Wednesday, September 5: I wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready and leave Barbara Studios by 5:45. I roll my suitcase for 15 minutes in darkness along uneven sidewalks interspersed with patches of cobblestones. I reach my car beneath Rethymno Fort and begin my drive in the darkness to Heraklion.
As I’m driving, I see the most beautiful sunrise in front of me in the eastern sky over the Sea of Crete. I keep pulling off the highway to take pictures. A couple of times I fear for my life as big trucks pass me by, blaring their horns. Maybe I am taking too many risks in my choice of parking spots on the shoulder of a big highway. But, I do get some lovely sunrise shots!
I have arranged with the rental car company to drop my car at the port, rather than the airport. I was told to leave the car with a quarter tank of gas and to park it in the parking lot of the port, unlocked, with the key under the mat. I don’t like this. What if someone comes and absconds with the car? Will I be held responsible? I guess it all ends up okay as I don’t see any additional charges from the car rental company on my credit card.
The Sea Jets ferry leaves at 8:20 a.m. with me on board. The ferry I pictured and the ferry I’m on are two different things. I pictured the kind of ferry I’m used to with open decks and sea spraying over the railings. This ferry has car parking on the bottom level, all enclosed, and two upper decks with cushioned seats, again all enclosed. You can walk through a door in the rear of the ferry to go outside, but there is only one bench along the inside edge of the deck and the rest is standing room only. Mostly smokers are standing outside.
I find a seat inside on the upper deck and, after eating a ridiculously large and sugary glazed doughnut and a sweet cappuccino, I take an hour nap. When I wake up, I pull out my booking.com hotel reservation for Hotel Galinia. Surprise, surprise! No wonder my hotel was only 35 euros a night. The location is near the southern tip of the caldera; Fira, the island’s most popular town lies in the middle and Oia, supposed to be the most beautiful, is at the northern tip. Once again I have booked a hotel without giving the location much thought. I did fine in Athens, with a great location at the Acropolis View Hotel, and it turned out that Rethymno and Barbara Studios in Crete was gorgeous, so I have no regrets about that either. But now I’ve picked the spot furthest away from all the action and logistically, it will be a hassle. Obviously, I’m not a very good trip planner!
The ferry trip is supposed to be slightly over 2 hours, from 8:20 to 10:25, but we don’t actually arrive in Santorini until 11:30. Since I think we will arrive at 10:25, I go to the outside deck to stand at 10:00, so I can see the caldera of Santorini from the deck. Needless to say, I have a long wait. But because I arrive so early, I am able to stake out a good vantage point before the rest of the crowds come out.
When we finally arrive at the port in Santorini, I make my way down to the lower-level cargo hold, retrieve my bag, and move with the masses off of the ferry. I roll my suitcase along the port landing, looking for some way to get to Akrothirion, home of Hotel Galinia.
I come across a driver who tells me he will charge 20 euros to get there!! Twenty euros on an island the size of Santorini?? I wave him off, because directly in front of me, I see Kronos Rent a Car. I ask the Kronos guy how much to rent a car, and he tells me 25 euros a day, or 35 euros if I want insurance. I go for it, with insurance. My gosh, if it costs 20 euros to get to Akrothirion, and then who knows how much to get to Fira and to Oia, then I could be spending much more than that on transportation.
I take the car, toss in my suitcase, and off I go, climbing the curvy switchbacks up the caldera from the port to the cliff edge, then south to Akrothirion, only about 20 minutes. I have arrived in Santorini! And what I have seen from the ferry decks and from my car looks fabulous!