Saturday, May 14, 2011


One of Crete’s must-see sites is Knossos Palace, the capital of Crete’s Minoan society, and the only settlement not completely devastated by the tsunami following a huge volcanic eruption on Santorini. I did not see Knossos. Last week I focused my time on exploring the city of Chania. Knossos is a three hour bus ride away, and after last week’s disastrous attempt at navigating Crete’s public bus system, I decided to join a tour to Knossos. The tours include transportation, a guide, a stop at a nearby, ancient village, then a trip to nearby Iraklio to the Archaeological Museum, which holds all the good stuff unearthed at Knossos. I kept attempting to join a tour on Monday, but the tour company finally decided on Sunday that the trip would not go. So on Monday, I signed up with a different tour company for a Wednesday tour. And upon my return to the hotel on Tuesday night, found that the tour company had cancelled the trip due to a nationwide strike. I pounded the pavement on Wednesday, looking for another tour company that had a trip going on Thursday or Friday, and every single tour company had cancelled all their trips for this week. Oh well – it’s something to save for another visit, and my Tuesday activity more than made up for losing out on seeing Knossos Palace.

I did, however, get to go somewhere I’ve longed to go for years, even decades, somewhere that’s in every single photo of Greece, a place that, when I hear the word Greece, this image comes to mind – the island of Santorini! This is the island with those white buildings and blue roofed churches. Who knew you could take a daytrip there on a fast moving jet boat from Crete? Not me. Everything we’d heard was that Santorini is too far and not worth it for a daytrip as the ferries leave out of the same town as the one where Knossos Palace is located – the one that’s a three hour drive away. BUT…tour companies from Crete are now offering a trip on a private boat that leaves from a town only an hour’s drive away. One hour drive and two (and a half or so) hours at high speed (which made for a bumpy ride that many on the boat did not take to – thankfully, as with my trip to Capri a few weeks ago, I was in the front of the boat) put us in Santorini with about six hours to spend before returning to Crete. I went with another military spouse, and what a highlight for both of us!
Town of Oia
Santorini is completely different than I expected. In my mind, Santorini was a small island, with those white buildings comprising a little village that spills right down to the seafront. Not so. Santorini is huge and is essentially the rim of a volcano. Once the boat landed at the very small port, we were taken by bus to the top, where all the villages are – villages in plural. Santorini has two large villages and many smaller ones. Once at the top, we could clearly see how crescent shaped Santorini was once connected to two other islands in view. And smack in the center of the caldera is the island that formed when the volcano erupted about 3500 years ago – the eruption I mentioned earlier that sparked the tsunami that devastated Crete. Furthermore, I learned that this is the most probably site of Atlantis, and that same volcanic eruption buried it. Our guide mentioned it and then the lady I was traveling with confirmed that she’d watched a History Channel program that concluded the same thing. Atlantis! The day just kept getting better.
Island in forefront is in center of caldera
Unbeknownst to us, our ticket price included a tour of the two main towns, Oia and Thira. Two people had told me prior to the trip that Thira was the prettiest and if I had a choice, to spend all my time there. This recommendation turned out to be a great example in support of “see it for yourself.” My friend and I both much preferred Oia. Both towns have the white buildings and cutesy shops for tourists and restaurants overlooking the sea, but Oia is slightly quieter and easier to enjoy. Thira was wonderful as well, but it’s the town everyone heads to, so the alleys were busy and it felt a little rushed – not as calm and peaceful as Oia. Nevertheless, it was as beautiful as I imagined, and probably more so because seeing Santorini was such an unexpected surprise.

Town of Thira

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