Our honeymoon has been an interesting sampler of some of the many ways to travel, from the full package/bed and board/tour guides and transport, to the let’s-just-go-there-and-see-what-happens style. For this next adventure, we were committing ourselves to 10 days of a very unique blend of these two extremes. On the one hand, we knew where we’d be sleeping every night. On the other hand, everything else would be determined by the wind, weather, and other factors.
We met our sailboat: the Eva Maria; captain: André, from The Azores (Portugal); and two of our fellow travelers: Paul and his daughter, Andrea, from Canada. Already, though, there was a change in plans. Due to a misprint in the tour information, three of our fellow sailors wouldn’t be arriving until evening, which meant we’d be staying in port and leaving in the morning.
No sooner had we arranged to rent a car to do some sight seeing, and dropped our bags in our berths, than we learned that Rowena, from Australia, and Ying (Tina) and Xin, from China, had arrived! We could sail today after all—or not, as there wasn’t much wind. La-di-dah, stay, go, who cares? It’s pretty here, it’ll be pretty at the next stop, there’s plenty to see. But, eager to get going, we opted to leave in the afternoon.
That’s how it was for the next 9 days: when there was enough wind, we sailed toward whichever island we thought we could reach while it lasted; when there was too much wind, we stayed put; when there was no wind, we motored to the next harbor or windy spot. It was glorious! Every island had its own special beauty. I gave up trying to remember where we were, or where we were going, because it changed so much. And really, what did it matter? Where were we? Some Greek island. Where were we going? Some other Greek island. They were all wonderful, the food was fabulous, the people were so friendly and kind, and the journey itself was the main event.
We all got to try our hand at sailing. The Eva Maria was equipped with modern navigation aids, and André did his best to teach us how to use them. Once we had achieved a good trim with the sails, it was very helpful to use the compass and wind gauge to maintain a good heading.
As we were heading out to the next island (Naxos, I think) one morning, André decided it was time for Xin to take a turn at the helm, although she was reluctant. The wind was good, though not optimal for our destination; we would have to do some tacking, and the trip would take about 6 hours. Xin was eager to get to town, however. Why not aim the boat in the “right” direction and get there in two hours? This whole business of zigzagging around the Mediterranean was inefficient! André patiently explained the physics of sailing and exhorted Xing to stay on the designated compass heading. Then he ducked below to check the charts, to make sure there weren’t any rocks or other hazards in our path.
Well, apparently Xin was not convinced by André’s explanation, because a minute later she was steering a direct course for the island in the distance, and we were gibing! This is not a good thing to do in a brisk wind! Fortunately, no one fell overboard and André got us back on course. We took turns at the helm and kept our eyes on that compass.
We spent a couple of days at Naxos. André led us on a sight seeing trip that included an ancient church, a tour of a local distillery, a visit to some Classical ruins, and a stop at an ancient quarry to see a colossal, monolithic, recumbent statue that had cracked as the ancient stone carvers attempted to move it.
One evening we dropped anchor at a secluded beach, where we cooked dinner over an open fire and played music afterward. In the morning, we searched the cove for the remains of a WWII aircraft that had crashed in the water there, but didn’t find it.
Our trip ended where we began, on Santorini (Thira). After bidding farewell to our crew and captain, Karel and I drove to Akrotiri, an excavation site of a city dating from the Minoan era — that is, very old, Early Bronze Age, pre-Classical Greece. This fascinating culture was matrilineal, worshipped a goddess (served primarily by priestesses), and gave equal status to women. There is no evidence of war during this era, although there were minor disputes and battles, and there is evidence of human sacrifice. They appear to have been very prosperous, with plenty of time for art, music, and athletics. A modern, climate-controlled structure has been built over the entire site, to help preserve it, although excavation work there has stopped due to lack of funding. Almost all of the artifacts and murals found there so far have been moved to museums, leaving a maze of walls and steps that formed two- and three-story buildings with lightwells, indoor plumbing (equipped with incense burners), and other urban advancements.
Akrotiri was buried in one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever to have occurred on Earth. When the supervolcano was finished, the nearby mountain had been replaced by a huge caldera filled with sea water. The volcano is still active; there’s a steaming, sulfurous plug gradually pushing up above the water in the caldera. No human remains from the event were found at Akrotiri, which remained fairly intact, but buried in ash. It’s possible that the people fled to the nearby seashore and attempted to escape by boat, only to be swept away by a tsunami that was known to have taken place during the eruption. Perhaps some did escape, and made it to other cities on the nearby islands.
I really wanted to see the artwork, tools, and other artifacts that had been removed from the site, so we headed to the city of Fira (also called Thira) to find the museums. The directions were confusing, though, partly because there are private galleries masquerading as museums, and partly because it’s hard to distinguish, on google maps, between the many pedestrian streets and the ones you can drive on. We found four museums / galleries / semi-public collections, but all of them were closed for various reasons. Disappointing! But, never mind, Fira was fantastic with all its white stucco buildings spilling over either side of the volcano’s rim. I wandered through art galleries and souvenir shops while Karel relaxed over coffee.
The shops carried some excellent contemporary art, but also many replicas of objets d’art from the Classical era, and I was stunned by how very modern, playful, and spirited they are. I could see echoes of the Minoan style (thousands of years older), and it seems to me that the contemporary art was also informed by these ancient masters.
We decided to cap off the day, and our Greek Island adventure, by watching the sun set over the caldera from the cliffs of Oia. It was lovely, but crowded with hundreds and hundreds of tourists on the terraces and walkways. As we turned to leave, there was André, our captain! It’s always amazing to me that our paths would cross those of people we befriended elsewhere. Sure, we were on an island and visiting popular sights, but among the scores of possibilities, times, and places, in a crowd of hundreds or maybe thousands of people, we still managed to practically crash into each other.
What to make of this????? The world is very big, but sometimes it is so small, so intimate and personal. As we move through it, it’s as though we unknowingly exert a mysterious, magnetic effect, pulling at people and experiences we’ve encountered before. No matter where our adventures take us, these little synchronicities are like compass checks, reminding us that the world can be a friendly, familiar place.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013