The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Santorini

I’ve never been to Greece before, never particularly had a hankering to either particularly, apart from something deep down inside wanting to stand on the steps of The Parthenon where my dad had stood all those years ago, smiling with his buddies in their smart white Merchant Navy uniforms. The town of Marathon might have been an honourable exception too, as you will understand I have a little of that in my soul. Melanie however had travelled many of the Greek Isles and suggested one of them as an ideal destination. I really felt on this occasion that Mel should have the autonomy in choosing – especially as I was somewhat modus non operandi of late, (selecting which colour underpants in the morning had become something of a problem). So Santorini it became, specifically the resort of Perissa on the smallish volcanic island in the Aegean Sea was to be our home for the next seven days.

perissa

Perissa Beach

After a short and uneventful journey we arrived under the merciless sun, alighting from our air-conditioned coach at the apartment. Initially both of us were a little dismayed at the standard of the accommodation which was barely adequate and seemed far worse after a sleepless, hot, noisy and fitful night. Thankfully this was to change. We acquired air-conditioning and shut the outer doors during the next evening and had a much-needed rest. In the meantime we had begun to explore our new surroundings.

The small ‘developing’ resort of Perisso seemed rather empty. There were many tavernas with gaping spaces in the seating areas and one or two slightly exasperated owners at the doors exhorting passers by to come in ‘yes please’. ‘No thank you’ bade I. No matter we were here for the three r’s – rest, relaxation and reading. In fact Perissa we quickly established had a nice beach, albeit impossible to walk on in bare feet foot due to the black volcanic pebbles absorbing the day’s heat but beautiful nonetheless.

Both Mel and I being very happy to attempt whatever was available in gastronomic produce began to explore the menus of the various tavernas by night. In my case I was looking for the ‘fruits of the sea’ or in general anything that might happily wiggle out of a shell or own eight legs at some point of its evolution. What we did find was that many menus were very similar in content but that were was plenty of variety generally within that.

One of the sights that had become quickly familiar to us was that of stray cats and dogs on the island. You may at this point quite rightly ask what this has to do with eating out but please bear with me as I hope to make it worth your while. On our second taverna visit there was an animal incident more worthy than any of those silly clips that the public send in to those endless home video shows, no this was of Tom and Jerry proportions but infinitely funnier in real life rather than the usual animation. Tucking into our appetisers we noted yet another small but perfectly formed kitty sitting but two feet from our table in some expectancy of a little squid perhaps from some fellow diners. Suddenly from between the gingham-clothed table tops lurked a large but stealthy dog, a canine with great powers of patience – hell this pooch could have stalked buffalo for days. Moving ominously inch by inch within range of the cat’s rear end it waited and waited… Suddenly all hell let lose as a fellow doggy who the kitty had been keeping a nether eye on some yards let out a hoarse bark. At this command the stalker-dog bit the cat’s ass (I throw that expression in as it is my understanding that is a Canadian-ism – and a good one too if I might add) The cat leapt up in the air in a vertical take-off strategy that would have done a Harrier Jump-Jet proud and let out a loud REEE—OWWWW!!! Before scarpering amidst some bemusement and mirth from fellow revellers. We had almost seen our first kill in Santorini.

A little about the island
As you will note Santorini is of a somewhat distinct shape. The large area of sea you will view in the centre is actually the mouth of a volcano, the faint area of land just visible on this picture remains the active part of the volcano and this is habited, the last blow being in the 1800’s. Startling sunsets are available from particularly the east coast areas of Thira and Oia (at £4.50 per pint actually) to sit on a cliff side café and watch this daily slice of drama. In order to have a look around we hired a small jeep for the weekend. The jeep was an interesting vehicle – not least for the full seven inches of ‘play’ in the gear stick. Obviously this and the complete lack of any symptoms of a suspension system made for an authentic Greek journey, this was how I attempted to rationalise our temporary transport at least.

Of interest was the archaeological dig at Akrotiri. The large village made out of mud blocks and dating back to 1500 BC had only comparatively recently been exhumed from the ashes of two huge eruptions by the island’s volcano and is at this time having a roof built over it to protect its precious secrets from the elements. Some say this settlement may even be the lost village of Atlantis, it’s not for me to say but what I can state with confidence is that Akrotiri is a fascinating and absorbing visit and not to be missed if travelling in this part of the world.

akrotiri

Unveiling the past – Akrotiri

The ancient capital of Thira was our next destination. Here we could view the lost tribes of Gucci and Prahda dwellers in their natural habitat through the grid of small, thronging streets. I fought off an infinitesimal desire to purchase a flowing white cheesecloth creation a la Demis Roussos and soldiered on through the hot streets of Thira, silver mining with Mel. Please lord I never want to see another jewellery shop ever again.

After the obligatory sunset view we chose a restaurant as even my powers of patience were now being tested by the tempting thought of battering to death the next taverna owner with a pork kebab skewer due to their ahem, ‘persuasive’ tactics of asking you into their restaurants. ‘A very large Amstel draft’ I heard myself ask in some desperation before scouring the laminated menu for further wiggly things. All was well ultimately. Nourished by more fish than a seal could gorge in a week and washed down by copious amounts of Dutch lager I entered the throng yet again with my partner. Suddenly matters became all too much. I spotted the Irish pub I had eyed jealously earlier and bade Mel a fond farewell in her ceaseless quest for more silver. You could tell the pub was Irish as there was an old U2 video playing on the big screen and a picture of a Jack Daniels on the wall? My slight concerns were put to one side as the diminutive American waitress swooshed over to me as if on small casters, ‘what will it be sir?’ Fighting off the urge to ask for a crocodile sandwich – and make it snappy, I ordered a large Irish stout or beer as our American friends cutely like to misname it. The girl on casters came back in an unseemly short period of time carrying a frothing pint with a shamrock inscribed on top and, blessing good old Ireland, I found myself at peace with the world again – particularly American waitresses, or any waitresses in fact.

sunset

Sunset from Thira

The rest of the evening did not pass without incident. After a ride home in the jeep with square wheels (or so it seemed) we arrived at the apartment, an entrance that would be accompanied by one of those many random squeals and yelps that Mel often elicits and which I obviously studiously ignore as they would engender me having to ‘do something’. On this occasion it was a cockroach that had taken a liking to our accommodation – hell it probably lived there a long time before us I thought as I went to acquire a broom in my underpants, (NB the broom was in the hall not my underpants I hasten to add) As I went for the sucker using all my wasp fighting skills acquired as a boy growing up in the UK I recalled a friend in Atlanta’s excellent description of the cockroach as a ‘flying armour plated filth machine’ how memorable was that almost Shakespearian phrase I thought as I gave the creature a further sock with the broom.

The roads in Santorini are interesting, some day they may even have cars on them. Easily the single most annoying thing on the island (apart from the taverna owners naturally) were the motor cyclists and scooter-ists. In my dreams and at the height of my annoyance I thought of rigging up cheese wires across the expanse of the road outside the apartment and ensnaring the island’s youth in this manner. Instead however I consoled myself with the fact that these youngsters had very little chance of gaining sexual intercourse on an evening by owning such modes of transport. Ha! One up to the sports cars, suckers.

Sadly and inexorably our holiday came to end as they all do, unfortunately it was something of an exasperating end due to a six hour delay and no Euros left (a rather unfortunate combination it has to be said) I consoled myself with a nice warm Dutch lager on the plane however.

Goodbye Santorini you were interesting while you lasted. A further recommendation for other future travellers would be to look up the nearby resort to Perissa of Kamari which looked exceedingly attractive upon inspection, though I would not deter anyone from Perissa and its value for money and spacious beach.

Further Santorini information:

http://www.greektravel.com/greekislands/santorini/

http://www.santorini.net/home.html

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September 3, 2007 - Posted by | On The Road

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