Monday, May 30, 2011

The Taxi Driver's Wife

We were invited to a welcome dinner for the people attended the wedding in Oia, which is on the other end of the island. I suppose this is as good a time as any to throw a map in to show where we’re going.

We’re staying in Kamari (A), which has black pebble beaches and dozens of scooters. Dinner was at the top of the crescent, facing the caldera. Santorini was once much more of a roughly circular island with a volcano on it, until the volcano erupted with roughly the force of Krakatoa and blew out the center of the island. There’s still an active volcano on the separate island at the center of the caldera (Nea Kameni), which we’ll be visiting tomorrow.

To get to Oia (C), we had to take a taxi, as we weren’t too familiar with the public transit yet. So, we placed an order for two taxis (which should hold eight people total) to drive from Kamari to Oia, which would be plenty of seats to get us up there as Myles and Andrea had rented a car and could drive. They left, then the taxis arrived, but the driver seemed confused that we wanted to go to Oia (it was evidently his impression that we were going to somewhere else in Kamari, which doesn’t make much sense.) He then told us that we could only fit three in the first taxi, which means we’d need to call another taxi so that everyone could fit, while waving his hands and talking about another passenger we needed to pick up. We all thought that there must be someone else coming in from the port, so we went with it.

About ten minutes into the drive, he pulls off the road and picks up our other passenger (or, two, actually), his wife and kid. Adorable, I guess, and I’m guessing either he had some engagement that wouldn’t allow him the time to drive all the way to Oia and back or he just didn’t feel like going the whole way back alone, but in any case, we were now carrying another passenger (who, now that I think of it, could have probably chipped in for the ride.)

I’d finally stopped being able to feign wakefulness on the ride and fell asleep for most of it, waking up when it was time to get to the restaurant.

Oia is amazing. It’s mostly built on the edge of the mountain and has narrow winding streets that go past dozens of souvenir shops, art galleries and restaurants, most of them advertising the view. Our dinner was at Nectar & Ambrosia, which had promised a sunset view that it was evidently unable to deliver on. Which is a shame, but the view it did provide was the best I’ve ever seen while eating dinner. It looked out over the caldera, from which you could see the other four islands that make up Santorini and which only got better the more the sun set.

Jordan had also stopped being able to stave off jet-lag, took the seat at the head of the table that no one else seemed to want to take (possibly because for some reason it was more of a throne than a chair) and promptly fell asleep on the armrest.
I had a “Mediterranean Quiche”, which I found to be a quiche, and Marina had the mushroom risotto, which I’ve never been able to successfully prepare on my own. We had some dry white wine because all of the local wines are dry, which I’d imagine comes from being the only area in Europe that’s officially a desert in the “very little precipitation for much of the year” sense. Overall, dinner was great. Everyone ran out of their seats to watch the sunset, which is again certainly different than anywhere I’ve had dinner in Chicago. That’s probably a function of the sunset over the Aegean Sea being somewhat more interesting than the sunset over Des Plaines.

After dinner, most of the wedding party went back to the hotel, with the exception of myself, Marina, Jordan and Andrea’s brother Travis. We walked down the streets of Oia, stopping to take pictures of things that apparently don’t turn out when you take a picture of them, so you’ll have to trust me on their awesomeness. The cliff is dotted with lighted pools and little white hotels offering great views if you’re ok with your hotel being in the side of a mountain, and I can’t say whether there’s anyone that’s actually there that simply lives in the village. During the walk, we lost track of where we were and weren’t sure where to find the bus stop. There are several stops along the road, but it seems as though if you’re in a town and would like to ride to another town, you’ve got to catch the bus on the main square. We ducked down a little street near an alleyway and looked sufficiently confused enough for a person smoking on the stairs to ask us where we needed to go. We told her we were looking for a way back to Kamari, at which point she jumped up and ran down a bus, waving her arms, so that we could get on. We bought tickets on the bus, and the ticket-guy explained that we’d need to get off this bus in Fira (the largest town in Santorini, marked B) and transfer to a Fira-Kamari bus.

I have mixed feelings about sleeping on the way to Oia. On one hand, even in the dark on the ride back I could see that we were on narrow winding mountain roads, overlooking cliffs (which had little guard rails which would have done absolutely nothing to the bus) and from which you could see all the little towns on the coast. On the other, I would have been terrified if I knew what was going on.

We made it to Fira, made a sharper turn than I’ve ever seen a bus make, and found our way back to Kamari, proud of the fact that we managed to get from one end of the island to another on our own for 3.20€. The rest of the party was by the pool, where Andrea and Myles were throwing a welcome party (Champagne! Rum! Greek beer!) and we hung out for a while before realizing that we were going to pass out on the tile around the pool.

So we went to bed.

No comments: