Athens to Santorini

June 17, 2007


The huge semi-truck lumbered wearily straight up the precarious cliff, pausing at each switchback to be able to make the sharp turn, while mopeds and small cars took advantage and recklessly passed on the inside barely squeaking by and avoiding an accident by sheer luck on this narrow, dangerous road. I held my breath and prayed as we climbed higher and higher right behind the truck in our older RV, trying to silently talk myself out of my vertigo and fear of the truck or our motor home stalling or sliding backwards and into the ocean below.

Now we know why not too many bring a motor home to Santorini as we were not expecting this and it caught us by surprise, but there was nothing to do but go. We had seen the switch back road from our ferry as we entered as it is hard to miss, etched into the volcanic rock like multi Zorro signs, but little did we know that it was the only way up by vehicle from the ferry port. Even DaVinci who has no vertigo and takes most things calmly, seemed a little unsettled.

We live near Big Sur and have been on our share of curvy, cliff hanging roads, but this one really takes the cake and the busses often have a hard time maneuvering on it and crazy drivers (without seat belts) add to the drama. There are no “safe” ways to get to and from the port and the towns at the top, but some how most do make it safely. I have read that there are six hundred stairs at another switchback up as well as cable car and donkey rides up, but they sound even less appealing to me and would not do much for our RV.

Santorini is a unique and wonderful port to arrive by boat, since the island is built on the crater (caldera) of a volcano that erupted 4000 years ago and sunk most of the island which then filled with water. One can see the main villages like sugar cubes built one on top of another once close and  that make the mountain top look like it is snow capped from a distance. Some say it is the lost Atlantis and it is called the “Minoan Pompey”.

The views are spectacular and I even managed to take some pictures while we climbed the switch back because they were just too awesome to resist. The startling beauty actually helped distract me from my fear. During our month in Santorini we went up and down this road a few times, but it and the wild Greek drivers continue to be my least favorite part of this wonderful island. I think the fast driving cab drivers and mini bus without seat belts rides were worst than the motor home arrival.

We took a slow ferry that left Perius (Athens port) and it took seven hours to get to Santorini stopping at Paros, Naxos and Ios on the way. It was fairly easy finding the port near Athens and getting on, now that we have the experience with such things. I can tell you that ferry’s are a lot more fun when you have a cabin, but since it was in the day and our vehicle added significant cost, we went the economy passenger route which is similar to business class seating on a plane (only not as crowded). It was not quite as cushy as our bigger ferries and we really missed the privacy of our cabin hideaway that made the other ferries more fun.

Still Mozart managed to have fun and there was good wifi on the ferry so we got some work done. There was a Greek woman sitting near us from Athens with two girls around Mozart’s age and soon the kids were fast friends playing away for the rest of the trip despite having no languages in common. They were going to visit their father who was shooting a movie on Santorini and I found it cute that Mozart would often switch to Spanish in their playing as if that might help with the Greek.

Santorini is filled with tourists as it is a cruise ship stop, but the unique and breathtaking views make up for that and when you find places away from the summer day crowds, it is really special and peaceful. Even the  packed main towns of Fira and Oia have their charm.

We quickly understood why so many people fall in love with the enchantment of Santorini and why it is one of the most favored Greek Islands. A dear friend from Sweden told me long ago that I must see this island, so it has been on my “must see” list for some time.











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