Captain Vladimir Pushkarev skillfully timed Sea Cloud's entry into the broken caldera of Thira at the precise time for "sunset photography." Slowly, we glided close abroad the rim-top village of Oia, known for its picturesque sunsets looking toward the setting sun. We seized the opportunity, which few have, to photograph Oia with the sun behind us; a breath-taking experience.
Having visited Santorini a year after the terrible 1956 eruption, which killed 44 people and destroyed 60% of the buildings, I was pleased to find a once-again prosperous island. Sea Cloud circumnavigated the recently created (1770?) island of Nea Kameni, finding the “sweet spot"- the only bottom shallow enough in which to anchor. Eating dinner on deck we were treated to a huge full moon which climbed the caldera's eastern rim, thus culminating a four-hour experience of a perfect sunset and a unique moonrise. Under such pleasant circumstances we found it difficult to visualize that life on Santorini is precarious in the best of times and cataclysmic in the worst of times. Earthquakes can literally shake houses until they tumble into the sea, hundreds of feet below.
The following morning we boarded buses, drove the switchbacks to the caldera rim, and eventually into the town of Oia. Walking narrow streets and confined alleys, we were rewarded with hidden shops, cafes, and blue-topped churches – all of the ingredients for great pictures. Lunch at the authentic special Greek restaurant Kallisti, in the town of Pirgos, featured dishes of fried tomatoes, tomatoes and goat cheese, special meatballs and a delicious orange cake dessert.
Afternoon found us in Thira (or Fira) at the newly opened Nomikos Foundation Museum. Although reproductions (the originals hang in the Athens National Museum), the Akrotiri plaster images were spectacular, accurate renditions of the world's oldest known wall paintings. Fortunately, photography is allowed, so we all recorded our favorites, including the wonderful images of fishermen, the boxers, and animals, especially the well-preserved goose.
Finally, we wound our way through streets lined with espresso and Mythos beer cafes and tourist shops, all mixed with serious galleries offering expensive sculptures. Wearily, we jumped aboard the cable car to the waterfront and a ride back to Sea Cloud, where we weighed anchor, bound for Athens.