Caucasus Silk Road

Explore the natural, cultural, and religious heritage of the Caucasus region.
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Hobbiton on steroids

A nasty southerly wind has driven the Albatross off to Naxos. Ha! But we are not on it having opted instead for the fast ferry from Ios down to Thira. Radu and Adrianna are repositioning the boat up to Naxos where we plan to catch up with them in 3 days time. I know that at least 3 of us are feeling pretty smug about the way that the ferry is demolishing the 2 metre waves on the run down to Santorini. This is the way to get about if you dont have the time or constitution for smaller boats. There are lots of happy holiday makers on the ferry, perhaps too many rushing about with selfie-sticks for my comfort but Santorini is a hot spot and the world is beating a path to its watery door.

Arrival in the caldera is a weird experience. Glacier like cascades of blindingly white buildings tumble down the steep volcanic cliffs into the b20150421_182422ay where iceberg size cruise liners are discharging hordes of penguins on to a flotilla of busy little boats. If true that would definitely be weird but these are really folk like us having arrived by sea and keen to get up the hill to the shops and discos. Well perhaps not entirely like us since we don’t plan to shop and are too old to party. Arrival at the port is a marvellous occasion and I am left marvelling at how quickly the Greeks can get 500 people and 50 trucks off the vessel.   Truth to tell I’m dumfounded that the whole process of disembarkation-embarkation can be completed in 20 minutes when back home this would take at least 3 hours on a calm day.

There is a definite commercial purpose to all this hustle because Thira is ‘the’ cash cow of the Cyclades.

IMG_7588The months of July and August bring up to four million tourists to Thira and the local economy is keen to celebrate that good fortune. So too are the designer clothing label and brand fashion houses, uncle Tom Cobbly and just about everyone who can get their hands on something to sell. There are no 10AM opening hours and long lunch breaks here. On Thira you can shop till you drop in the weirdest looking retail strip this side of Hobbiton.

IMG_7565Our plans are to walk not shop and the 9km caldera rim trail is an obvious candidate. Initially we are hounded by regiments of selfi-stick weilding Asians but when the shops peter out so do they. Its a relief to get away from the white blancmange of hotels and azure infinity pools. The trial is easy going and the scenery is stunning but by the end of the 8th km I was ready to trade my boots for a cold drink. There are cold drinks aplenty on Thira but water for the myriad infinity pools and all the tourism infrastructure has to come to the island by tanker from Crete. This is an ironic twist given that the tsunami which swamped Crete and destroyed the Minoan civilisation 3,600 years ago originated from the eruption of the Thira volcano.

An endless procession of water tankers prowl the narrow streets and lanes of Thira. I imagine then driven by grinning Cretean’s making regular stops at the local branch of the Bank of Crete. As for us we are off to the bountiful Island of Naxos where water is plentiful and the spring hills are covered in wildflowers.

Make sure you check out our next instalment!

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