Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Last Day in Paradise

Fig ice cream.

This delectable concoction alone makes Santorini worthwhile, but the island has many pleasures to offer, from spectacular views to volcanic beaches. The fig ice cream, though, is pretty damn terrific.

This morning through a complicated series of maneuvers (i.e. local bus transfers) we made our way to the small business that runs mini-vans up the mountain to ancient Thira. The road twists around hairpin turns, which our driver attacked with alacrity. At points, I closed my eyes and breathed slowly and deeply, telling myself that he had managed to make it into his forties and would most likely survive this journey as well. I tried to forget that Greece has the highest number of traffic fatalities in the EU, information one should put far from mind when careening around 1,000 foot precipices.

The site itself is probably worth the journey for a classical history geek like myself; I'm not sure about the average Joe. The ruins are pretty, well, ruined, and it's difficult sometimes to reconstruct their original function. Commentary is pretty sparse, and the sour-faced guards were of little help. I did enjoy seeing the theatre, however, which is quite small by Hellenistic or Roman standards. Built in the second century A.D., it seated fewer than 1,500 people. Did road shows come through? Revivals of Athenian classics? Hellenistic comedy? Or the pantomimes popular with Roman audiences? It's hard to imagine a troupe of players bothering with a settlement this remote.

We braved the return journey down the mountain, eventually making our way back to our favorite patch of beach in Parissa, just in front of Meteora Cafe. Our hostess greeted us with open arms and a glass of wine: what is not to love about a woman who greets you as "my princess"? Fortified by good food (fatouche for Rod; eggplant stuffed with vegetables for me), we staggered back to the beach for several hours of sun and snoozing. The winds whipped up the water, making it a bit rough for serious swimming. I also forgot my prescription goggles and was nervous about accidentally swimming too far out (yes, I am truly that blind) into the wicked undertow. So I had to content myself with bobbing around close to shore.

Our journey home on the local bus from Parissa to Fira seemed so typically Santorini: a happy, tired jumble of humanity, from giggling local teenagers to sunburnt Germans, while the bus driver blasted Nine Inch Nails and Metallica.

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