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Sick on Santorini - Day 1

In which I fight a raging cold on the gorgeous Mediterranean Greek island of Santorini

Well, what a pleasant surprise. I arrived at my Santorini hotel in Fira (that's the main town) to find that, not only do I had a private, 20-foot-long whitewashed terrace opening off my large, cool room onto stunning cliff-edge views across the emerald waters of the caldera, but I also have a direct-dial phone (unexpected, that).

So that you can feel fully jealous, I should explain that the caldera is a sort of bay or small sea formed 3.5 millennia ago when the round volcanic island of Strongoyle exploded and its center sunk into the Aegean, leaving just (1) this crescent off an island called Stromboli, which was once the volcanic rim, (2) a smaller crescent across the water that used to be the other side of the rim, and (3) two newer small islands in the middle that have welled up from the magma underneath over the past 2000 years.

I am also feeling superior in that Santorini is notorious for its caldera-view hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night in high season (which would be now). I'm paying just $40 a night — and it's a double room, meaning it's normally actually a fantastic deal, since that is the rate for two people (alas and alack, no singles discount in high season).

The room also has firm beds, fuzzy towels, and a mid-size fridge (not a minibar) that I've already provisioned with yogurt, honey, apples, water, Coke, and two bananas (I've been getting my scurvy leg cramps again — though I must admit, the one that woke me up in Edinburgh the other day was the only thing that saved me from missing my 6:30 a.m. train to Inverness, as I had already turned off the alarm fifteen minutes earlier and accidentally drifted back to sleep).

The lady who runs this perfect little inn couldn't be nicer, and I respect her for sticking firmly to her native language on an island that adopts English as it first language in summer, even if it did make it devilishly difficult to check in with my sub-basic Greek.

The funny thing is, putting my meager provisions away in the fridge made me instantly feel ten times more at home than I ever do at a hotel (sneaking my "illegally imported" Coca-Cola into a hotel minibar next to their overpriced but diminutive cans doesn't have this same effect). From that moment, on the most touristy of the Greek islands, I have felt significantly less like a tourist and more like a temporary resident. It's funny how the dumbest little thing can change your whole perception.

In short, this beautiful spot is one of those places that actually lives up to all the hype. Also, since I have a further three, full days here, I get to take a bit of a vacation, which I've needed since I've spent four of the past five months on the road, and need especially now since my sore throat is getting worse and I think I'm getting the sniffles.

I have already figured out how to see the island: two mornings each spent at the two main ruined cities, the third morning walking to the village at the tip of the island, and the afternoons spent napping off this cold and getting work done.

I went out onto my terrace at the beginnings of sunset with my knife, the apple, and the yogurt, and had a delicious snack while the red orb slunk its way down toward the other side of the caldera. From the sugar-cube sweep of whitewashed Fira stretching off to my right, I watched as an increasing number of tiny, winking lightnings emanated from the hundred of terraces and balconies of cafes, restaurants, bars, and other hotels as visitors took flash pictures of the sunset.

The apple ran out before the yogurt did, so I ducked back inside to get my little squeeze packet of Greek honey, squooze a thick stream of it into the remaining yogurt, stirred it around with my knife, and licked my Food of the Gods off the blade as Apollo finally boiled into the sea, sending his vermilion, mandarin, and saffron fireworks flaring across the pale blue of the sky for a few glorious moments before the deep blue-black cloak of Hecate came arcing over the sky like a wave from behind me, rushing down to cut off the fireworks and tuck itself into the opposite horizon, plunging Santorini into night.

This was the cue for the disco beats to start competing with one another and echoing across the cliff side as I popped another Halls into my mouth, ignored the vague din, and pulled a rough cotton sheet over me to try and sleep off this annoying little cold.

On to "Sick on Santorini: Day 2" »


Intrepid Travel

This article was last updated in July 1999. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2010 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.