Monthly Archives: December 2009

Christmas in Oia Santorini…

I know that Santorini was the last thing on your minds on Christmas morning…especially if you have young kids that start circling the presents under the tree like vultures over the savannah. But in case you were wondering… below is what our special Xmas sunrise looked like!

and below is what my neighbourhood looked like an hour later…

you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that “none”
of these houses have any people in them right now.

I guess my little part of the world is a bit different to where most of you live. Christmas is normally a time of frantic shopping, dinners & drinks with friends, traffic jams and lots of street noise. In Oia… well, in Oia things are a little different at Christmas time. Oia goes into complete lock-down around mid-December. Even the so-called locals pack their bags/cars and leave. Quite a few of you wrote to me asking what the place actually looks like during this period…what do I see when I walk around. Well… you asked for it, so here is what I saw today during a brief walk around my tiny village:

All images are copyright

this is Meteor cafe…less ornaments, less people, less tables .

So as you can see I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that the village is in complete lock-down. Behind each of these gorgeous doors there are shops, bars, boutiques and galleries… and there will be again around March when they will open for Easter. But for now… each doorway presents you with a heavy lock, which is shop-owner’s code for “you had your holiday during the summer months…now it’s my turn”. Can’t blame them for that !

It will be a new year the next time we meet here my friends… and in the immortal words of John Lennon “let’s hope it’s a good one”. Second thoughts… John was a bit of a whimp. Let’s MAKE it a good one… hope doesn’t come into it!

Stay safe and have a silent toast to Oia Santorini at midnight…I’ll hear you ;-)

PS: the next time I post something the blog will look quite different. It’s taken a while to plan and it’s far from finished, but the new interface is long overdue and will make it a lot easier to navigate & hopefully enjoy the blog, for everyone that visits. I could’ve given this to someone to do, but interface design has been a pet hobby for many years so I decided to do it myself. I want to see how far I can stretch the capabilities of the platform (as opposed to dot org which is more suitable for customisation) without any real coding changes. It will be interesting to get your feedback when it’s all done.

Enjoy your NYE wherever you are !

And so this is Xmas…

It’s been a trying year the world over… a year of difficulties faced by many, a year of uncertainty for many more. Let’s hope, like the soldiers that called the incredible “Christmas Truce” in WW1… everyone stops the insanity and takes a few days to stop and think about what we are all doing on this small planet… against each other and against the planet itself.

There were any number of images that I had slowly collected over the past weeks, from which I was going to select one for my Christmas post… sending with it my best wishes to everyone all around the world. All kinds of images… cute, colourful, Christmasy, traditional, wintery etc etc etc.

But last week I happened to be driving past that most sacred of sites (at least it is for me) and I saw something that suddenly made me realise that all the commercial images I had collected  were superficial nonsense.

The site was this…

Kolonos Hill – 300 Spartan final resting place

Just to the right of the leaves you see above… some inspired soul left this for all visitors to see:

“And so happy Christmas – war is over…if you want it” sang John Lennon

Love to you and yours…where ever you are

and Peace for all of us!

Greek islands in winter…

One of my favourite questions when meeting new people is whether they would visit Venice in winter or summer. The answer speaks volumes about people. Venice is a zoo in summer, a wonderland in winter. The Greek islands… whilst nowhere near as bad as Venice, are not dissimilar to that. There are the countless obvious pleasures to be experienced in summer… that’s a certainty. But there is a certain charm in winter, a stillness, a tranquility, a serenity which you can’t feel in summer. It’s not for everyone… but if you’re like me you would love to cruise,visit, photograph and just simply walk slowly through the jewels of the Aegean in the crispness of winter.

the first stop was the small island of Folegandros… it’s tiny, it’s still
largely undiscovered & it’s gorgeous !

in summer this jetty looks quite different… a lot more people waiting to
board and even more waiting on the boat to walk out onto this beautiful island!

watching these captains make their approach to these small
ports is like watching a very well rehearsed ballet.
The ferries are not small, but these guys
make it look like a slow tango… precise and graceful.

the visit is over in under ten minutes in winter… and
the skies  cleared long enough for a couple of photos
of the “absolutely crystal clear” waters with the island background

one of the most recognisable flags in the world… looking
at this picture it’s not hard to understand where
the inspiration for the colours came from…

next up was Sifnos… the weather had already turned, the ominous skies
bathed the small island in a luminous grey…

this island is another hidden treasure of the Aegean… enjoyed by the few
that “know” of it’s rugged beauty

another quick stop… the few locals and ever fewer visitors boarding
the boat for which they have waited all week
– it’s not easy living on a small island in winter

even under the darkened winter skies the colour of the Aegean
remains stunning…there is nothing like it elsewhere
in Europe & these small islands are surely the
jewels in the Aegean crown

last stop was Serifos… an island that was always on my shortlist
when considering life on the Greek islands.

after last week’s post many of you emailed saying you would’ve flown
instead of taking the boat in rough weather…
looking at these images I think mine was a better decision ;-)

as the sun set over the Aegean horizon I sat back and reflected on where I was,
the number of years I had dreamed of being here and the numerous people who
have written to me with their dreams of sailing the Aegean and experiencing
the magic of the Greek islands.

Watching that winter sunset… I thought that there was no other place
in the world I would rather be !


I’m considering visiting some more small islands in winter… would you like to see them?

Aegean storm… melancholy & reflection

In the ying/yang that is life… you can’t truly appreciate something until you have seen and/or felt the opposite extreme. So it was when faced with the choice of making a trip to Athens… do I quickly fly in (25 min flight) or do I take the ferry in uncertain weather. For me it was a no-brainer. A boat ride on an old ferry in stormy weather was far too delicious a prospect to ever seriously consider any alternatives – especially yet another boring… albeit quick flight. So on a dark, stormy morning I boarded a slow-boat to Athens… purpose unpleasant, cause of problem unknown, travel time uncertain, weather unsettled & state of mind unclear. The trip had been made dozens of times, but not under these conditions… weather or mental.

The blinding bright light of the Aegean summer had given way to winter grey and the island which mesmerises millions of people every year, looked cold, inhospitable & decidedly empty. Yet… there was a zen-like beauty and calmness about it. It looked at peace, resting… enjoying the winter storm and lapping up the life-giving rainfall. It was then I realised that I was seeing something few people get to see… the rarely seen winter “yang” of the summer “ying” that everyone knows all too well about Santorini. These are the sights and sounds that visitors never see… believing instead that all Greek islands are bathed in brilliant light and warm sun rays all year round. The images that follow provide you with a glimpse of an Aegean storm and a day-long trip across this mythical sea.

the rain was falling heavily and the island villages were barely visible…

an almost empty ferry pulled away from Santorini’s port… sailing into a storm

the totally calm summer-blue caldera waters had changed to a dark, unsettled
sea that looked angry…

the little church on Skaros rock looked a lonely place in the middle of the storm

soon the island was left behind… the ferry heading for the open and much
rougher waters of the southern Aegean Sea

In summer… you couldn’t get a seat here if you tried. In winter… well, winter
is a different story. It makes you understand the cycles of life & time…

The starkness of a lonely deck and the angry sea below, make you pause and reflect…

you remember the brilliance of this scenery in summer, but also appreciate
it’s raw beauty on a stormy winter’s day…

you look and reflect… what was and what will be

this is NOT a black & white photo… the water
was simply reflecting the mood of the sky above!

but this IS Greece after all & the skies soon cleared, the Aegean putting on
it’s royal blue best once again…

the first of our island stops was in sight… a tiny jewel in the Aegean,
another summer paradise breathing a winter’s sigh of relief!

We will see more images from the small islands along the way on Wednesday’s post. I hope you enjoyed the boat ride through the Aegean storm and thank you for the many kind comments, emails & good wishes… all greatly appreciated ;-)


Oia – on a winter’s day

~ One kind word can warm three winter months. ~

Japanese proverb

When you look out your window and see this coming towards you…
you know it’s a day best spent indoors.

the storm didn’t last long but it was intense… plenty or rain and hail

the village streets were deserted and wet… not even
the village dogs were making an appearance

the village square…a hive of activity in summer
it is now eerily quiet and empty

restaurants like “Thalami” are stacked for winter

and “Skala” has been completely emptied… being
totally unprotected from the weather

this poor old fellow was curled up next to the food
provided by the local stray “caretakers” – more on that soon

and this… this is what luxury hotels look like in winter.
This is Andronis Villas currently undergoing some renovations…
to be ready for Christa and her husband Tom
when they arrive next June ;-)

early tomorrow morning…around 2.30am I will be on this boat on my way
to Athens for some “stuff” and maybe a visit further North.
I will be away for a few days but hoping to post a few things along the way.
Its all to do with doctors and that’s never pleasant.
So if you’re feeling kind and you believe the Japanese proverb above
you can leave some kind words to warm up the winter months ahead.
Wish me luck !