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Mike's Odyssey to Greece - 2005

Part 15: Exploring Empty Fira

Upon arriving at the Santorini airport at around 7 AM, I did not know what to do.  I hadn't even made hotel reservations!

So, I decided to hop into a cab and go to Fira, which is the largest town on the island.  The first thing I thought was, "Damn, this island is MUCH bigger than I thought it was!"  And then I wondered if I should rent a car to visit all of the places on the island.

As the cab driver dropped me off in Fira about ten minutes later, I started exploring the town.  The first thing I noticed was that I was the only one on the streets.  Seriously.  I walked around and around and felt like Charleton Heston in "The Omega Man."

Fira is much different than any other town I have visited.  They don't have roads as much as alleys.  There are alleys and walkways that connect all the houses, shops, and restaurants, and I quickly began reconsidering if I really wanted to rent a car.  If I rented a car, where would I park it?  I'd still have to walk several blocks to go to hotels or restaurants.

So, I began walking around and taking in the majestic and beautiful views of the town on the caldera without having to wade through all the tourists.  And, believe it or not, it was very peaceful to see all of this beautiful town in solitude.

Fira
Fira at dawn.

Island
Thirassia at dawn as viewed from Fira.

Island
This view actually shows three islands - the two closest to the camera are Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, which were formed in 1707 AD and 197 BC respectively.  The farthest island (the smallest of the three) is called Aspronissi, which was part of the original island of Strongili.

Marina
A view of the steep walk down to the marina at Fira.

Fira
Fira at around 7 AM.  It's as quiet as it looks.  There was NO ONE on the streets.

Fira church
A church in Fira.  The modern town of Akrotiri is shown in the distance.

Narrow Alley
One of the narrow alleys in Fira.

Fira
Southern view of Santorini.  Notice the cruise ship docked near Fira.  Tourists will soon be swarming the town.

Alley
A rocky alley in Santorini.  Note there is still no one out and about.

Church
A church dome and bell tower in Fira.

Fira
A view of Fira looking south.  Atop the large mountain is the Monastery of the Profitis Ilias.

On Good Friday, the Greek Orthodox churches commence a procession in which a floral decorated ark is paraded through the town while all of the townspeople line the streets with candles.  I had arrived on Saturday morning, and a priest soon discovered that I was the only one on the street.  He asked me in broken English if I could help him carry this holy relic from the altar and to the storage room.  With nothing else to do, I obliged.  After carrying it into the storage room, I asked if I could get a picture, and he said I could.

Ark
The holy ark carried through town on Good Friday.

As I left the church storage room, I stood in the alley for a few minutes, unsure of what to do.  At that point, I saw the priest carry this huge cross out and back up into the chapel.  With nothing else going on, I asked the priest if I could help him carry more stuff.  He said he didn't need any more help, but he did let me secretly slip up into the bell tower and take some pictures to thank me for my help.

Church dome
One of the blue church domes on Santorini.

Fira
Fira as seen from the bell tower.

Mike on tower
A self-portrait as taken atop the bell tower.  Anyone who knows me knows that I hate heights, so this is my proof that I actually went up there!

Bizarre tree
A bizarre looking tree in Fira.

Cruise ship
The arrival of another cruise ship.  Soon, the sleepy island will be abuzz with the swarm of American tourists...

Cafe and lava dome
A view of the lava islands from one of the cafes in Fira.

Bell tower
The bell tower for the Orthodox church in Fira.

Alleys
More empty alleys.  This would soon change after the cruise ships docked and the local shops opened.

Cafes
As all of the cafes are built atop each other, they have these entrances at the top of the alley, but then you might have to walk down several flights of steps before you actually arrive at the cafe.

Alley in ruins
Even more empty alleys in Fira.

Alley
A colorful alleyway.

Bells
Bells by a church in Fira.

Cliffs
The steep cliffs of Fira with Ia in the background.

So, I walked around town for about an hour and a half until 8:30, at which time the Museum of Ancient Thira opened.

Continue on to Part 16:  Museum of Ancient Thira (or "Lots of Pots")