Readers' World: Dreaming of Santorini

02 August 2015 - 02:00 By Sara Essop


Sara Essop fulfils a lifelong dream of seeing Santorini and its capital I stood at the top of the cliff on the edge of the island and inhaled the salty air of the Aegean Sea.In front of me, the blackened volcano stood forebodingly in the midnight-blue waters of the caldera, daring anyone to assume that it had become docile. Behind me stood the iconic whitewashed buildings and blue domes of Santorini, resting precariously on the rocky cliffs.story_article_left1They formed the facade of the delightfully confounding labyrinth of cobblestone and marble alleys from which I had emerged. This was what I had come here for. This was what I had dreamt about for aeons.Santorini was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions over thousands of years, giving rise to its unique beaches with white, red and black sand.Adding to its mythical allure is the well-founded theory that the ruins of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Santorini, are actually the unearthed remains of the lost city of Atlantis.For a long time, whenever anyone had asked me what my dream destination was, Santorini was the first name that sprang to mind.Determined to get there, I found myself on a Mediterranean cruise with one of its ports of call being Santorini. When our ship finally docked there on a sunny October morning, I couldn't believe that my dream was about to come true.We disembarked and were taken by tender boats to the port, then driven by bus up a steep and narrow road alongside a cliff, ascending higher and higher to the town of Fira while the views became more bewitching . . . and hair-raising.Our tour guide, Lynne, a British woman who had been living there for the past 20 years (talk about a dream job) said our driver was one of the best in Santorini, which calmed our nerves a bit - until she added: "The others are all dead!"full_story_image_hright1As we drove through Fira, I realised the Santorini I was looking at did not look quite like the one imprinted on my mind.Santorini Island consists of several towns and villages. The world-famous pictures are of the sea-facing buildings in the village of Oia (pronounced Eeya). Nevertheless, other parts of Santorini also boast stunning views, sun-kissed, whitewashed buildings and glorious photo opportunities.As it's one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations, much of the island is crowded but it is still possible to find quiet spots, where the silence and serenity allow you to hear your inner thoughts and be at one with yourself.Bric-a-brac and clothing shops and restaurants with panoramic views line the narrow pathways and the scent of Mediterranean cuisine wafts through the air.Newlyweds posed for photos in their wedding attire, concealing comfortable flip-flops on their feet. Now and then a donkey crossed our path. As we turned off the main pathway, we were rewarded with the enchanting view that the world associates with Santorini and found ourselves to be part of the postcard.It was everything I had imagined it to be.Share your travel experiences with us in 'Readers' World' and you could win R1 000.We need YOUR high-res photo - at least 500KB in size - and a story of no more than 800 words. ALL winners receive R1 000. Please note only the winning entrants will be contacted. E-mail travelmag@sundaytimes.co.za.

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