Two Greek Islands – Santorini and Naxos

Greece has always been a series of islands off of a the mainland to Europe. They were tied together by a collection of gods though their ideals based on these deities might be viewed by the different cities. Back in ancient days, these small individual communities had a common enemy to the east called the Persians which eventually united them under a common cause, but before then they were loosely tied together through trade and location.

It is hard to travel through these islands and not think about their old way of life. It is hard to think that at one time, to the Greeks, this was the whole world, even though we look at it now as just a small little corner of the Earth. When you stand on top of one of these islands and look across the Aegean Sea to another island, we think of it as something just a short ferry ride or airplane trip between them, but if you think about how they viewed those other islands, it would have been a different community and would take a day to get from one island to the next closest one.

Though we can take this simplicity of life for granted, and think of those people who lived so long ago as being disadvantaged, it probably was not the case. The people still had art that is admired to this day, and they used that art to beautify their communities, much like we do today. People would still bustle around their cities, making sure that their daily chores were done and try to carve out a life for themselves, much like we do today. They would see outsiders with a cautious eye even though when they got to know them, they would realize that they are not much different than they were, much like we do. They would have friends, and families. They would work during the day. They would look to their loved ones to enjoy their evenings. All of this much like we do.

Though we would look back at those times as a time when life was made more difficult do to their lack of technology, they would not have seen it that way. They would have looked at themselves as the height of civilization, and would have lived a life of comfort. Yes, they would have a hard time if they were transported to this age just as we would if we found ourselves back in that age, but in reality, things would not have been that different.

In reality, nothing much has really changed. The traditions may have changed, and we may no longer look to the ancient gods for guidance to our ideology, but if you stripped away all of these cultural differences, you would still see a group of people, who at the heart of it all, still had the same major concerns that each of us as individuals also have. We are a group of people who find commonality with each other to make those strong connections that build up over a lifetime so that we can create the memories that give us a fulfilling life.

As I look back at my recent trip to Greece and the two islands that I got to visit, Santorini and Naxos, I can’t help to think about how much I owe to this ancient culture. But it is not just this culture that I should give tribute to. It is every culture that I have been lucky to have made contact to. It is this collective whole that makes up now just me, but every person who has ever lived on this planet. There is so much that we all have in common that if look past the superficial, we will be able to see it. Thank you Greece for helping me see this, and I hope that I can bring this attitude with me to every other place I get to visit in this world.

Until next time, keep traveling, and keep enjoying making those greater connections.

Akrotiri Ruins – Santorini, Greece

It is easy to forget the Santorini is a Greek island with a lot of history and archeological sights on it. There are so many other things to do on this island that this sometimes gets brushed under the rug to be forgotten about, but one of the must-do sights on the island should not be treated this way, the Akrotiri Ruins on the southern edge of the island.

Before the volcano of Santorini exploded leaving only a caldera behind, Akrotiri used to be the prominent city on the island and a major trading center in the Aegean Sea. Despite its growth, it eventually fell victim to the volcano and was buried under hot magma to preserved for ages. It has since been rediscovered and archeologists are slowly digging it out giving it a feel very much like Pompeii in Italy. The biggest differences being that this sight is centuries older than the preservation next to Mount Vesuvius, and they have only uncovered about three percent on this vast city.

They have already found some amazing art and vases that have been left behind. Because this is an active archeological sight, many of these priceless artifacts are brought to the museum in town to be put on display so they can finish uncovering more of the town. Despite this, there are still a lot of pieces that are there to look at, and add to the flavor of making the trip out there.

The real draw though is the opportunity to visit an actual archeological sight and look at the architecture from a period of time when it was still being developed. You also have the opportunity to walk through the ruins and feel what it would be like to live in this city so many centuries ago. There is actually a lot to see for them only uncovering such a little bit of the town, and you can see why this was one of the major trading posts in this part of the world.

So, if you make your way out to Santorini island and have a few days out here, the Akrotiri archeological dig should be one of the sights that you make time to see. It might take away from the wine tasting, walking the caldera, and eating amazing food in one of the most dramatic cities in the world, but it is worth the trip. It is only a half an hour bus ride from Firi, and they will be back to pick you up right around the time you finish your exploration, so there is no reason that you shouldn’t go.

The Hike from Fira to Oia – Santorini, Greece

If you are spending time in Oia, a great way to spend the day is to take a quick fifteen minute bus ride to the main town of Fira, and hike along the ridge of the caldera back to Oia. It is about a 15 kilometer hike, and with all of the sights you will see along the way, it will take a little over fours hours to do.

When you get off the bus at Fira, you basically head north through the town of Fira. It is similar to Oia with a bunch of restaurants, cafes, and shops, and though the views are still dramatic, I like the feel of Oia a little bit more.

That does not meant that there still is not a lot to see in the city, and you will spend a good first quarter of the hike hanging out in this town. The path is pretty easy to follow. You just stay on the main drag, and when you hit the Blue Note restaurant, you take a left for the rest of the way. If you are worried about making a wrong turn here, there is a sign that points you to Oia, and tells you that it is a ten kilometer hike from this point. It is also a good spot to stop and have some gelato from the Blue Note. Tiramisu, and raspberry and cream were my favorite flavors. It is also a good place to go to the bathroom because you won’t see many more of them along the way.

Though you never really leave civilization behind, after Blue Note, the buildings become fewer and further between. I was lucky enough to be out here in the spring and the explosion of wild flowers added a new surprise once we left town. The downfall of this is the wind and cool weather. Bring layers if out here in the spring because it can get cool on top of the ridge of the caldera.

Being in the city is really cool, but looking back and seeing the whole white expanse of them is also dramatic. There are basically three cities that you will see along the route, and each of them offers their own beauty. The first two blend together and are a great place to stop for lunch before making the final trek.

Oia is the third city and it pops in and out of view as you continue your hike. It is also a great reference point if you take this hike later in the afternoon so you can watch the sunset while making your way to that final city. The hike here gets more hilly with pushes uphill and steep downhills. Also the path turns into a path of loose volcanic rock which makes hiking go a little slower.

There are still hints of civilization along the way. There are time that had me wondering why they had built these structures in more isolated places. There were a couple of churches along the way at the top of the hills that took some effort to get to, and with no obvious road to get there. It made me wonder what kind of services they had there and who were the people that joined the congregation.

There are also a couple of vineyards carved into the hills along the way. It is a nice reminder of what is waiting for you at the end of the long voyage, and it is also nice to know that the land on the island of Santorini is used to the best of its advantage.

Eventually you will get to that final descent that will take you into Oia. It creates some amazing views from atop this perch, and it is also around this time of the hike that you start to feel the strain for the long hike. But you know that it is coming to the end.

The paved path also returns at this point as well, making the end of the hike more comfortable. It is a great way to see a lot of what the island of Santorini has to offer, and a great way to spend the day. If your a photographer, it is a must do experience. Most of the path is safely away from the dangers of the road, even though there is a short hike along the road, but it is not more than 500 meters long. It is a highly recommended experience, and if you find yourself out here, I hope you take the opportunity.

Santorini – Oia, Greece

I’ll admit that the only really thing that I knew about the small Greek island of Santorini I learned from the board game by the same name. I never played the game, but it looked really pretty with all of its white buildings with blue domes. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of the island that I learned where the inspiration for this game came from and I knew in an instant that I would have to make my way there someday.

Santorini was a volcano at one time that had a massive explosion that left the island as a caldera looking out over the sea. A couple of the cities on the island were destroyed and there are a couple of place where you can go look at these ruins that outdate Pompeii, and have the same eerie feeling as it.

But it is the recent cities that have been built on top of the cliffs that are the real treat of this island. The buildings all have a similar feeling to them, and they are painted white with blue highlights. It isn’t just the city of Oia on the northern edge of the island either. It is every place where people have settled, whether it is on the caldera side or the seaside. It gives the city a utopian feel that is fun to stroll through and just marvel at the beauty of it.

I know it all started with a board game review that I saw on YouTube, and looking at the little city that white an blue pieces of plastic could make, but I am glad that I came across that video because it has led me to an amazing island out in the middle of the Aegean Sea where I can experience that Greek lifestyle.