After wading through the red and the black beach at Santorini, Priyadarshini Paitandy witnesses the storm
From our demurely bobbing ferry, Santorini in the distance looks like a huge chunk of brownie topped with vanilla ice-cream. Perched atop a rugged cliff, the whitewashed town of Fira chirpily looks upon its visitors coming into her folds through the sea route. We are among the awestruck visitors to this island supposed to offer the best view of the sunset. There are buses, vans and swanky cars that take visitors to the towns on top of the hill. It’s 5 p.m. and we are hoping to make it in time. Luckily, the sun here doesn’t set until 7 p.m.
Twenty minutes later we are at Fira, the capital of this isle. It’s a wonder that something this gorgeous came about as a result of a volcanic explosion. Our cab stops near a cobbled street. No vehicle can go beyond that point. Lugging our bags we walk through a slender street before the owner of our hotel jogs up to greet us. We follow him, through a white gate, past a narrow corridor of another resort, past an open balcony, down a steep flight of steps, onto an open terrace… Apparently, most of the hotels in this part are built this way. Everything is interconnected — pass through one gate and a flight of steps and you are in the next property.
The hotel is a charming boutique property that has only eight rooms, each done up differently with the open area in front giving the most breathtaking view of the sea, caldera and the town. There’s a hot tub strategically placed at the edge of the white fenced terrace where we decide to spend the rest of the evening, sipping on ouzo (the local drink). As the sun begins its descent, the sky magically transforms into a shade of pink bathing everything in its luminescence. Some travellers are even giving it a standing ovation, clapping, hugging, kissing and clicking. It’s a mildly warm evening, and after changing we set out to explore the area around.
There are shops selling fancy clothes and shoes, grocery, books, memorabilia, dried and painted starfish, and bakeries and cafes. There’s an iconic blue-domed church at the end of the long, steep road which is quite strict and you can get an entry if you are lucky. We aren’t — one needs to be in full sleeves and covered up to the ankle, we are told. We return and walk in the other direction, which has tavernas slowly filling up. After an elaborate dinner, it’s time to turn in for the night.
The next day we take a local bus to the shopping area. After a session of what I’d like to call boosting the local economy we head to the red beach. A drive through a barren road takes you to the beach, which is rather crowded. It’s the perfect place for photography. The crashing blue waves against the red sand and imposing red cliff in the background is quite a view. We laze about till it gets too sunny. We drive to Perissa, the black beach. The wet glimmering black sand looks inviting. As we walk through it, we realise the crunchy sand acts as a natural cleansing agent and our feet look as if it’s just undergone pedicure. After playing in the frothy cool waters, we sit under one of the many thatched shades and dig into what we picked up from the shacks lining this beach. In addition, there’s great music blaring out of the shacks. Sure you could join in the carnival atmosphere and groove with the others there or head to a quieter part of the beach and enjoy the calm. We head back to the hotel, and settle on the couches outside with fresh Greek yoghurt, olives, cheese slices and ham. The scene suddenly changes. The bright sun’s been devoured by dark angry clouds. There’s a storm. A wild wind blows away clothes, tables and chairs… even the cheese and salami from my plate. Thick clouds float over the sea with a sense of urgency. The cruise ship in the sea slowly inches towards the shore. Everything turns gray and gloomy at once. “Is the apocalypse near?” I ask a little nervous. One of the locals laughs, “Don’t worry. This is normal in Santorini. One moment sun. Other moment rain.” She then disappears, shaking her head and shouting instructions in Greek. The temperature drops steeply. In go our little clothes and out come the jackets. Armed with heavy coats and warm coffee mugs, we look into the far expanses. This is a view you cannot forget easily; and for somebody who gets bored quickly, this is something I could grow old watching.