The mythical Atlantis was created by and belonged to Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea and of Earthquakes. According to Plato, Atlantis was akin to the Garden of Eden, ruled by wise men, full of peace-loving people, but when they abandoned their prudent ways, catastrophe struck and in a single day their island paradise disappeared beneath the waves taking with it all trace of its existence. With this tale in mind, we were set to explore the island of Santorini, and its connections to Atlantis.
Santorini is actually a collection of five islands that form a rim of a still active volcano. On the largest, most populated, crescent-shaped island, the principal villages of Fira and Oia sit atop precipitous cliffs – literally clinging to the rim of the caldera. We entered the caldera from the northeast just as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. Take pictures? Eat breakfast? That was the pressing question of the morning. Either, or both, of those activities had to be accomplished by 8:15 AM when the Greek tender boats pulled up alongside the Sea Cloud to ferry us ashore for our morning trip to Oia. The rolling southwest surf made this maneuver somewhat tricky and after a few false starts, the Captain moved the ship more into the of a lea of Nea Kameni, the black lava island in the center of the caldera that appeared in the 16th century AD and is still growing. We boarded our coaches in Athinios and drove to Oia at the north end of the island for a morning, bypassing the main town of Fira.
The highlight of the day had to be the extraordinary lunch of mezedes we had Nektario’s Taverna in Pirgos. Homemade bread and white Santorini wine waited for us on the tables before they brought out the chopped shepherd’s. Tomato fritters, hot out of the fryer, and the bougiourdi (recipe to follow), followed in quick order. The local fava beans were cooked, pureed and served with chopped onions, salted capers and olive oil on top. The island is famous for its cheery tomatoes and they were served, baked and stuffed with seasoned rice. Grilled white eggplant and keftedes (Greek meat balls) rounded out the meal – and to think this is what most people have as starters before the main course. The house specialty – orange sponge cake made with filo was served for desert. This truly is what travel is about – experiencing not just the sites, but the tastes and smells of a peaceful village, away from the crowds. After a short ride back to Fira, we explored the shops and marveled at the views of the Sea Cloud, anchored below the cliffs of the crater. All but one of our party opted for the cable car back to the port, the one being the author of this DER who needed pictures of donkeys and braved the walk down the slippery marble path crowded mule trains ferrying tourists up and down the 880 plus steps!
Fill a small shallow casserole with soft, crumbled feta cheese. Top with diced cherry tomatoes, slivers of green pepper, dried onion flakes, a few drops of Tabasco sauce and drizzle with olive oil. Put in either a toaster oven or broil in a regular oven just until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve hot with fresh bread or crackers.