Thursday, September 6: Today I head to the stunning village of Fira, the capital of the island of Santorini, as well as its most central and important village. It is also the most crowded village on the island, brimming with tourists of every nationality.
On my way to Fira, I stop at a travel agent I pass along the way, where I book a tour for tomorrow morning to see the volcano. I also book the speed ferry (5 hours) going back to Athens for the early evening of Saturday, September 8. The travel agent tries to convince me to take the slow ferry, warning: “It’s not good to take the fast boat because of the weather.” I look around and see nothing but sunshine, warmth and blue skies; I can’t imagine what might be the problem. I stick with my fast ferry decision.
Fira is perched on the edge of an impressive multicolored cliff and offers a great panorama over the submerged volcano. Multitudes of white-painted houses sit on stepped streets beside blue-domed churches and sun-bathed verandas. Plateia Theotokopoulou (Theotokopoulou Square) is the main square of Fira and is where all the locals meet. The narrow winding streets are filled with all kinds of cafes, restaurants, bars, night clubs, art galleries and shops selling gold jewelry, scarves, shoes, clothing, paintings, pottery and every other kind of imaginable souvenir.
Early in the 19th century the capital of the island was moved from Pyrgos to Fira. After the earthquake of 1956 a part of the town was destroyed (only a small part of the 18th century buildings were saved).
I wander through the streets, stopping at the Catholic Cathedral, the Orthodox Cathedral, and numerous cute shops. I locate the cable car, which I will need to take tomorrow morning to get to the old port for my volcano tour.
I’m awestruck by the spectacular scenery, the pristine lanes and dwellings, the royal blue domes mirroring the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea. I’m drawn into shops full of colorful goods and want to buy them all. I don’t know why, but I always have the urge to “own” beauty, but of course, it is an impossible and bottomless desire to fulfill. I buy some scarves and a colorful embroidered bag that the shopkeeper tells me is made in Thailand. Everywhere I go, I encounter the global nature of the marketplace.
I wonder if people who live here become immune to the beauty of this place, like many of us do when we live in a place, day in and day out. I’m only here for 4 days, so I can’t imagine growing bored with it. My overall feeling is awe. I am awestruck. I’m also at peace, loving the lifestyle, the easy-going pace. I think I could stay here for a good long time.
The only drawback is the crowds of tourists. I’m sure August is worse than September, but the crowds still linger this month. Mostly there are couples in this romantic place. Middle aged couples close to me in age. Or young exuberant and beautiful couples, holding hands, infatuated with one another and with this romantic place. I feel like I’m in a romance, but not with a person. With the mood, the atmosphere, the scenery, the lifestyle. With Greece.
However, I find myself yearning for more. This is one time that I wish I was here with the love of my life.