The Magic of Santorini

Since leaving Santorini I've been to Paris, Amsterdam, and now Copenhagen.  In that time I've struggled with how to recap my time in Santorini.  Usually the words come to me in creative ways for describing the adventure.  This time it didn't.  It is only now that I realize why (of course this moment of realization comes when I'm in a quirky coffee shop called The Laundromat Cafe in Copenhagen that allows me to get caught up on laundry, eat a full meal, and drink a Spanish Coffee - more on this adventure later).  My 10 days in Santorini changed my life forever in ways that are so deep and personal that words aren't available to describe the experience.  Nor am I ready to share just how deep that journey was for me.  If you are to see the paintings and sketches in my Santorini Art Diary you would see what took place.  (There are roughly 25 paintings to view.)  Many questions about what's next in my life (and what would have been) were answered during this time.  The artist that was discovered within me two and a half years ago in Kauai finally decided to stay as a permanent part of me instead of staying locked up.  It is also the place where my six week odyssey through Greece came to an end.  All very overwhelming.

Some of the highlights of Santorini were visiting Santorini Mou, being introduced to local business owners in Oia, attending the all night Panagia Matrona festival only known about by locals, watching sunsets/sun-rises, the amazing views of the island everywhere we went, and swimming in the hot springs.

Santorini Mou is a taverna located in Oia/Finikia.  If you are planning a trip to Santorini this is a must see place!  Here is why: Mihalis Hiona and the sign walking into the place says, "Thank you for your smile."  Mihalis is a retired Greek Navy guy that has traveled the world and loves to make music.  If that isn't cool enough maybe this will increase the cool factor - he hangs out with the guys of Green Day during the winters in San Fransisco jamming together for the last 13 years.  Cool, huh?  We were there for the closing night of the taverna for the season.  It was the party highlight for the locals.  The music (singing and playing done by Mihalis and two of his local buddies), dancing, food, drink, and local talent show was something to remember!  One woman, Maria did a dance with a glass of wine on her head.  Would you believe she didn't spill one single drop of wine the entire dance?  Only to finish the dance by slamming the whole drink!  Never saw anything like it!!  I did Greek dancing to my heart's content that night and made quite a few local friends.  I don't remember smiling so much in my life.  The place has that affect on you.  Try it and see for yourself.  Dare you!

Our workshop leader Linda has been visiting this place for 15 years.  She is kind of like a celebrity among the locals.  She went out of her way to introduce us to the business owners of Oia.  That later proved to be a benefit.  It allowed you to feel like a local.  With the very high number of cruise ship tourists visiting the island during travel season (roughly 7-10 cruise ships a day visit the island) the local business workers/owners crave friendly faces/smiles and simple conversation.  When they are bombarded with cruise ship tourists they look for the familiar face in the crowd for a smile to get through the day.  Since I always had a HUGE smile on my face I was always welcomed everywhere I went.  Never did I have to pay for coffee in the morning because of my smile and blue eyes (there is folklore about blue eyes keeping the evil spirits away in Greece).

At one point the weather took a turn for the worse.  It rained for two days! (I know, feel bad for me - two whole days of rain.)  The cruise ship people were given umbrellas to explore the island.  Being taller than most people I can't tell you how many times I was hit in the face with an open umbrella.  It got really annoying quickly!  I stepped into a cafe where I knew the worker and asked, "When do these tourists leave? Ugh!!"  Yes, this is a bit pot-calling-the-kettle-black, but at that moment this tourist felt like a local and wanted the other tourists to leave.  At the very least the umbrellas taken away from them!  (If you had been hit by open umbrellas more than 20 times in less than a 30 minute span you would have asked the question the same way.)  The response to my question was, "Come.  Sit.  Have a coffee.  They will leave soon enough." and delivered with a smile to always remember.  Great conversation followed.

Sun-rises/sunsets are something I could go on about for hours.  There will be pictures to follow soon.  My hotel was right next to the Oia Castle.  Imagine watching the sunset over the caldera every night from the comfort of your terrace.  Not having to worry about the crowds ever.  Or running up a flight of steps to the castle before the morning crowds showed up for the sun-rise... moments to remember.

Then of course there was the Panagia Matrona festival.  A perk of being treated like a local was the knowledge of this festival.  It is an all night Greek Orthodox church festival in Finikia/Oia.  The best way to describe it... think Renaissance Festival.  The music was so much fun!  I danced until my feet hurt!  That was about the point where we decided to head back to the hotel (2am).  All of us enjoying the whole experience.  We were Greek that night!  Opa!!

One day was spent touring the island.  There is so much to see here.  Our original objective of touring the island was to do 15 minute sketches everywhere we went.  In the end we did a few sketches and took pictures of what we were seeing.  The day was ended with the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life.  We sat in awe of the experience.  We were in clock tower of Pirgos as it was setting.  While we drove back to the hotel there was an spectacular color display against the evening sky of reds and oranges.  Everything up to the horizon line was black from the bottom view.  Then there were the reds and oranges blending into the black evening sky.  Never saw anything like it!  My pictures do not do it justice.

Ahh.... then there was the day on the sea.  Our group was given a tour of the different views of the caldera by way of sailing.  Yes, I was given the helm once again to do the job of sailing in the caldera waters.  Under the cliffs of Oia are small churches, villages, and docking ports.  We did end up sailing to the volcanic hot springs.  This was one of my favorite days of the trip.  Again, I don't remember a time when I laughed, smiled, and played so much in one whole day.  Can you imagine all the beauty taken in by sailing the waters, splashing around in hot springs, having a mud fight with your friends, eating at a taverna on another island, sketching what you feel, then ending the day by watching the evening sky?  (I was able to see the milky way and counted three shooting stars that night.)  This was heaven to me.

I miss Greece just writing a recap about it now.  My last day on the island came so quickly.  It was time to say not only goodbye to all the wonderful people I met in Santorini, but to Greece as a whole.  I can honestly say leaving Greece was in the top five hardest things I've ever had to do in my life.  It felt so much like home to me.  I know sometime in the future I'll go back to spend another big chunk of time there again.  When that will be I'm not sure yet.

Quite the array of feelings, experiences and discoveries came out of Santorini.  Time will tell how Greece changed my course in life.  All I know is it changed in a good way.  A way that made my life bigger and fuller than I could have ever imagined.  One day I'll publish my Santorini Art Diary.  Until then, enjoy my recap.