Thursday, July 17, 2008

Series: This is Where I Want to Be, Santorini

Starting this week, I'll be posting new images daily that reflect where I would rather be than sitting at my desk in foggy-arctic San Francisco during the summer months. Today's post is the Grecian Island of Santorini in the Ionian Sea.

There's a mysticism (or μυστικός) about the Ionian. Its dark and mirrored waters hold ancient secrets; secrets of great civilizations, brutal battles, unknown cities and countless lost treasures. The air is sweet and dry, soft to the touch, the soil is ancient, volcanic and mineral rich due to a history of seismic activity that have produced great mythological stories and legends.

I still have, frozen in my mind, a time in 1999 on the Greek Island of Corfu, during a summer when I traveled through Europe for a few months. It was a pleasant warm day. I rented a scooter and spent the day driving all over the island. Although I had a map, navigating through the unmarked roads and odd language did nothing for directing my path. So, I ditched the map, knowing the island was rather small and that if I stayed on the main outside road, I would be back to the motel within 2 hours.

You know in life, there are certain moments that slow down and you become hypersensitive to your surroundings? This day was one of those. I'll never forget winding around the dry hilly mountains on my scooter behind old cars from the 1950's, feeling very much like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Passing donkeys lead by old men with no teeth, selling vibrant flowers off their backs, a woman selling melons along the side of the road. Driving by, all I could hear was the hum of my scooter and an occasional spit, and for a brief moment in passing, the sweetness of ripe melons in the sun.

Then, coming around a corner on a downgrade, the sudden clearing of Cyprus and olive trees revealed turquoise waters far below and a vast dark blue ocean for as far as the eye's could see. It was truly breathtaking. At that point I was so anxious to dive into the cool waters; my scooter simply couldn’t get me there fast enough. Finally I parked my moto on the side of the road and ran across the street, found a hot and prickly black volcanic rock to dive from and dove in head first. It was cold, invigorating and truly unbelievable. The water seamed to have a healing, nurturing feel to it that made you not want to get out. After a long while of floating in the salty and buoyant waters, I swam through the small fish that tickled my ankles and laid out on a rock to dry, feeling euphoric. I mounted my moto and continued on towards the hotel (who boasts the pinkest ouzo you've ever seen!)

About 20 minutes from the hotel, I realized I was starving and started to look for a place to pull off and grab a bite. I found the perfect place, just what I had hoped for. They didn't speak much English but gestured towards the balcony. Walking out, I was shocked, I had no idea this little hole in the wall had the best view of Gordios. I sat on a suspended patio surrounded by hills dotted with Cyprus and Olive trees that rolled down to the sea and the great rock of Gordios.

They had traditional Greek music playing a slow, meditative melody not unlike the Italian version of the theme song to The Godfather. I sat and ordered a whole bunch of food being that I was so hungry. When the platter arrived, I melted, the most gorgeous and amazing food I think I've ever had; local lemons the size of grapefruits, horiatiki salad (Greek salad) with homemade feta, fresh sardeles (salted sardines), pork and lamb souvlakia with fresh satziki, fresh kalamari and octopus and homemade baklava that was to die for! All in all, the whole meal was less than seven dollars.

Part way through the meal, I stopped and looked up, thinking the view before me looked like a faux backdrop; the sound of the music, the smell of the food, the soft warm breeze on my face and suddenly the hilarious and very loud squeal and hee-haw of a donkey nearby. "Wow", I thought, "what year is it and will I always remember this moment?" --Eve

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