Ruins again, plus hot, hot sun & cool clear water and a perfect last dinner
11.06.2011 - 11.06.2011 32 °C
Another clear, sunny day – even hotter than yesterday and without much wind.
Headed up to take the bus to Ancient Thira (or Thera depending on your preference – I’ve seen it spelled both ways) for their first trip at 8:30am. There was just me and an Australian couple, who also thought the early one was the best, before it got too hot. It takes about 15 mins to drive up the road, which is the zigzag-windy one I uploaded on my 2nd day here. Glad I wasn’t driving – those corners are very sharp and the road’s really narrow in places, and paved with sharp stones which made the minibus judder the whole way up. The local tyre business must love them!
The road wending up the hill to Ancient Thira
The ancient city of Thira was built about 2800 years ago by a king (Thiras) who was exiled from Sparta (of the 300 fame, as in “We are Sparta!”). It sits right on top of Mesa Vouno Mountain, nearly 360m up, at the end of Kamari Beach. It's the ideal vantage point to see your enemies coming over the sea or land from any direction – which I guess was the point.
Views from Ancient Thira
A couple of hundred years later, another guy called Artemidoros of Perge built a sanctuary (what from, I can’t say), and on the face of the rocks you can see engravings of a lion (for Apollo), an eagle (Zeus) and a dolphin (no points for guessing Poseidon). On the way out, I was naughty and stepped over the rope so I could get a snap of me right next to Zeus. Live dangerously, that's my motto!
Sanctuary of Artemidoros
Other people came and went over the centuries, all adding their own bits – temples, sanctuaries, churches, markets and houses – to make the city a bit of a historic hodgepodge.
Remains of Houses
Ancient Thira's ancient theatre
The town is about 800x150m, which doesn’t sound very big, but it takes 15 mins walking up steps to get to the main site, and in the heat with little or no breeze it’s a long way. The tour company only provides the bus ride, and you have to take the next bus back, which means you only get 1 ¼ hours to look around and get back down to the bus. That’s OK for people who aren’t that interested, but for us ruin junkies, it’s way too short. With no choice but to whizz around, it made the heat even worse – felt like I was in a desert and I was very pleased I had a bottle of water with me.
It’s roped off so they guide you down certain paths, and make sure the damage from tourists’ feet is limited. The paths and steps within the city are pretty rough and rocky, and not for the fainthearted or infirm – glad I had on my trusty jandals! Got a few shots that may or may not interest you, but there you have it.
Me & Zeus' eagle
Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon swimming & sunbathing / shadebathing & doing some window shopping. The sun was pretty vicious today so I had to slather the sunblock on after each swim. Walking on the hot stones is similar to Muriwai or Piha (NZ) on a really hot day, but the stones stick to your feet so I felt like I was firewalking between the edge of the water & where I left my jandals – and of course the little stones get caught between your feet & jandals and you can almost hear the sizzle! A lot of people here wear those beach socks, which works in two ways – protects them from the hot stones, and makes it easier on the feet when you go into the water. I was too embarrassed to buy them at first, then it just wasn’t worth it for a couple of days.
If I was staying here for a long time I’d buy a snorkel & fins (plus beach socks), or learn to Scuba dive. It must be fantastic down there with the water so clear, and a lot of the restaurants here have fresh fish & lobster (that one’s out of my price range unfortunately!).
I’ll be really sad to leave this place – it’s heaven on a stick! Sure, it’s not perfect, but every paradise has to have its snake. Here, it’s the planes coming in to land, and there really are only a few – and I’m told in winter it’s so windy the waves come right up to where the restaurants have their tables on the edge of the beach. The atmosphere is really easygoing – even the locals have this great laid back attitude, and they live here all the time. I saw a young Greek waiter at one of the restaurants standing outside with his face turned up to the sun, with his eyes closed, clearly enjoying the sensation. He’s worked hard at his uncle’s restaurant every day since I’ve been here, so perhaps he doesn’t get many days off to enjoy the weather.
Was going to go to Fira this afternoon, but it was just too hot – if I hadn’t gone to Oia yesterday I would have made the effort, but I’m told that Oia is the premium place to see. By the way, if you were considering spending up large and buying at Oia – remember, this is earthquake country so you could end up sliding down the cliff and end in a pile of rocks and rubble in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
Had what was quite possibly the best dinner yet – a whole calamari (minus eyes, ink & spine thankfully), grilled, with a Greek salad. Calamari in NZ always seems to be slimy and/or tough. This one was perfect – I even uploaded a pic because it was a work of art.
Need to start to pack tonight for my flight back to Athens late in the morning. Not sure how exciting things will get tomorrow blog-wise. The hotel I’m staying at is actually within the airport, just across from the terminal entrance & I don’t envisage going anywhere from there – it would cost 8 euros each way to go into Athens, so not really worth it.
Final night in paradise!