It all started in the middle of August when my friend Nikos Yovanidis, owner of ENAK (Hellenic Shipwreck Academy) invited me to the island to listen live to the saxophonist Jimmy Sax. At the same time, I would have the opportunity to meet the best of his team and get a taste of what the life of a lifeguard in Santorini is like. So on September 11th, after work I left straight for Athens by bus, took the 23:40 flight and within just half an hour I was seeing the brightly lit island from above. There I was greeted by my host. We did a quick tour of the center of Fira and had a beer at “KOO CLUB” listening to very good music from the decks. I soon went to bed because there was going to be a long tour in the next few days. My room was in “Villa Mare Angelica”, a really comfortable room, with a sitting area, a fully equipped mini bar, two TVs (which I never used), fresh towels every day and a stone’s throw from the sea!
The next morning when I left the room I immediately saw the blue of the Aegean. I realized that I was at Perivolos beach, known for its many beach bars where from time to time various DJs appear playing dance music. The beach is located 3 km southeast of Fira and access to it is very easy. The coast is covered with soft black sand and the sea waters are crystal clear. Due to its orientation, it is not affected by the northerly winds that can cause high waves on other beaches of the island.
I immediately identified the details of E.N.AK in the area. The boat and the white tower, from which I later learned that Stefania, a sweet and beautiful lifeguard, was overseeing the deep waters. The restaurant “En Lefko” with its beautiful tables and linen shades was the perfect choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the lifeguards of the group and therefore also for me. And it was right next to my hotel!
Soon my host arrived and the tour began! For breakfast that day we went to Firostefani, but before we sat down in the shop I walked through the narrow streets and started taking the first enthusiastic photos! Small details in the shops, the people, the view, as I wandered more and more something won the click of the camera. I sat and looked at Oia from afar, Palia and Nea Kameni, the islands left in the center of Santorini after the Minoan eruption of the volcano….
Then we enjoyed our delicious breakfast at the excellent hotel and cafe “GALINI”, overlooking the caldera of Santorini. I preferred the plate with slices of bread with almond butter and fruit, a glass of natural juice, hot tea and water from the Carpathian mountains. Although the season was coming to an end, there were many people and the shop was full.
After a quick walk in Fira, something unexpected happened. In an improvisation, Nikos decided to do something that he had been aiming for for some time. We visited the “CANAVA” winery and museum. Canaves are enclosed spaces used for wineries and wine storage, in the past mainly in captains’ houses in Santorini. CANAVA SANTORINI was founded in 1974 with special care by Evangelos Lygnos. Today his son Loukas Lygnos produces the spirits with the same recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation and are still used today.
We basically toured the cellars of the winery and then went down to a museum, which was like a 1:1 scale model of what the houses and various shops looked like back in the day. It looked like a movie set, the smallest detail was there and I thought that soon actors will come out from the various corners. There were also black and white photographs of everyday life in Santorini in the middle of the last century. The “Waltz of Lost Dreams” by Manos Hatzidakis was playing from the museum’s speakers. The place relaxed me and I felt a sweet nostalgia.
Artemis Thalassini, an artist who sings and writes poetry, gave us a tour. She herself did us the favor of singing during the tour with her lovely soft voice. At the end of our tour, it was time for the tasting! We tried tsikoudia, ouzo and prickly pear liqueur and coffee which I loved! I wanted to buy a few bottles, but they wouldn’t fit in the backpack I had come to the island with, nor would I be able to get them through the airport. But I hope at some point to taste them again.
Our next destination was Megalochori, specifically the coffee shop of Irini for a Greek coffee and homemade lemonade with ginger. A quiet place, simple, “the neighborhood cafe” on the central cobbled street of the village. The place had a unique decoration. Various antiques, fruits, vegetables and electrical appliances, dishes in display cases and various others created an explosion of colors and compositions.
Next Nikos wanted to introduce me to Stelios, an amazing master leather worker who runs a special shop in the center of the village.
Entering the shop meditative sounds from Indian musical instruments could be heard on the speakers, climbing lusts ran through the entire shop and Stelios was back in his workshop. When I saw him we immediately struck up a conversation about spiritual quest and art… I got a card from him because even though he uses animal skins, if I ever buy a leather apron for my own business, silversmithing, I would want it made by him . See you again Stelios!
After this short break it was time for some fun but combined with knowledge and exploration. We visited the lost Atlantis museum. Yes indeed, you may not have heard it, but it is now commonly accepted by a large portion of the scientific community, that the lost Atlantis, of which we find references only from Plato, is the ancient city of Santorini! The entire geomorphological picture of the island before the eruption of the volcano and the ruins of the city, which is preserved in very good condition, testify to this!
In the state-of-the-art museum we watched a short film about this ancient civilization and its destruction by the Minoan eruption of the volcano. Only this movie was in 3D projection, the chairs moved and water was thrown at us in small doses, in an attempt to give the visitor a more intense experience, as if they were there at the moment of the explosion. The museum is ideal for children as well as adults. I recommend you visit it if you are interested in learning the secrets of Atlantis through the writings of Plato!
After this fun part of the day it was getting late… it was time for swimming. Of course, I didn’t know exactly where we were going, but soon the whole plan-surprise came suddenly in front of me! We arrived at the Vlychada marina and took the nine-meter rescue boat, so that if a rescue incident occurs we will be ready.
After we left the harbor and I said to sit down and enjoy the boating, the captain asked me to take the wheel!!! I would drive a boat for the first time! The controls were in his hands of course, but the steering wheel was my responsibility. Adrenaline was running high. We went out to sea, there I realized that there will be other boats in the water and that I have a great responsibility. However, I didn’t really worry for a moment because I followed the expert’s instructions, in cases where I had to avoid something. Offshore there was a wave and I was struggling to control the weight of the boat, using all the strength of my body. But the truth is, I enjoyed it. Nikos followed the method where the teacher throws the student directly into the sea to learn to swim.
We crossed the entire southern brow of Santorini from the side of the Cretan sea and entered the caldera in the direction of the volcano! It was there that I began to understand where we were going. We passed between Palaia and Nea Kameni, two islands with strongly embossed cooled lava, and stopped at the hot springs of Nea Kameni. They were what I had heard of as hot springs. Immediately he began to smell strongly of the sulfur rising through the sea due to the activeness of the volcano. I dived into the water and unfortunately I also submerged my head. I smelled sulfur for days afterwards, not a very pleasant smell. Be careful if you ever go, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the mud there is good for the skin. If you still want to have a strong memory of the place, go for it! The water was very hot and ashes danced among us. It is something unique and those who visit Santorini deserve to go there for swimming.
On the way back another surprise awaited me. At first I drove again, but there was a stronger wave and I got wet all over. In an instant the horizon disappeared and a large amount of water entered the boat. That’s the truth, I was a little scared, but Nikos was calm and quickly settled the matter by taking the water out of the boat. Images from movies of sailors fighting the waves came to mind. What a difficult profession… Of course these waves for an experienced sailor might be a piece of cake, but for me it was a challenge.
After a while and as the sun got closer to the horizon I stopped driving and enjoyed the ride. The blue was otherworldly, the boats now chartered by tourists lined up across the west. All for the tourists to enjoy the sunset. The sun was beginning to touch the sea and I watched the bright colors change from yellow to orange to deep fuchsia. The fuchsia was reflected in the water, it wasn’t an illusion. The effect was so intense that the colors looked psychedelic. I had my eyes fixed there. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I did not believe that the sunset in Santorini is really so unique!
Soon and as the sun was disappearing over the horizon, we turned and entered the marina first to avoid the incredible crowd that would follow. Then we enjoyed a cold beer at Kamari and specifically at the “Ethnic Cocktail Bar” with live country music, the best choice to close the day. Now I was looking forward to the next day, without any doubt that more surprises awaited me, after all I was on the most beautiful island in the world in the company of the most hospitable host.
Stay tuned because in a few days the second part of my vacation will be up! Until then, many friendships!