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We Rented a Motorbike!

Day 2 in Santorini!

sunny 80 °F

This morning I woke up early to figure out where in the world we are going to go after Santorini. Since it is so last minute, most flights are astronomically expensive, so I essentially looked at what place would be the cheapest to visit on our way to Amsterdam. After looking at a mind-numbing number of combinations of flights from Santorini or Athens (we would have to take another ferry back if we were leaving from Athens) to probably a dozen European cities and then flights from those cities to Amsterdam, on a variety of different days, Istanbul emerged as the clear favorite. With direct flights from Athens to Istanbul and Istanbul to Amsterdam, it would save hundreds of dollars over the next cheapest cities. Also, when we had mentioned Istanbul as a possible destination in between Greece and Egypt in our original itinerary, we had rave reviews from everyone we spoke with. Also, the cheapest days to make the trip ended up being Sunday (Athens to Istanbul) and Wednesday (Istanbul to Amsterdam), which gave us an extra day in Santorini!

When Kristine woke up, I showed her the options and she agreed that Istanbul was best. I started cooking breakfast and she went down to pay for an extra night in Santorini. We even booked a hostel (private room but shared bath) in Istanbul, so we actually know where we’ll be sleeping the next four nights which qualifies us as planners compared to how we usually travel.
Once we had breakfast, I was beyond excited to go rent our motorbike for the day. After paying just 12 euros and passing a quick drivers test (“You have license? You can drive? OK), we more than half-filled the gas tank (5 euros!!!) and hit the open road!
It blew my mind that for the equivalent of 20 bucks, we were set on transportation for the next 24 hours. No wonder so many people drive these things around Europe!

The free map from the hotel wasn’t especially detailed, so we stopped to buy a map and found that it had little additional information from our hotel map. Essentially, there just aren’t that many roads on Santorini! Despite the fact that she hates motorcycles because they are too dangerous, Kristine has always wanted a Vespa. We were essentially riding a Vespa, but she didn’t feel too comfortable or safe, so at one point we were going to head home so that she could catch the bus to the wineries we wanted to go to and I would follow in the motorbike. However, on the way home, we passed the winery that our hotel owner had highly recommended, Santo Wines. The view was pretty spectacular. Kristine was wearing her pretty new dress!
The had tours every hour and we had just missed it, so we instead sat down for a wine tasting and cheese platter.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to pick our wines, so we ended up with a few sweet ones and the final wine was Vinsanto, which Santorini is famous for and was the mystery drink we had been served at dinner last night. It was nice to have a chance to taste with cheeses and olives and there was even some tomato paste, which was an interesting flavor to mix with our wine and snacks.

When it hit 2pm, it was time for our tour. Santo Winery was constructed in levels to match the slope of the hill/cliff that it was built on and also to take advantage of gravity in the winemaking process. On the first level, we saw where the grapes were brought in and the machine that de-stems them. Next was a line of machines where the grapes were crushed. Essentially a giant balloon inside the machine expands to crush the grapes and extract the juice, without crushing the seeds, which would make the wine bitter. On the 3rd level were storage tanks where the wine sits long enough to let the heavy sediments sink to the bottom.
All along the way, they are able to use gravity to move along in the process to avoid using pumps and agitating the wine. On the 4th level was the fermentation room followed by the storage room and finally the barrel storage for the wines that will be stored in oak barrels. Here’s our tour guide in the oak barrel storage room.
She explained that Greece cannot grow oak trees, so they must import them from France or Canada. Nothing is wasted at the winery…the stems, seeds and sediments that are extracted to make the wine end up being used in fertilizers and sometimes liquors. Even the roof gets used both to sun dry grapes for sweet wines like vinsanto and also to collect rainwater (since it’s freshest water source on the island-maybe that’s why their tap water tastes awful??). Also, the baskets/wreaths you can see in this picture
are from actual vines. You will not see any traditional vines being held up on Santorini because the wind is so strong that it would damage the vines and blow sand particles hard enough to puncture the skin of the grapes. Instead, grape growers on the island long ago figured out that they must weave the vines into these basket shapes by hand as they grow, so that the vines and leaves protect the grapes and keep them low to the ground.

After our tour, Kristine was feeling brave (this may or may not have been wine induced) and decided that she would ride with me to Akrotiri, an ancient town that was discovered on Santorini, which had been highly recommended to us. On the way, we stopped at several unbelievable vistas for pictures.
We named our motorbike Pyrgos (the name of a town on Santorini), because Kristine had way too much fun saying it in an accent.

The excavated ruins of Akrotiri have actually been built into a giant building that surrounds and protects them. The town was destroyed by earthquake and rebuilt twice before being destroyed a third time. During the third rebuilding, the volcano erupted, freezing the town in time. It is incredible to walk along the streets of this ancient town that has been so well preserved.
Unfortunately, as is the theme with much of Greece, there wasn’t much signage to explain what we were looking at. Some of this is due to the fact that it is still being excavated and explored, but some additional information would have been quite interesting.

The volcanic beginnings of Santorini have blessed it with both black and red sand beaches, which we had heard about ever since we arrived on the island. When we pulled in to Akrotiri, we noticed that the Red Sand Beach was just down the street, so that was our next stop. Our tiny motorbike provided us the opportunity for a great parking spot, then there was a short hike to get to the beach. Kristine probably wasn’t happy with the additional hiking, but you couldn’t complain about the view along the way.
The sand was a deep red color, and close inspection showed that about half of the sand particles were red and the other half were black.
There were a handful of doors built into the walls of the cliff that were presumably for changing, but we weren’t too sure about them, so I instead changed into my bathing suit behind some kind of makeshift barrier of fabric. Kristine didn’t feel like swimming and went to sit down on one of the hundred or so lounge chairs lined up on the beach. Almost immediately, a man came over and asked for 7 euros each. Needless to say, we got out of those chairs pretty quickly. It was pretty strange however, because the beach looked to be a public beach, and yet almost every inch of it was covered by this random Greek’s beach chairs. It was all a bit odd. Since Kristine had to stand, I just took a quick dip. The water had to be the saltiest I had ever been in. I could immediately feel it drying out my lips. Nonetheless it was warm and enjoyable.

After drying off, we headed for home. On the way, we saw another vineyard and decided to stop. We were able to do another tasting, and Kristine wanted to try some tomato balls, but the chef had just left for the day. The owner felt bad and gave us a free cheese plate with (more olives and tomato paste). We essentially subsisted on a diet of wine and cheese for lunch throughout the day.
Also, both wineries served bread that looked great but was hard as a rock.

We then had an hour or so to kill before sunset, so we went back home to get changed and play a few hands of 500 Rummy. Kristine had been wearing her new dress all day, so she put on her new necklace to match and I finally got some use out of the button down I packed and we headed out to catch the sunset and grab dinner. As we walked the two blocks to the caldera, there seemed to be a lot of people walking in the opposite direction and I got the sinking feeling that we had missed the sunset-sacrilege on Santorini. Sure enough, we must have missed it by less than 2 minutes. Dusk was still pretty remarkable though…
Although we had set out for a fancy dinner to match our fancy outfits, Kristine was intent on a gyro and all of the menus of the fancy restaurants that we passed did not serve them. So, we ended up going to McDaniels (Irish Pub in Greece?), where Kristine grabbed a gyro and I had souvlaki kebabs.
Although she’s not usually a fan of french fries, gyros here have a few french fries in them and she loves that them because taste “more potatoey” than at home. My kebabs on the other hand looked to have been sitting around all day before being slathered in oil and reheated on the grill for me. Nonetheless, it was cheap eats after a string of expensive restaurants over the past few days. We were also out late enough to admire Fira by night.

On the way home, we needed a few groceries for our extra day in Santorini and we had a few bizarre experiences trying to buy shop. We needed a piece of fruit and some eggs and figured that we would stop at the market we pass on our way home. In walking by over the past few days, I had noticed that their produce didn’t look especially fresh so I picked up and put back down a few peaches that had been strategically placed to conceal the rotting on their underside. On probably the fourth peach I picked up, I found a fresh one and it was a good thing because the instant I picked it up, the shopkeeper grabbed it from my hand, weighed it and told me the price. Clearly he didn’t like me inspecting his produce. Also, he didn’t have any eggs so we had to go up the street to another market. It was a small store, so I made a walk through and didn’t see eggs. On the way out, I asked the owner/cashier if he had any eggs and he yelled something to his friend, who went to find them. I’ve only seen eggs in half dozen packs here and this was no different, except for the fact that there was only five eggs inside. When the friend gave the owner the eggs, the owner casually told me that there was only five eggs and then proceeded to ring up the sale. Being the demanding customer that I am, I insisted on six eggs, so he yelled something to his friend who went in the back and came out with one egg to add to my pack. It was all very strange.

At long last, we headed home. I was still hungry after just a few kebabs, so I made us a tomato and cucumber salad with feta that we munched on while finishing up our game of 500 Rummy. My winning streak continued and this time I won in gin as well. Obviously, she insisted on another game and this time she crushed me in Rummy but I won gin. We finished the night by looking up the top things to do in Istanbul. I’m doubtful that we’ll be able to find Arthur’s book on Istanbul in the airport or around the city, and Istanbul isn’t in Europe so it’s not in our original Arthur book, so this will be the first city we do without a guidebook. It should be interesting. We definitely want to go to the Grand Bazaar, take a ride on the Bosphorus ferry, walk along the walls of Constantinople and get a view from Galata Tower. Kristine is also excited to see a few palaces, especially the Dolmabance Palace and it’s crystal staircase. The hard part is that we don’t have any daily itineraries from Arthur so it’s going to take some planning to group together attractions that are close together to make the most of our two full days there.

Posted by atbrady 09:03 Archived in Greece Tagged greece sand red santorini tour wine winery santo fira thira boutari pyrgos vinsanto

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The motor bike looks like great fun!!! xoxoxo

by Elaine Brady

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