| August 10, 2005
The View from Santorini
Santorini is a magical island, set deep in the Aegean, in
the shape of a reversed C, the open area of the
C is the Caldera, the great hole opened in the
earth about 3600 hundred years ago when the volcano that lives
here had a very bad time and blew its lid, taking with it,
so say historians, Minoan civilization and spawning the myth
At the south end of the island is Arkotiri, where reside
some of the finest ruins of the Minoan age, a town abandoned
by its citizens before the catastrophe and now a remarkable
monument to the advanced civilization that existed on the
southern edge of this marvelous island.
This is my fourth visit to Santorini; I have been seduced
by its magic. The first two times I was here I stayed down
in Kamari, the black sand beach town that looks out on the
eastern Aegean, a place to lie in the sun, sip cool Santorini
wines, read and go snorkeling.
The last time I was here, we arrived on a cruise ship and
spent a day wandering the island while meandering our way
by sea to Istanbul.
When we decided to return to Santorini, I attempted to book
us back into the beach hotel in Kamari but couldnt:
they were flat out booked solid through the whole month of
August. As, it turned, was most of the rest of the island.
I ended up booking us into a new hotel called The Majestic,
at the south end of Fira town, with stunning views across
the Caldera on one side and a clear view out to the sea from
Yesterday, driving around the island, on the narrow roller
coaster roads, I thought about how this fourth trip was changing
my view of the island and that it told me something about
myself and my time in life.
Even when I came here first in 1991, I was beyond
Fira. It is the clubby town, full of expensive shops for cruise
ship passengers and inexpensive lodgings for young backpackers,
noisy bars and boisterous youth on motorbikes, challenging
their mortality on the often dangerous roads.
Ia, at the far end, where we will end this trip at Hotel
Perivolas, is a quieter town, classically beautiful, not as
crammed in the late hours of the night; it only has one bar.
We ate one night this trip at 1800, one of the two best restaurants
on the island. The table behind us was inhabited by a dozen
Hollywood folks, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas
and the producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
While Ia draws the global glitterati, it also draws people
like some friends of mine who are here working on a coffee
table book on Santorini and its cave houses. It is a mellower
town and I realized on the twisting road between Ia and Fira
that I am at a mellower time in my life. Kamari was good for
its time. The Majestic has been a good transition place. It
is brand new, a fully equipped resort with spa, contemporary
architecture that evokes traditional Greek without aping it
and modern amenities, including wireless internet in the lobby.
Tonight I will go to Ia to stay for the final portion of
my visit and I am looking forward to the mellower town in
this mellower time of my life. I am on vacation and off this
island the news of the world ticks on while I do my best to
live outside of it for a few days, hoping to gain new perspectives
and a rejuvenated spirit.
It is not that the events of the world are not important;
it is that the silence of the island gives them a different
perspective. Living, even for a moment, outside of events
allows those events to have deeper, more resonant meaning
and to help me, individually, decipher which are really important
to me and which are not.
When allowed, vacation is a place to permit our value systems
to coalesce and firm, to sort themselves out and to settle
in our hearts for the next round of life.