Famous blue dome roofs, Santorini
Windmills at Mykonos
Saturday June 10th
As we headed out of Venice at 5.00pm passengers lined the rails all over the ship to get a good view as we headed out. We found a position near the top level of the ship and had a great view over the rooftops of Venice as we made our way past Santa Maria della Salute and out to open waters.
FInal thoughts on Venice - beautiful sights, a real testament to man's ingenuity and determination, - would be much better with less people around but I'm one of the multitude of tourists so I can't complain. The waters of the canal and even around Venice towards the various surrounding islands is quite murky but that is understandable considering the amount of water traffic. Was well worth the visit.
Sunday 11th June
Arrived in Split at around 7.00 am. Another beautiful day, the sun is shining and the water is a beautiful blue. As you look over the side of the boat you can see how clean and clear the water is.
We didn't leave the ship till around 9.00am and followed some tourists sign that we couldn't understand because they were only written in Croatian. After a walk of about 5 minutes we wound up at Bacvice (City Beach). Much different to Lido in Venice. It's a horseshoe shaped bay with sparkling blue water and golden sand reminiscent of the beaches back at home. We walked down some steps which led to a cemented area that had deck chairs laid out. Steel ladders and steps are set into the natural rock at regular intervals and lead down to crystal clear water. Further along the cement gives way to the sandy beach. I took off my shoes and walked down some of the steps to test out the water. Refreshingly cold and very welcome as I was feeling quite hot even after such a short walk. The temperature was in the mid twenties already.
After the beach we headed back towards the town to find the entrance to the Diocletian Palace. It took us a while to find an entrance because the map we had was not very detailed. The lower section consists of walls made of large block stone walls with arched doorways and niches higher up the walls. This area is now used for merchant stalls selling art, crafts and souvenirs. It was quiet when we were there and most of the merchandise was of a better quality than you would find in most markets back home. I was tempted to buy a small artwork but it was on thick card and would probably get damaged during our long trip.
We could hear some singing coming from a higher level and thought it was a recording because it was so good. Then we heard people applauding and realised it was live singing. We walked up some steps that led to an amphitheatre surrounded by steps with cushions on them. Apparently this is used for evening performances. From this level there are steps leading to the Cathedral of Saint Domnius (the oldest cathedral in the world). The cathedral wasn't open at that time so we only saw it from the outside. On the next level was where the singing was taking place. It was a group of of six men singing a capella. They had beautiful voices. I bought a CD at the end of the performance but probably won't get a chance to play it before we get home. After wandering around the palace we strolled down to the waterfront which is very clean and a lovely place to sit and relax but none of the seats are in the shade so we didn't stay too long.
On our way back to the ship we passed a strip that is quite a contrast to the rest of the town. it is covered with stalls all along the footpath selling souvenirs, currency exchange stalls and cafes. It's quite rundown and seedy. It was around 1.00pm by the time we arrived back on board and we were hot and tired so decided to have a relaxing afternoon after lunch. As we left port late they played an Italian version of "It's time to Say Goodbye"
Tuesday 13th June
Arrived at Santorini around 7.00am. The sky was a bit cloudy and a cool breeze was blowing. The port is surrounded by very steep cliffs with white houses clustered on along the top. At first glance the houses look like snow.
We were tendered off the ship just after 9.00am and caught the cable car up to Fira township. Our tour guide Kathrin was waiting to meet us at the top and escorted us to her car. This part of Fira has no vehicular traffic so we had to walk up a steep cobbled pathway which was a bit challenging. Kathrin came from Germany to work for a tour company 18 years ago. She met her husband and has been here ever since.
We drove to Perivolos (the black beach) and Kathrin gave us a background on the history of Santorini on the way. The beach is made up of dark grey, almost black sand and the water is very calm and flat. The sand is covered in sun loungers and umbrellas and is known as the party beach. In the afternoon the younger set make there way to the beach and have a good time till quite late. When we were there it was still early and quite cool and we were the only ones on the beach. The beaches at the other end of the island are quite rocky and the water not so calm.
Next Kathrin drove us to an organic farm and we tried some of the local produce. Because of the very dry climate and strong winds they don't grow much on Santorini except for grapes. The grape vines are grown very close to the ground and not irrigated because water is scarce. They have 2 desalination plants on the island that produce all the water for household purposes. The farm produces tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon and capers and Maria who runs the store at the front makes preserves and honey to sell. Our next stop was close to Akrotiri for a view out over the caldera where you can see the other four islands that make up Santorini. The sky was still cloudy and it was a bit hazy but still a lovely view. It would be spectacular on a clear sunny day. We continued on to the monastery at the top of the island. From here you can see how dry and bare most of the island is apart from the vineyards. You can also see some of the townships which all look very similar - mostly white houses with a traditional architectural style - a sort of box shape with a rounded section in the centre of the roofline.
Our final stop was Oia (pronounced eeyah) which is the most popular place for tourists. This is where you find the often photographed section of white houses with blue domed roofs. The car park was already full of buses and the narrow streets crowded with tourists. We only had about 40 minutes to look around because the ship was due to depart at 3.00pm. And it was already 12.00pm. The clouds had disappeared, the sky and water were a beautiful blue & the sun was very hot. We wandered around the narrow streets which only allow pedestrian traffic and then met up with Kathrin again to head back to Fira. The lineup for the cable car was quite short but the line for the tender back to the boat was very long. It was about 1.40pm and the last tender was due to leave at 2.00pm. We actually didn't get on the tender till after 2.00pm and there were quite a few people still waiting when we left the dock. Time for lunch and a short rest before dinner and then on to Mykonos
We arrived in Mykonos around 8.00 pm and caught the shuttle bus for the 10 minute ride into town. The sun was still up and there was a cool breeze blowing so it was ideal for walking around. Mykonos is made up of box shaped white buildings with some touches of blue on the shutters, a few white churches with domed roofs (1 blue and 2 burgundy coloured). On the small hill just above the waterfront are the 5 windmills you often see in photos of Mykonos and there are a few more windmills higher up above the town. The waterfront is filled with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops but not in a tacky way. The main strip along the waterfront gives way to winding narrow alleyways which all look very similar. More restaurants and shops of all varieties. Some of the houses have bright coloured bougainvillea climbing up the walls and it looks very pretty. We saw a windmill and tried to make our way towards it. The streets twisted and turned and we lost sight of the windmill so we gave up and asked one if the locals how to find it. He told us to go straight ahead till we reached a bakery and then turn left. We walked for quite a while and we still hadn't seen a bakery so we stopped and asked again. I imagine many people get lost in this town. We reached the windmills just before sunset and then made our way back along the waterfront to find somewhere to have coffees & hot chocolate. This turned out to be quite difficult because most places would only let you sit down if you were buying a meal. We finally found a gelato bar on the waterfront which also sold hot drinks. We caught the shuttle back to the ship at around 10.30pm.