Santorini and Ancient Thera

It’s Thursday. I wake up a little later than usual. The later I start my walk the hotter it gets and so I need to make a move if I want to make the most of it. Once the clocks go backwards this weekend and with winter just around the corner, I won’t be able to do much walking when I get back home. Today I don’t see any of the dogs on my way. As I near the end of my walk, I hear the church bells ringing and prayers being broadcast through the tannoy. I go to investigate. The guy ringing the bells has just finished and is tying up the ropes. I am not actually dressed for the occasion and so I ask him if it is okay to go inside. He says ‘of course it is’ and I walk in. The priest is busy with the prayers and there are a few elderly people in the church. A lady is lighting the candles and I find a seat and sit down. Unlike other churches I’ve been in, here the seats are individual ones.

Blue domed churches are unique to the Greek islands and in Santorini, all apart from two have blue domes. The Holy Cross Church in Perrissa is one of the largest in the Island. As I sit down, I look up to see what the interior of the dome looks like. The middle circle is a painting of Jesus. Around Jesus is the 12 apostles and surrounding it more pictures, but I am not sure who they are and finally at the four corners, there are paintings of four scholars, it might be four of the Greek philosophers. I sit and listen to the priest reciting the prayers. I need to get back and so cannot stay too long.

Today we stop at Megalochori first, a picturesque village on our way to Ancient Thera. As we walk around the village, we see a house which has been built into the rocks. We are allowed to walk in and have a look. The composition of the soil in Thera is such that it is possible to dig it easily and yet the walls do not collapse and houses used to be cut horizontally into the rocks. Although originally these houses were occupied by the poor, nowadays it is much sought after due to their unique position, coolness during the summer months and warmth during winter. Traditional houses and interconnected alleyways make this village an interesting place to walk around.

Next we visit one of the historical sites in Santorini- Ancient Thera. After the volcanic eruption during the 17th century BC, Thera was unoccupied for several centuries. From the 9-8th century BC, Dorian colonists settled here from Sparta. A number of settlements developed over the following centuries at various sites and the city state of Thera served as an administrative and religious centre. The city began to go into decline after the 3rd century AD. Ancient Thera is situated on the mountain Messa Vouno. The excavations revealed a city which had open air sanctuaries, temples, public buildings, a theatre, shops, residences and a road network complete with drainage system.

You can either hike up the mountain, drive up or catch the bus from Kamari to reach the excavation point. The drive up the mountain is quite nerve racking and is not something for the faint hearted. At the lower part of the climb, the sides are cordoned off by a low rise pebbled edge but as you climb up the steep hill there are no barriers and the road is quite narrow with enough space just for two cars. As a passenger on a left hand drive vehicle, sitting on the side looking down the sheer drop over the side of the mountain is something I would never want to do again. I did it once before on the road from Marbella to Ronda and hoped that I would never be in such a situation ever again only to find myself wondering what I had let myself in for. By the time I got to the top I was a nervous wreck. I wish I had taken the bus, I don’t mind sitting in a bus full of people going up mountains driven by somebody who does this type of driving everyday. The force of the wind on top of the mountain made it even worse. I stayed near the entrance of the site and looked after Lakshmi while most of the others walked around the ancient ruins. Luckily the site closed soon after we left and so we didn’t have to encounter any vehicles on our way down the hair pin bends of which I think there are 22 in total.

Once back on level ground we stop off at the first restaurant we see to sit, rest and steady our nerves. From here the walk to the black sandy beach of Kamari is a short one. It is quite breezy and cool today. All of us are feeling cold and tired. We stop at the church with the red tiled roof in the next village, one of only two in the island, for a photostop and make our way back to the hotel.

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