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The Islands

Oia
We met up with my Greek friend at her home in Thessaloniki.  In her typical style, we hit the ground running- starting by whipping through the ancient narrow streets to an overlook where we could take in the entire city and surrounds.  Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to explore the city properly but it's good to have something to do in the next visit.
We then flew down to Santorini (or Thera, or Thira).  The quintessential Greek island, which did not disappoint.  To say it is beautiful is a gross under-description of the island.  Crystal clear blue waters, volcanic landscapes, and white-washed towns clinging to the edges of sheer cliffs.
We attempted to catch the famous sunset at Oia and I was struck by the sheer number of people willing to camp out for this daily event. It was beautiful, but I think everyone forgets that the sun sets all over the island with equal grandeur and far fewer people.
Fira
The town of Fira is where we took a boat to the neighboring volcano, it's greatest eruption is responsible for the harsh cliffs of Santorini, as well as the ending of the Minoan civilization.  Fira is famous for its never-ending switch back road to the old port.  We walked down, on treacherous smoothed cobblestones and past the business end of many donkeys.  But walking was still preferable to taking the donkeys themselves as you can't help but feel sorry for them, trudging up and down this path in the heat. There is a perfectly good cable car about 20 feet away so which begs 'Why?'

The volcanic island was very cool (well, hot) and as windy as any place I've been. On the way we all jumped out of the boat to swim in a hot spring.(exhilarating, but scary!)  The volcano itself is still considered active, last erupting in the 1950's. The sulfur is strong on the air of the island, the heat can be felt through your feet, and there are several instruments dotted on the barren landscape to help predict another catastrophic eruption.

We visited several  beaches along the coast of Santorini. Volcanic black beaches, red beaches, and more traditional looking ones. I can still hear the waves methodically smoothing the large rocks on the red beach.   While it is cliche to visit this island, it feels like the right place to start.  Parts are a real tourist trap, but the small whitewashed towns, the unique beaches should not be missed.



This post first appeared on A Work In Progress, please read the originial post: here

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