Daily Archives: 23 December, 2008

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Santorini Day 3 – Fira, Old Port of Fira Skala, A Santorini Sunset & Enroute to Athens

As we need to return our car to the rental agency, we decided to spend the entire day before our flight home roaming around the alleyways of Fira.

Around the Town of Fira

A multitude of fellow admirers cannot diminishes the impact of Fira’s stupendous landscape. Views from the edge of caldera over the multicoloured cliffs are breathtaking, and at night the caldera edge is a frozen cascade of lights. The central square is Plateia Theotokopoulou. It’s a fairly crowded place (though of course not so during the winter when we visited); the main road, 25 Martiou, intersects the square as part of a one-way system that just manages to keep the traffic flow going. Between 25 Martiou and the caldera is the essence of Fira, a network of pedestrianised alleyways.

The dawn of our last day in Santorini was rather overcast, with little hope of sunshine. We were a little downhearted, but determined to enjoy the day nonetheless.

Donkeys in Fira

As we venture pass shop after closed shops, we came across a group of donkeys! Laden with goods, they were making their way up the steep alleyway of Fira. We were a bit curious as on how they would know their way, since there was no visible person guiding them, and decided to follow where the donkeys go. The donkey station was located nearby the cable car station, where there is a pathway (Marinatou) leading down to the old port of Fira Skala. It was quite a funny adventure, actually, to follow the donkeys!

Steep Slope towards Fira Skala

Marinatou, the steep, cobbled pathway leading from Fira town edge down to the old port Fira Skala, was quite a difficult descend. It took us close to an hour walking down. Halfway through to the descent, my knees started to shake from the impact of climbing down the stairs.

Raki the Friendly Dog

Oh, let me introduce you to Raki. We met him halfway during our exploration around Fira. At first we thought he was a rather fierce dog, but soon he started to follow wherever we go. He also responded to my calls, and seem to understand what I was telling him. I know it made no sense, as it all probability, the dog would only understand Greek and it was probably own by someone since he was wearing a collar. But he followed us, we enjoyed his company, and decided to name him after the infamous Turkish vodka, Raki.

Raki the Friendly Dog

Raki walked with us all the way down to Fira Skala. During our hour-long journey going down the stairs, he always keep ahead of us, like some sort of advanced bodyguard cum scout. When he went too far ahead, hiding in some bushes or something, I will call out to him, and he will come tottering to me. At the port, when I lied down by the waterside to rest, he tried to lick my face but I pushed him away. Not giving up, he decided to sit next to me and push his entire body next to mine. Ah, the joy of having a lovely dog like that. Did I mention that Raki was blind in one eye? You can see that from the photo above.

The Old Port of Fira Skala

Oh, let me tell you something about the old port. Fira Skala was an old port serving the Santorini before the bigger port of Anthinios took over. This old port became a tourist hub of sort, a small town of seaside cafés, boat rental agencies and trinket shops. During summer times, there are tours going to the nearby volcano and hot springs, but of courses when we were there, we were the only tourists around. In fact, all in all we have seen only four other persons during the hour we spent enjoying its serenity and playing with Raki.

Cable Car from Fira Skala back to Fira

Soon it was time to board the cable car up the cliff back to Fira. There was no way we will climb up the steep pathway again. It was also then we had to bid a fond farewell to our new-found-friend Raki at Fira Skala. I felt bad leading him down all the way here only to abandon him for cable car. The ride up took mere minutes, and cost EUR4 per person. As you ascend up, one can’t help to admire (or gasp, if you are height-phobic like yours truly) how dramatic the caldera cliff is.

Click here to see the photos we took around Fira town as well as of Raki at Fira Skala.

Sunset at Fira

By the time we reached Fira town, the sky has brightened up considerably, and the possibility of finally catching a Santorini sunset loomed over us. Since we had an hour or so to spare before sunset time, we zoom around Fira town using Liping’s super powerful camera, and found a café that is open during this time! Happily we made our way to the café, and had some drinks and rested there.

Sunset at Fira

When 4 p.m. came around, I finally understood why Santorini is famous for its sunsets. The sight over the cliff looking out to the volcano with the setting orb was truly breath taking. We took a great many photos of this phenomenon (which you can view here on Flickr). We got a pretty good unobstructed spot to take photos near the cable car station. Stayed there for about an hour, in the process which four more dogs joined us. I really, really like the (stray) dogs of Santorini. I think during winter times they were starved of human attention they used to enjoy during summer, hence whenever they see someone like us, they will come over and be friendly.

Fira under the glow of sunset

By 5 p.m. the sun was covered with large clouds, and it was unlikely that we will see it sinking into the sea horizon. But nevertheless we were happy just to be able to catch one sunset, especially on our last day here. This is even better than the sunset I witnessed at Phuket.

Tavern Naoussa

We decided to head back towards main town square of Fira to catch a bite before taking the hotel transfer to airport. Out of sheer luck we spotted Tavern Noussa, and it was open! This eatery was highly recommended by Liping’s friend, and we decided to have our last meal in Santorini here, which turned out to be a good choice. The fish soup was absolutely delicious, and my grilled chicken was tasty despite being a tad dry. The friendly chef even came over to talk to us a few times, and offered some complimentary and absolutely delicious dessert which we struggled to finish because we were so full!

Dinner at Tavern Naoussa

So we dined and wined and laughed and generally had a good time. The owner told us to tell everyone that Tavern Noussa is open all year round, and ask everyone to come here for dinner.

So I am doing that, right here :)

On a whim we decided to head to Town Café to check our emails since we had some time to spare. Which also turned out to be a good decision because the airline emailed us on a change of flight timing – yet another delay! – by Olympic Airlines. By then we were so immune to this sucky airline that we didn’t even react to the news.

Santorini Airport

Soon we were back to the hotel and the friendly owner sent us to the airport. The whole place was dead. We were told to hang around first while waiting for the luggage xray machine was turned on, for the check in counter to be operating… this got to be the most relaxed airport I am in ever.

Right now I am sitting waiting for the security control to open their gate for departure. The flight was effectively delayed by 1.5 hour, and we were not supposed to complain. Liping has worked out all the routes to get to Athens Backpackers, our accommodation for the next 5 days, when we get to the airport. Wish me luck!