Friday dawns and we have the hire car for one more day. Kiran, my nephew is not well and has come down with a fever and Anitha is staying back to look after him. One of our car tyres seem to have gone a bit flat and we take it to the hire place to have it looked at. They fill it up with air and bring it back saying that it’s fine.
Our plan is to visit the capital city of Fira today and end the day in Oia. We find a parking space quite close to Fira city centre and walk along the narrow walkway to the centre. It is lined with quaint little shops selling clothes, jewellery, souvenirs and artwork along with restaurants and cafes. We take the turning towards where the cable car ride starts. Along this side, restaurants line the inside of the cliff surface and offer wonderful views of the caldera. The archeological museum is just around the corner and important artefacts from Ancient Thera are exhibited here. The vases and pottery date back to the 7th century BC. The pottery has been made to perfection and decorated beautifully with drawings and sketches. The artwork is intricate, detailed and precise. It is only a small museum and it doesn’t take us long to cover it.
Next stop is the prehistoric museum. This is the best one. Art work and wall frescoes from Akrotiri are exhibited here. To imagine that these artefacts actually date back to the 17th century BC is truly mind boggling. The wall frescoes are colourful, designed with care and imagination with wonderful end results. My understanding was that the frescoes were displayed in the Archeological museum in Athens, but quite a few of the important pieces are kept here. To see them in actual life after visiting the site brings it altogether. Ceramics, clay vases and ovens, figurines, marble artefacts, bronze implements including cookery pots, tools like saws and tongs, all have been preserved exactly as it were thousands of years ago. The artefacts, utensils and implements all provide us with an understanding of how the Minoans lived their lives.
For a small island and population there are a huge number of churches in Santorini. As we walk back to the main centre we pass the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral which is open. Once again the interior decor is exactly like the one in Perrissa. The interior of the dome is also painted similarly, but this time it is not the disciples surrounding Jesus but angels.
We walk down some steps leading to the old port where we find a restaurant which has a caldera view and have lunch. Simon is not feeling well and so half the group head back to the hotel while the rest of us drive to Oia, another town situated on a clifftop and overlooking the caldera. The sunset views from Oia is pretty spectacular and is one of the must see things to do in Santorini. Since our arrival on Saturday, Sunday was the only day that the weather conditions were ideal enough to provide a cloudless sky and perfect sunset views. We missed that opportunity and today the prediction is for a similar outcome.
The drive up the cliff to Oia is quite unique, as we turn each bend the colour and texture of the cliffs change. I saw red coloured mud cliffs, slate like black coloured cliffs, cream coloured cliffs dotted with dark rocks, some cliff surfaces had large pebbles. Each depicting the different eruptions over the years. At the top of the cliff we find a parking space and follow the crowds. As we reach the caldera, there is a walkway which we follow in a circular fashion. Restaurants and cafes line the path along with shops. In between there are cave houses constructed into the wall of the caldera, which have now been converted into hotel accommodation. Some of them have small swimming pools and balconies which provide the perfect spot for viewing the sunset. Even in this small area I count at least 3 churches I can see or have walked past since leaving the car park.
I see a group of tourists being led down a flight of steps and follow them. It leads to an area from which it looks like we should get a good view. There is still plenty of time and we sit down on the steps and wait for the show to start. Later on I find out that we are positioned at the perfect spot. The spot from where the famous photos of the sunset in Oia are taken with the three domed church in the foreground. As the time approaches we all wait with our cameras ready. The sun must have been wondering what the fuss was all about. At around six thirty the sun slowly descends into the horizon and the surrounding skies take on a reddish hue. With the white washed buildings and churches with their blue domes in the foreground stacked up along the cliff side, blue waters of the caldera, Kameni group of islands in the centre and the crocodile shaped island of Thirassia to one side, it is Mother Nature at it’s very best.
It would have been nice to sit and watch the twilight sky take over, but we have a long drive back and that too down the cliff in the dark through unfamiliar roads and so we return to our car and head back. On the way back we get a good view of the caldera at one point. The black Kameni islands, Thirassia with the night lights lit up on the buildings along the clifftop, waters which have taken on a dark tinge and the crimson sky provide another beautiful view of the caldera.
Coming all this way to just see the changing views over the caldera at the different times of the day has been worth it. Together with all the history and the sights you don’t get to see elsewhere it has been a pretty special trip.