coming from around the street corner, not another apartment.  There must be a club there - still going at 3am.  Guess they only party on Friday and Saturday nights as I slept like a lamb on Thursday night.

Bro showed up just a few short minutes later.  Knowing him, he was doing one last walk through of the apartment before shutting the door behind him.  He's very conscientious about not leaving anything behind.

As the driver made his way out of our neighborhood, we quickly found ourselves submerged in a sea of cars....at 3:30am!  Lots of people were out and about - presumably hanging out in bars and dance clubs.  It's 3:30am by the clock but if I didn't know any better, I would say it was midnight.  Bro asked the driver if the people are young or old and he said both.  We think Athenians just love the night life! And to think I was worried about getting a taxi at this time of day - plenty on the streets.


Once we were out of the central part of the city, the rest of the driving was smooth sailing.  We arrived at the airport less about 40 minutes after leaving.  Bro thinks I'm crazy booking us on a flight that left at 5:45am but as he quickly discovered, we weren't the only two crazy people.  Our flight was fully booked!

It's just a short 45 minute flight from Athens to Santorini and we landed on time. One thing about taking the first flight of the day, there's rarely anything to cause a delay.....other than a mechanical issue with the plane.  When I booked the apartment, I inquired about getting a ride from the airport to the apartment.  The person who responded to my inquiry, Yannis, said he would arrange for pick up.  One less thing for us to have to deal with when we arrive.

First view of Santorini....in the dark of early morning.
Once we got our luggage and headed out of the arrival terminal, I instructed Bro to look for a sign with my name on it.  Took a few seconds to find it.  There was another couple to be picked up and they were also on the same flight so we barely waited a minute before they appeared.  All four of us piled into the minivan for the short ride to the village of Oia; I got in the front passenger seat.

Our driver pointed out some highlights as we drove by various points, including the capital city, Fira.  We can take a bus from Oia to Fira. Unfortunately, it was pitch black night still so we really didn't see much of anything. Hopefully, his words of advice will stay in the back of my mind.

From the airport to Oia, we were on a road winding our way back and forth, up a hillside.  I told him we were renting a car to drive around and was reassured to find out that making our way around the island would be easy. According to our driver, Santorini is only 60 kilometers long so it's not big and apparently, there aren't a lot of main roads so not easy to get lost.  I'm sure Ms. Google will get us around just fine.

Yannis stopping at the gate.
We were the first to be dropped off.  Yannis was there waiting for us.  I was glad to see him!  He insisted on taking our luggage and we followed behind him.  There was a chill in the air and I was sure Yannis just wanted to get us to the apartment so he could crawl back in to bed and get some more sleep. Couldn't blame the guy!  I was cold but I think the adrenaline that flows when one is excited was coursing through my veins and keeping me warm.  I just couldn't wait for the light of day to come so I could see this place!

Our walk took us down narrow cobblestone streets.  Night lights were still on but we really couldn't see much; it was just too dark.

We had barely walked for 5 minutes when Yannis stopped on the other side of a gate. He put our luggage down. I figured we had arrived and indeed we had.  Then, Yannis delivered the not so good news.  There were people staying in the apartment we were booked into so he couldn't let us in until they had checked out and he had cleaned up after them.  So, we would have to meet back up with him, in front of the gate, at noon.  Noon?!?!  My heart sank.  What the heck were we going to do for 5+ hours. Even Yannis thought we were crazy - he didn't look sympathetic at all.

He did, however, give us the lay of the land.  In front of the gate was a church.  Yannis pointed to the right and left.  The village of Santorini spread out 500 meters in each direction.  It was then that I realized we were literally in the center of town, on the main street that runs through the village.  Awesome location!

Yannis bid us farewell and took our luggage with him.  As I watched him walk away, I saw him hoist one of our suitcases on his shoulder while carrying the other.  He disappeared down a set of narrow, stone steps.

Now what?  Well, we picked a direction to walk in, noted a couple of landmarks so we could get back to the gate where we had to meet Yannis at noon and then headed on.

The Church of Panagia of Platsani.  Our landmark to getting back to the gate to meet up with Yannis.

By now it was nearing 7am and the skies were getting brighter.  We could at last see the bleached white buildings, clinging to the hillside, that Oia is world famous for. 

Even at this time of day, the village is charming.

It was too early for anyone else to be up and about.  We had the place to ourselves and I have to admit, it was a pleasant stroll through the village.

The nightlights make the place look magical.

Following Bro.

We came to a fork in the road.  We went left which went downhill.  I wanted to stay close to water views.

These two followed us.  Our only company.  Humans were still asleep.

This church marked another fork in the road.  We went right.....like we knew where we were going.

We just meandered along.  We didn't have a map or any idea of where we were going but as I told Bro, Oia is a small village....you can't really get lost.

Our walk ended at a look out point.  There was a young man there with camera in hand.  We decided to join him and see what the view was like.  He knew where to go!  The lookout is situated on a promontory with stunning views of the island.  It was cold standing at the look out point but the view was just simply breathtaking!

This is the view looking back in the direction that we had walked from.  The sun is just about to peak over the horizon.


I took a few more photos from different vantage points and then put my camera down to admire the view.  When it got brighter, I started snapping again.  

Looking east, the cliff and waters of caldera on the right.

Wow!  That's all I could say over and over again.  Just wow!

It was hard to leave the promontory but we decided to move on so we continued walking, heading towards the windmill.

Looking back towards the promontory.  You can see the outline of the photographer, sitting atop the stone wall.

There didn't seem to be much to see, beyond the windmill, so we turned around and headed back.


It seemed like the light of day happened all of a sudden.  One minute, we're walking in the dark, trying to figure out our surroundings look like and the next minute, we're stopping after each step to take in the views of this charming village.  Oia is indeed as beautiful as it's cracked up to be!

Flowers add a pops of color against the stark white stone buildings.

Walking one of the many churches that dot this little village.

Oia is all about the steps.  A lot of steps!

Statue dedicated to an important member of the Oia tourist trade.

Everything is so cute here!  Really.

Someone has a sense of humor.  Sculpture outside an art gallery.

Another sculpture outside the same art gallery.

When the sun rose over the horizon, it had to push its way through the clouds.  I was disappointed thinking we would spend our first day here under overcast skies.  It wasn't the image of Oia that I had in my mind.  Thankfully, as the sun continued to rise in the sky, the clouds gave way to a picture perfect blue sky.  It was going to be a glorious day!  Very happy!

Our walk through part of Oia eventually took us back to the church.  It had been a very peaceful and relaxing stroll. By now the sun was well up in the sky and the village was beginning to wake up.  Delivery men were scurrying by us and cafes and restaurants were starting to open up for breakfast.  Seeing a couple of people walking by with coffees in their hands made me want to have one to both wake me up and warm me up.  We had already been up for 5 hours and thoughts of breakfast had me checking out a few menus.




But as often happens with me, I get easily distracted.  In this case, the view of the caldera. 

Standing in front of the gate, looking at the caldera.  Little did I know at the time that our apartment was the cute little red building with the arched roof.


Back at the church square, Bro and I chatted for a while and watched the world go by. It wasn't long before we spotted them.....tourists were starting to trickle in. With guides leading the way, it was obvious these were the cruise shippers, off the boat to visit Oia for the day. I predicted it would be a mob of tourists in no time. Bro wanted to nap so I let him sleep for a bit and then pushed him up to explore more of Oia.  Not only did we 3 more hours to kill but we had to get going before we're crushed by the mob of tourists that would soon descend.

Our first day in Santorini begins now!