Oia – the “other side” of a mythical land

 

With everything, every place and even every person… there is always the “other side”. To those of you that have never had the pleasure of visiting my small village… this is what Oia’s “other side” looks like. The village slopes towards the sea and the terraces you see are all man-made over eons… the locals trying to utilise every available piece of land for their crops. Alas… the crops are long gone, but the terraces remain. During spring I promise to take some more photos of these terraces when they have their stunning wildflower-cover all over them (the ancient stone work is also worth capturing). Its’ funny…. looking at these terraces you would never guess the amazing wonder that awaits you over the “other side”.

 

As I was walking back to the bike I looked down and noticed this bottle top. It’s a local beer brand… but the name somehow captured the moment for me. Just looking at the terraces above, the ancient stone walls, the paths and ancient caves… it just makes you think about the people of this village over the many many centuries of its’ long history. Having spent most of my adult life in Australia…a country that is younger than just about every terrace retaining wall you see in the photo above, I often take a moment to think about the unbelievably long history of Greece…the country I was born in and the special little island I now call home.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends !

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Below are two of the “Santorini Dreaming” finalist essays:

by Liz Kurmas

I never really had dreams of going to Santorini, although I knew it to be beautiful from movies and pictures.  However, my life and travels had Santorini plans for me that I didn’t yet know.  You see, I was on a spring holiday in South Africa by myself, where I just happened to meet an American traveling the world alone.  He and I spent a fantastic two days together, and too soon it was time for us to move on separately, but we wanted to see each other again.  And so it happened that he did always have Santorini dreams, and it worked out with his travel schedule and my work schedule that we could meet in Greece the first week of July.  We met in Athens and quickly left the city for Santorini, since our time was limited.

From our landing on the island just as the sun set, to our arrival at our oceanfront room at Kamari, to our moonlit walk across the beach to get to a splendid dinner at Cafe Almira, it was clear this was going to be magical.  The next day brought hikes and our first trip to the caldera side, with our first spectacular sunset dinner.  The next morning was the unreal beauty of Imerovigli and Skaros, followed by time in Oia, and late night down at the beach, dancing and singing along the promenade there.  As is our story, it was too soon time to leave each other again, but I really feel Santorini worked its magic on us.

He is back in the US now and we’ve managed to see each other a few times, but the long distance thing is difficult to grow.  Which is where the Santorini dream for me begins…. We both talked about wanting to go back and it happens that your contest travel time would be about exactly a year from when we were there together and I can’t think of anything more perfectly romantic.  I really would love for the island to work more magic for us and maybe not just bring me five more magical Santorini nights, but bring about the chance that maybe he and I could have a lifetime of those nights, wherever in the world they happen.

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by Evangeline
Hello,
I have had a dream of going to Santorini for over 26 years…and I still have it.
Luckily, I have been able to visit 5 times so far and hope to visit again in the years to come.
It all started when my high school girlfriends (Nina and Shanaz) and I saw Summer Lovers – just when we were deciding on a place to visit before we went our separate ways. As soon as we saw the movie, we knew that it was decidedwe’re going to Greece .
In 1983, we made a pilgrimage to several scenic spots show in the movie:  Delos , Matala and Santorini (Oia, Thera and Akrotiri). The experience was quite impressionable and totally unforgettable.  I remember feeling absolutely in love with the caldera, the sunsets, the architecture, and the feeling of being there. I promised myself that the next time, I would stay in Oia (we were staying in Maria’s Place in Thera at the time). The visit to Akrotiri also struck me so much that I ended up taking several courses about the wall paintings while in university.
In 1987, after 4 long years of yearning to come back to Santorini, I came back on my own and spent 6 weeks in Oia (I think it was called Caldera Villas) from May – June. I had the chance to watch the town go from a quiet village to a very busy tourist town.  I was able to visit Akrotiri several times during that stay since I had a student pass that allowed me to visit almost all museums/archaeological sites for free in Greece (thrilling for an archaeology student).
In Oia, I met Yorgos, the hotel owner, Petros the restaurant owner, Dimitri the painter, along with his wife Maria and their 2 children, Sunny and Apollo. I also met Tolis who ran the friendly sandwich/ice cream shop; Yorgos and his British wife, Maggie; Yorgos and Maria; and many others.  Before settling in Oia, I also had a chance to meet a kind ex-soccer player in Thera who ran a bakery and a young woman, Janine, who had just moved from England to live with her Greek boyfriend.  I spent idyllic days just meandering and falling in love with the island and its people.
I earned the typical scar on my right leg (from laying a bare calf on a hot scooter muffler), got salt water in my camera on a scary stormy ride back on a tiny motorboat from Thirasia after attending an island celebration, and realized that I would always get eye infections on every visit on the island as a result of the volcanic ash flying around in the wind. I later found out that some locals thought that I was “the daughter of Sanyo or Sony” (I was/am not).
In 1988, I came back to Oia with Didier and we stayed for a month at Caldera Villas.  This time, I was able to experience the island in a different way – not as a teen, not as a soul-searching idealistic youth, but as someone completely smitten with the village and the person they’re with. Many sunsets, long days on Katharos Beach , lots of wine and lots of cigarettes. Utterly romantic stay.
In 1990, on my next visit (this time with Daniel – with whom I’ve lived for 21 years now), we stayed in Finikia for 2 months for economical reasons.  Maria, the French lady who ran a tasteful jewellery store rented to us a 1-bdrm studio, complete with a growling midget dog at the gate.  We enjoyed many wonderful dinners at the local restaurant run by an ex-sailor, watching the news about the world cup and having ouzo at Mr. Manoli’s little café on the caldera (with his special brined caper leaves and salted peanuts) just past the post office, and again, daily visits to Katharos Beach.  Again, another romantic stay.
On my last visit, with Daniel again, in 1994, we stayed close to the caldera (but facing away since it was no longer affordable to stay on the caldera). It was September and it had been cooler than on my previous visits.  Sadly, having a full-time job involved shorter holidays.  This was a short 2-week visit and did not quite have the same extended and relaxed rhythm as on previous visits.  It was still a beautiful visit, but sadly, for some reason, we have not been back since.
Somehow, life happened, and Santorini became just a dream.  But, for the last 5 years (actually a bit less), it has become a little bit more of a constant reality because in 2005, our daughter, Oia, was born.  Yes, we actually gave her that name and although it is sometimes strange to have to explain a name, it is usually a pleasure to talk about Santorini and why anyone would choose such a name for their child.
My current dream is to visit Santorini again in 2010, with our daughter, Oia.  She would be 5 then and I think that it would be a perfect age to visit.  Several months ago, I had actually begun to scout out accommodations and there seem to be several kid-friendly and affordable places to stay just outside of Oia.  Coincidentally, it was during these online searches that I had come across your blog and also some flickr photos with Maria (the French lady mentioned previously) at an outdoor film festival. Reading your blog and seeing the photos brought back such longing to visit Oia again.  I have since been corresponding with my 2 high school girlfriends and they too feel the same pull.
I think that it would be great to be considered for the contest and to experience the prizes offered, since I am sure we would not be able to afford such luxuries. But, regardless, I think that we will still try to make it to Santorini in 2010.
Thanks for reading,
Evangeline
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No… thank YOU to Liz & Evangeline ( I can’t wait to meet Oia)
;-)
M

 

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5 responses to “Oia – the “other side” of a mythical land

  1. What a beautiful landscape, and to think how long it’s been there. I get so engrossed with the history of different countries around the world, so glad so much of that history has been preserved for us to see. I look forward to seeing all this myself in the next year or two. Love the bottle cap, it’s neat to come across little treasures like that. Sheila

  2. Hi Michael, Lovely post … so what do I expect… every time I come to visit your world, I leave feeling uplifted by the beauty and love you share for your Oia. What a delight to see the other side… I am sorry to hear there are no crops??? But why? Is it just too hard to build the soil and keep things watered? I look forward to seeing the wildflowers in any case. Thank you so for your comment Michael … you have no idea what it means to me. That was a hard post to write and I kept looking at the publish button not sure if I should hit it… then thought I must. Thanks too for the holiday wishes. Carol

    • A brave post…especially for thanksgiving Carol. But so very accurate…. there was a lot more I wanted to write about the native americans and their treatment. Perhaps another time ;-)

  3. Hello!

    Just wanted to say hi and thank you for the wonderful essays. I just love to see people as passionate about Santorini as I am. Don’t know if we will name our daughter Oia, as Evangeline did, but who knows…

    Me and my wife have been coming to Santorini for years and got married there in July 2008. We hope everybody get to see Santorini once in their lifetime.
    All the best!
    Marcus

  4. Wow…unbelievable to have been a finalist! Thank you so much for reminding everyone to keep on dreaming…and thanks for posting!

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