Just Say It!

There are days when you just have to say "yes". Over and over again. On any occasion. Because you are a tourist, after all a stranger. Not stranded on this island, but in a similar situation. You are going to spend your time here. And then you leave. And why not make the best out of it, I mean for everybody?

And so it happens that an old man calls out to get your attention. And he gets it. You stop your car and answer his question of "how are you?" With "great!". And all that in Greek, I mean that much you have learned on your last travels. You cross the dusty road to step in front of this little roadside shop, just a little place with a terrace, the must-have donkey that waits patiently under a straw umbrella and the cut open tomatoes that are drying on blue stands in the sizzling Santorini sun. The old man keeps talking and talking to you and offers some home made meatballs that taste spicy and delicious. His daughter appears from the dark inside room, balancing a small tray of assorted local products in her hands. "That is for you! Enjoy!" 

You are not surprised. You say: Yes. And then settle on the terrace to taste the home made tomato and olive paste, pickled caper leaves, double baked bread, some dried figs in honey, marmalade, olives and dried tomatoes. And and and...

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This is the little shop where the owners have a big heart.

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How can you answer that generosity? You shop there, with a smile on your face.

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Happy and sated, there is only one thing to do now: Drive to a wine tasting. You take the long road to the Gaia Wine Estates, situated at the coastline pointing to the East. In an open room with the beach in view we taste our way through the 2013 vintage and achievements with the local Assyrtiko grape. And we even have some artistic moments to play with the light and an excellent Vinsanto (vintage 2004).

 

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Lined up for a check with your palate, the Gaia wines...

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What a perfect way to end the day that began with the visit of the Santorini Arts Factory. In the abandoned tomato paste factory, you fell in love with picture of, you have guessed it, tomatoes. That is just what happens when you say yes.

 

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The Sun - the Sun!

It comes from above and it is for free. The sun. The island of Santorini is kissed by it. Over and over again. And you can't help but make it the centerpiece of almost every picture you take.
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Going down or standing up...

 

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Reflected on the water surface or over shining everything...

 

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Overpowering with beauty and showering everybody with the right light.

 

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Always the Same and Always New

Don't you want to experience something new and want that to be exactly the same as the day, month, year before? Are you disappointed when it is different, when it has changed, when it is not what you expected? What happens when it is new, the first time, the first encounter, but you feel that it is going to be great?

Somehow it has to be different, but known, just slightly off center. Like your favorite drink, the one you just love to taste with every single sip, brand new and refreshing, but please, the same as last time, the one you remember?

So, what is it that lets us want to re-experience the known? 

I guess it is the complexity, the taste, the feeling, the unique moment that wants us to fall in love once more. And who doesn't want to repeat that? 

I want to . I need to. Don't you? 

And Oia is exactly the place where all this is multiplied when you stand on the plaza in front of the church at four o'clock in the morning. Like the Assyrtiko wine that encapsulates all "sensations" of this island, you breathe the salty air of the night wind, the jasmine smell of the gardens, the earthy taste of the volcanic soil. You gather at the distant lights of Fira and Imergovigli and take another deep breath. You have arrived in Oia.

The view from the plaza overlooking Oia and the Santorini Caldera.

The view from the plaza overlooking Oia and the Santorini Caldera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfume of Crete

What do you smell when the odor is constantly around you? Nothing? No difference? Your nose picks up the same scent and cannot recognize it any more? Well, I think that is what happens with you on Crete. So, to desensitize your olfactory system, follow the steps of this little experiment: Close the windows of your car, switch on the air condition and drive for a couple of kilometers. Stop at the side of the road where the hillside and the breeze brings the smells to you, preferably in the morning or the early evening. Open the car door, wait! Now, breathe in through your nostrils. Smell that? Yes, you do. A symphony of rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, jasmine, salvia and maybe a bit of goat droplets to make it authentic. Go on breathing and enjoy the sensation, the perfume of Crete. Repeat.

You'll be addicted like we are. Addicted to the smells of Crete, you may ask? How come? How does it show? This way...

Once you have recognized and distinguished the various herbs you tend to touch them, rub your hands on rosemary, cuddle with the amazing bushes of basil that homeowners keep in big pots. On open markets you pick up small bundles of herbs, press them against you nose and breathe in as if your life depends on it. Then you see it everywhere and anywhere, the mint that is grown in front of cocktails bars to provide the most important ingredient for the Mojito. Thyme plants in the backyard of restaurants to get the recipe for the goat cutlets in honey and thyme just right. You walk the narrow streets of Rethymno and stop at the smell of a jasmine bush, pick the flowers to hold them against your nose and walk on, like pure oxygen you feel uplifted, happy, remembering moments in your life that were filled with divinity. When you work your way up the herbal scent ladder, flowers become irresistible. Ignore the people chuckling when they see you heads down in the flower beds, smelling every blossom like a hungry bee. Don't think about it. Keep humming the melody of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" and enjoy the perfume of Crete.


A different kind of basil that grows in bushes and has purple blossoms, not white.

The abandoned Venetian Castle

In Oia, the most beautiful village on Santorini I observed a Japanese tourist that was following her flock, snapping away pictures with her smartphone camera, but dared to stop for anything to find a better angle, a better perspective to achieve a better composition. Instead she just made sure she still found her group that hurried in the same pace. Was this the way to travel? To shoot some great pictures?

What we have learned in the "art of slow motion" we tried to apply here: Just a few steps, a few turns, a few stumbled paces on the E4 Pan-European Footpath and you walk past a ruin, the old Venetian Castle that most hikers just glance at, then set their eyes back on the path, trying to avoid the goat shit, rubble and other unpleasant surprises on the way to Finix and beyond. Even that late afternoon, the heat is just oppressing. We walk through the opening of a wall of stones and approach the tower and the main building of the Venetian Castle. The outer walls still stand, but inside is just rubble and stones. Two goats cross our path. And all the others roaming around are always keeping a watchful eye on us. The cicadas are chirping. No wind. Just the low afternoon sun. Heat. Dust. So, this is what we found...

This I how you see the castle the first time.

With the low standing sun in our backs...

Goats do roam...

One of the dried logs.

The watchful eyes of the goats...

The inside of the side building.

Wondering what this circle is used for? So did we.

The inside.

The staircase.

What is the Plural of Octopus? - Octopussies?

Great question and excellent timing. We are sitting in the Blue House Restaurant and start forking our way through a Greek Salad, filled wine leaves, fried zucchini flowers filled with cheese, mixed vegetables of spinach, eggplant and zucchini, stuffed tomato, Tzatziki and grilled Octopus. Another day behind us that is quite memorable and in a strange way exhausting...

Taking the boat to Agia Roumeli in the early afternoon we come to admire the coastline further West. The majestic White Mountains, steep cliffs, straits of rocks making their way down to the water that has the amazing color of a deep violet ink with touches of dark green. The landscape is barren, rock piles in all shades of grey, then in amber and almost orange colors. Suddenly the coastline changes character into a light green of a forrest clinging to the cliffs. We are reaching Agia Roumeli, the end point of the Samaria Gorge, the Mekka of all tourists visiting Crete, the mother of hikes. Shunned and ignored by us for years. We have finally arrived, only from the wrong direction, the end point. To make the 18 kilometer walk through the Samaria Gorge you have to start early with a bus trip to Omalos and then start a descent from 1000 meters stretched over 16 kilometers down to sea level, with the last 2 kilometers on a plain concrete road. And this is what we do, walk the 2 kilometers to the gate where the people make their arrival pictures with gestures of accomplishment. The marchers heading our way are somewhat quiet, have taken off most of their clothes on the way down, sunburnt, unable to say a word, maybe had arguments with their spouse and kids, but given up on it to save energy. It is hot, but beautiful here. The gorge is narrowing down, streams of rocks have made their way down the hillsides, taking everything standing in their way with them. Bust mostly there is green, with trees growing at an almost impossible angle. 

Stress calls of 2 goats are grabbing our attention, and so we search the vertical stone wall, thinking, there can't be a goat getting a grip on that, but there they are, munching at the few bushes. Incredible. Exhausted walkers are taking a bus to Agia Roumeli and the boat. I shout "cheaters!", because what are those meters to an accomplished hiker? The father of a German family has a point here when he says "two people with the bus, that is one beer!" and decides to keep the money for something cool and refreshing at arrival. We keep walking on, passing abandoned buildings, half destroyed bridges that stand in the middle of the dried out riverbed, a graveyard and smelly goat farms. It is so hot, even with the wind coming over the mountains. I have to stop every 5 minutes to get a sip of water. 

We rest at the arrival hut of the gorge. It is here that the hikers "check in" by handing back their entrance tickets so that the park authorities can verify the numbers and decide  if they have to send a rescue team for strayed and lost hikers. It is here where the pictograms of dos and don'ts amuse us - it is our interpretation:

1. Don't walk your dog. 

2. Don't grow old on the hike. 

3. Don't set fire to anything.

4. Put your garbage in the designated wastebins.

5. Don't drink wine.

6. Leave your high heels at home. 

7. Don't camp.

8. Don't shoot the goats. Do what the villagers do: Shoot the road signs.

9. Don't cut any trees. Use the saw for something else, play some music on it - if you can.

10. Don't do any brickwork, like building a house or something.

Useful, that is what I say. So, we head back to the village of Agia Roumeli, finishing glasses of fresh orange juice before going down to the beach and boarding the boat back to Loutro.

"Which brings us back to my question: What do you call several Octopus? Octopussies?"

Gro Bente has the answer: "They are called Octopi, just like the Cactus is called Cacti in plural." 

"Octopie? Like the apple pie? We are eating the Octopus grilled, not baked!"

Gro Bente shakes her head. "Octopi, written without the 'e', just the 'i' at the end. That is Latin, my friend. Grilled or not, it does not matter."

"Okay, if you are so smart, what do you call an Octopus that has lost an arm, Septopus?

"..."




Some abstract watercolors in the Loutro habour.

The White Maintains dominate the hinterland.

Goat alarm! Can you spot the two of them?

Samaria Gorge. The arrival hut where you can check which rules were not followed...

Frangipani Flower. The most beautiful flower on earth. With a scent that you want to have as a perfume. Simplicity in perfection.

Not simple. Not perfect. But beautiful. And perfect for me.

A bridge that was build went the riverbed was not so wide.

Curiosity killed the cat. But not this one.

Avalanche of rocks.

The coastline in the afternoon sun.

Agia Roumeli is touched by the last rays of sunlight.

In Loutro the sweet water is pushed to the surface like on the Glyka Nera beach. But it happens under water and you can see the "smear" of two liquids of different density mix.

Loutro - The Art of Moving in Slow Motion

Everything slows down in Loutro. The movement to put sun cream on your arms. The way you walk in your sandals, as if you have to truly feel every inch of your feet touching the ground. The boats from Sfakia or Agia Roumeli maneuver themselves in a trance. The way you turn around to get an even tan on your back. Shoot a picture, wait and shoot again, then compare the two shots. See a difference? No? Nothing? I am not surprised. Even typing this seems to take ages. Though you read this in normal tempo, please slow down, take your time, or I am going to sweat too much. 

On the terrace of the "Sofia Room" I hear the family life of the owner playing with their toddler on the terrace below. Smells of grilled food climbs upstairs, lingers and disappears with a light breeze that seems to lose the velocity of the wind gust when reaching Loutro, providing little cooling on such a hot evening. The sun has just disappeared behind the ridge and only the white building of the Porto Loutro Hotel gets a bit of sun, with the shadows of palm and olive trees on the wall. The last ferry has left and taken loads of French tourists with them. I can hear the cicadas chirping and then again the bells attached to the goats. The last hikers are coming down the E4 Pan-European Footpath, exhausted, stumbling over their own feet as they pass our hotel, happy to have reached Loutro, finally. Not knowing that the power is out. 

Since early afternoon the village has no electricity. Air condition breakdown. Beer is not cooled, no lights, no WIFI network to check on facebook posts possible. A disaster in any other part of the world. Here, everybody is cool. The restaurants can still grill their lamb chops, red snappers or rock lobsters. And what do tourists do? They stay under umbrellas, take the occasional sip of water, swim - slow motion - as if not to heat up the crystal clear water. 

Our fridge has preserved the last two bottles of beer in a good temperature and we are using them to wash down pistachios and 2 peaches. We are cool, though not cooled down enough and I could just have another dip in the sea.

Considering this heat it seems like an adventure that we stood up at 5:00 am this morning to walk the route to Fenix and Marmara, hoping to reach the entrance of the Aradhena gorge. What we know now, we had to learn on this little excursion: Slow down. Take your time. So I snapped a lot of pictures of roaming goats, the destroyed Venetian castle, the colors of the coastline to the east, dusk, a spider, the sun coming over the mountain and how it virtually switches on the light, touching the little peninsula, the barren coastline due to goats eating everything except protected trees and cacti, the Phoenix Hotel in the bay, Loutro before the sun rays find their way down to the beach, cats trying their teeth on little fish, the purple flesh of a fig cut open. In the Phoenix Hotel we had orange juice and coffee. 

Back in our hotel room we fell in our beds, with the air condition still working until the outage forced us to the beach where we get fried, like chicken over open fire, slowly turning, but with a smile that takes m i n u t e s    a  n  d    s   t   a   y   s.

Eastern coastline in the dusk.

The sun is still behind the mountains, but Loutro looks lovely.

fascinating change of light - the tree was standing in the shadow of the mountain, the sun crept up and the scenery is cast Ito light, letting the shadow pull out under our feet like a carpet. Then the tree cas a shadow by itself. 

What is left from a plant, being burnt by the relentless sun, eaten up by goats, waiting for the September rain...

Loutro after the sun has made it's way further West.

Loutro by night, with the power restored.

The Sfendoni Cave is haunting us

Day one: I'm carsick, angry, tired and frustrated at the same time. The map is a piece of crumbled paper. We don't speak with each after an outburst of emotions, but we both agree that we hate this island. 

What happened? Very simple, we tried to pay a visit to the Sfendoni Cave, but instead we paid tribute to the God of Anger by getting lost in the mountain roads. We experienced what the tough economic times really mean in practical terms: Road signs and village names are a luxury the state of Greece can't afford right now. Nobody speaks English and even a roaming goat would be of more help. I shout: "The Sfendoni Cave can -beep- itself, if it, in fact, does exist! Which I doubt!" So we turn around, only to get the feeling we did not, because each village we drive through looks the same as the one before. Are we going in circles? I don't care anymore. Two hours later we tell our story to Barbara who reminds us to ask her first, before driving anywhere, okay?

Day two: Equipped with a piece of paper, on which is written "ξηνλαιο ζυενδονι πώς δα πάω" - which way to the Sfendoni Cave? We pack several bottles of water and a map that is flattened again into our car to hit the mountain road. All willpower and the belief that our day one offerings to the mighty God of Anger must have calmed the waves. Or the curves in the road. After more than an hour of turning left, turning right we reach a small village, show the piece of paper and get directions that lead us to the parking place in front of the Sfendoni Cave. After a bit of waiting time we get our guide to lead a group of tourists into the cave. We get a lot of useful information but not much time to study the various forms and sculptures created by water and time. Stalagmites and stalactites reach out to each other, waves are petrified and sometimes it appears as if people, animals or things are covered underneath layers of calcium carbonate. I spot a man, lying on his back and holding a skull in one of his hands. The guide shows us the face of Sokrates. There are some kind of cave animals, the biggest is the bat and the smallest a cave scorpion that has the size of half a rice corn and no tail. I snap a picture of that little creature after the guide highlights it with a flashlight. The cave is well protected from tourists trying to break a little souvenir. It is smaller, but better lit than the Melidoni Cave. The Rough Guide writes: Local legend has it that the cave was discovered by an eight-year-old girl who, lured by away by fairies , was later found dead in its darkest recesses.

Check out the pictures and tell me if you think it was worth the trip.

Colored LEDs light the cave scenery.

The guide explaining the humidity levels in the cave throughout the seasons.

See the man on his back, with the scull? No? Then it was just my imagination.

Do you see the tiny scorpion? 

Here he is again, but bigger.

Tango Rethymno Style

What a surprise. We hear about an Argentinian Tango night at the "Soul Kitchen" bar and don't hesitate to try our dancing shoes for an unforgettable experience. First thing we see is Iro's raised arms when approaching the terrace of the open air bar. She is sitting with Panos and a few friends to await tango music. 

I tell everybody about our experience of the Soria Moria Tango Club nights. Couples walked to the dance floor and the women closed their eyes to be led by the men who navigated through the archipelago of other couples turning, twisting and stepping their way by interpreting the song played. Waltz-like, slow Tango, Milonga, fast Tango, with a lot of tempo changes, rhythmically advanced, trance-like, Lounge-like and almost Techno, modern, with seductive melodies, very old recordings where you could hear the scratching of the needle through the grooves of the record, transporting you back into the old days. Longing lyrics, sung by men and women, violins cry and lament, all kinds of instruments, but always with a playful Bandoneon. And each time the dancers adopted to give their interpretation of the music. Every couple was doing something different, but always seductive, a feast for your eyes and a scene you hoped to never forget. Nobody was showing off. This was not a show where fiery emotions fly. This was not the place to snap the rose out of the mouth of the partner. This was love. This was trust and surrendering control. Surrender yourself. Let everything go and get carried away by the inventions of the dance partner. I've never seen so much tenderness and above all, joy, when the partner has invented something new and exciting. Couples stayed for several songs, only to get a bit of respite before the itchy feet were calling again.

While witnessing this I lost all desire to dance myself. I felt inadequate, not knowing enough steps and movements. With just a couple of hours training under my soles I would have disrupted the flow of movements. 

Nothing like that in the "Soul Kitchen". I let my soul free room and try a few steps with the girl that works as a Tango instructor. She fills the gaps of those lessons I forgot with her own turns and leg movements. I feel so good that I ask Gro Bente for a try and, surprise surprise, she remembers some steps too. Nothing can stop me now and so I tango through the night, interrupted by taking pictures, talking to Panos and a few sips of the excellent "Brinck's Beer". I promise to take more lessons and practice the learned movements. The starry night of Rethymno is my witness. 

 

Note: Focusing on the subject was very difficult under the light conditions, so most pictures are not sharp. But it might have been the restless feet of the photographer blurring the images... 

Iro with the Tango instructor and another pair.

Full Moon Dinner

Careful, this review was written under the influence of the full moon, 4 friends from Crete (Barbara, Stelios, Iro and Panos) and several shots of Raki. 

Let us start with the 4 friends that invited us to this place, a nice bar/nightclub/restaurant with open air setting called San Allote (which means “the old ways” in Greek). It is located close to the habour of Rethymno and along the waterfront, wedged between the popular student bar “50/50” and the Hotel Ideon. Our friends demonstrated how Cretans enjoy the evening: Ordering mainly starters and mezzes and have glasses of wine to “Yamas” the full moon evening. And so we enjoyed the addictive fried Zucchini slices, fried liver, pork in honey and sprinkled feta crumbs, chicken with Parmesan salsa (yummy), smoked pork “Apaki” (one of my favorites), the delicious San Allote salad. All is on the table and shared. The house wine is good and helps watering the mouth. Modest prices. Cretan cuisine with a twist I would call this. Surprisingly there are a lot of empty tables and we learn from our friends that the new owner has changed the style of the place, away from cocktails and disco towards a good kitchen. Clearly, the locals have noticed and we only hear the Greek language here. Give this place a try and enjoy this gem of Rethymno. Sea view inclusive.

San Allote 

N.Plastira, 74100 Réthymno, Rethimni, Greece

698 308 4002

 

Full Moon over Rethhymno.

Barbara

Stelios

Stelios

Panos

Iro

Gro

Gro

Paradise Lost - or are we just naive?

Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise. I'm not sure if they ever tried to get back, those Bible lessons I missed. But let us just assume they tried, they might have experienced what we just did today.

Some years back we made a boat trip to Gramvousa and Balos, the lagoon at the most North-Western peninsula of Crete. It was hot and I got sick due to heat exhaustion, but hey, that tour was worth the suffering. The Balos lagoon was a magic place, the blue, green and most turquoise watercolors I've ever seen. Bathing was a joy. I felt like a sea turtle, convinced to lay my eggs here. This was the place I wanted my hatched turtles to see first.

When our boat approached the shallow waters it seems we were the last people on earth, allowed to re-enter paradise. The white and pink colored beach showed no sign of organized tourism, no sun beds, no umbrellas, no trash cans, no empty plastic bottles. There was a little tent where a guy sold cold drinks, and that was it. Getting to this place by car was an adventure and the last couple of kilometers you had to walk in the most unforgiving sun. An unspoilt lagoon, just a few sunburnt tourists visiting by boat, the most remote place on Crete. Terra incognita. Paradise. 

Fast forward to the year 2013, July. We take the 11 kilometer dirt road, dangerous cliffs, no protection against falling into the sea, stones, goats and dust inclusive to reach a parking lot. Already surprised to see about 20 cars parked here at around 10:00 am we walk the 20 minutes to see an unspoiled lagoon from the distance. Ignore the sun beds and umbrellas, there it is again, Paradise. Beautiful colors and white beaches with a light pink shoreline we know so well from Elafonissi. There are a few small boats moving with the little waves, a cottage with sun collectors on the roof and a handful people scattered across the scenery. A fresh breeze cools our skin, dries the sweat from the walk here. Wading through the deep and fine sand we occupy 2 sun beds and an umbrella. We put on the sun protection, lie down, fall asleep and wake up an hour later to watch the hordes fall in, being carried by boat or their own two feet. The lagoon is heating up, the noise level turned up a few notches. Kids are shouting back at their parents who try to explain that the small channel connecting outer with inner lagoon is quite deep. Just two paces and a grown up can't keep his head above water without attempts to swim. People talking, crying, shouting, laughing create a cacophony of sounds. The neighbor family from France sprays us with sun lotion and no one is respecting the rules printed on wooden boards: No camping, no littering, no setting up of umbrellas etc. Suddenly this place has transformed into a tourist hell. The only thing missing is a beach party zone, but I get the feeling the sun collectors will one day make sure that there is enough electricity. Meanwhile, after 3 tourist boats letting their people on land a bigger one arrives, spitting out an endless stream of late arrivers. All sun beds are taken, families set up their tents and when the French mama changes the diapers of her toddler right in front of us I don't want know where she will dispose of that. We pack our belongings and surrender paradise. On our way back to the parking lot we pass by other late arrivers. It is 3:00 pm.

Is paradise lost or are we just too naive and think we can have this for ourselves and a chosen few? I'm not sure. Will we try it again next year? Not likely. We have seen the Preveli beach being transformed to a place of dirt and sun beds. That was enough.

 

There it is. Like we remembered.

The colors of the outer lagoon.

This shows that there was a beach before this end of the island came 6 meters higher out of the water after an earthquake during the Minoan times.

Lovely. 

Well, the sun beds are there, but still unoccupied.

Time to leave the lost paradise. Good bye Balos!

Walking the Streets of Rethymno to meet a Friend

The narrow walkways are empty, but the bars and restaurants crowded. It is almost midnight and visitors, tourists as well as people living in this beautiful town are out to enjoy the warm evening, having dinner with friends. Tables are covered with food of any kind. Few people are walking around. We do that tonight, first to find the place: Soul Kitchen, next to the Triopetra School of Yoga. And then to see a friend after he has finished his work of the day: Kostas, the owner of the Omodamos Clayart Shop. 

We pay a visit to the buzzing waterfront bars, the ones close to the beach. Then turn around to have a closer look at some Tavernas that serve food and have a very special atmosphere due to their position in the narrow walkways that lead to the seafront and the castle. The candlelight plus the smell of the dishes served here make it hard to resist a stop, even for a shot of Ouzo. The waiters are inviting us to join the crowd, but we just smile and move on to the strip where bars and discos line up to wait for the customers finishing their meals and move over to the rhythmic part on the night. We take the steps to the castle and ask a waiter where to find the Soul Kitchen Restaurant. He sends us back down to the center, but we just can't believe to find the place down there. I stop at the floodlighted castle door and snap a few pictures, then make the slippery steps downwards and see what we find: The Soul Kitchen organic vegetarian restaurant is right next to the tourist trap that grills their goat and lamb chops in the open air, as if to make a statement. We find a cozy spot and order the beer that is brewed right here in Rethymno (in fact the brewery is located in the village of Armeni) and for the lady a "Cosmopolitan". Lounge music lulls us in and I continue snapping pictures. Then Kostas arrives and bear hugs us. He wears a t-shirt with a "evil inside" print on it, and just the contrary, he is the sweetest guy we know. He loves black humor and tells us stories of his long working hours and encounters with customers from all places in the world. The Soul Kitchen entertainment program of a piano night must have ended before, a piano and sheet music from U2 songs stand abandoned. But we don't care. It is the laughter and an endless stream of anecdotes that keeps us happy.

All kinds of palm trees in the center of Rethymno.

Walking the narrow streets.

Everything looks so inviting.

In front of the castle door.

The Soul Kitchen open air restaurant.

Kostas and Gro Bente.

Beer for the men, Cosmopolitan for the lady.

That is a good night! 

Winetasting - Domaine Sigalas

Once you have enjoyed the hospitality of a winemaker you are wondering why you are not going to wine tastings every day.

Last year it was the small wine yard specializing on Vinsanto, the sweet and fruity wine of Santorini. This year it is Assyrtiko, the ancient and most classic grape of Santorini and we were curious about the winemaker of the 2011 vintage we tasted some days before at the Floga restaurant. 

We arrive at the unassuming buildings of the Sigalas Domaine, a few flat buildings, some pallets of empty bottles in the driveway and a parking lot not made for the tourist buses. Just a few steps and you can enter the "tasting terrace", a lovely shady place were a number of tables and chairs invite to sample the many creations of this wine maker. We order to taste all wines (just 10.50€) and get the glasses placed on plastic cards that describe the mouthful experience, vintage and wine making process. The waiter smiles and says"enjoy". So we follow her advice and start with the fruity whites, over to the single rosé, the young reds and over to the two sweet ones: A vinsanto and a very cherry sweet red that I like the most. 

I am not a wine expert and in many cases the descriptions of tastes and sensations don't speak to me. I have to try this myself and follow the advice a good friend once gave me: Describe the feeling by yourself. Don't think or feel what other people experienced. Make up your own mind and write it down with your own words," And so it comes that I create a new wine vocabulary: "an almost aristocratic taste", "furry feel on my tongue", "cherry taste without the pit", "bitter but not sweet", "you've lost that loving feeling" (after the whites turned bitter), "this one has quite a bite", "kiss of a fruitcake" and so on.

The whole location is just lovely: The stinging sun is filtered by a roof, the vines are so close that you can touch them, a gentle breeze cools our enthusiasm. There is brown bread and olive oil to clear the mouth and when Gro Bente pulls down her hat to demonstrate how a "blind taste" is done we hear the laughter from the table next to ours. And a great conversation starts with a couple from England. This is a place I want to stay forever...

Sigalas put their wines on the map.

Beautiful colors and great tastes.

This is the aristocratic red.

Always have a piece of bread between sips of wine.

Gro Bente is demonstrating how a blind tasting is done.

Imerovigli - Rooms with a View

You think you like Oia?  And think you are on top of the island? Think again. Imerovigli is the place to be. If you wonder why your order of lobster spaghetti with champagne takes so much time to reach your honeymoon suite then go here, check in to the Grace Hotel and find out.

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The monument valley type view where steps and a goat path leads to another view...

The monument valley type view where steps and a goat path leads to another view...

Windgusts break the surface and the reflection of the sunset in colors you can't describe in words. What a wonderful world!

See how the low sun gets the colors out of the rock formations. 

The Captains Houses

The captains houses are something special in Oia and on Santorini. First you are attracted to the caldera side of the town, the view into the blue and the sun hitting the various buildings in 90 degrees, like a vineyard. The you notice how hot it is going to get, walking bare feet and serious burns are the result, you can't sleep without the air condition on full power. After staying in a hotel a bit off the cliff you notice that the constant wind cools you down, air condition is switched off, walking bare feet is the way of living here. Panos, the manager of the Oia's Sunset hotels explains: "The caldera side of Oia was for the poor people. It was too hot. Fishermen and their families lived there. The richer business people, mainly captains and their families built their houses here were the hotel stands. Just walk around and have a look."

So we did. And what we saw were houses in various stages of decay. Abandoned, for sale or in rare occasions beautifully restored. 

The design is very simple: The house has a main entrance door with a half circle above, decorated with naval symbols. Left and right are 1, 2 or even three windows - depending on the wealth. Each house owns a courtyard with a special entrance door that is made out of wood and beautifully crafted. 

Late Afternoon Snaps

It is funny, but somehow I am attracted to the Greek simplistic architecture of modern Greece. The simplistic design of staircases, some Bauhaus influences or maybe the plain colours that shine and reflect the sunlight in direct ways makes this a very interesting photo opportunity. I am only tilting the camera a bit and suddenly it is not quite clear what object is it I am taking a picture of... 

Staircase I

staircase II

do you feel the heat of the afternoon sun?

Sunrise at the other part of Santorini

When the alarm clock went of it took us only minutes to get dressed and hit the road to Faros, the lighthouse at the southern tip of Santorini. And there she is, creeping above the Eastern coastline, illuminating the landscape around the lighthouse. We discover this strange building that thrones on the cliff ... somehow like a misplaced castle from the times of the Maurs occupying Spain. A bizarre and awakening sight. 

We hit the road to Pyrgos where we are greeted by the chants of the priests. It is a holy Sunday...

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Steps and tunnel to one of the many churches in Pyrgos. 

Icon at the entrance of the church.

Decoration in front of the Sunday closed shop.

 

The Faros lighthouse.

Preparing for the Sunset

In a preparation for the sunset we thought to take a trip to the known church on the north coastline of Santorini. While walking along a field of sunrise tomatoes the coarse voice of a farmer stopped us. He gave us a plastic bag and offered us to collect as many tomatoes as we wanted. Gro Bente gave him a hug and he laughed so much and gave us two huge banana-shaped melons that smelled so ripe.

We climbed the steps to the church and drove back to the apartment to watch the sun dip into the sea. 

 

The colors of ripe tomatoes.

Neighbor islands in the distance.

There it goes into the sea...

Shake Hands with Oia

The artist Andy Goldsworthy used to create his first piece of art in new surroundings by just going out, pick a spot and start creating with leaves, stones, sticks and anything he could find in nature. He called this "shaking hand with nature". So what does an ambitious photographer do when returning to Oia? Walk around and shake hands with the whites of the houses, the blue of sea and sky, bathe in the honey colored rays of light in the evening sun. This is when the magic happens...

Inviting dinner atmosphere above the cliff.

 

Long shadows as the sun begins to go down.

Gro Bente

Oia on Santorini - The First Pictures

You can't walk the Main Street of Oia without noticing the many shops with artwork on display and for sales. Size, color, material, price...it does not matter. Every shop draws a crowd. Here are two examples opposite the shop and with a beautiful caldera view in the background.