one of the most romantic parts of travel is that it changes lives.
our lives have been transformed again and again by travel, whether we relocated across continents for work, or traipsed through new countries for romance.
greece is one of those life-transforming places.
visit once and you’ll be changed.
visit twice and you know you’re hooked: you’ll return — in mind and spirit, if not body.
greece invites longer stays at each visit.
the last time we were there, we vacationed like europeans, and stayed a month.
indeed, our neighbors on santorini’s west coast, put down their beach towels for almost the entire summer.
(we were wakened some mornings by the youngest family member, anna, who would peek in the door of our room and ask her parents, ‘why are they still asleep?’ her mother would later bring over their little coffee pot and share their sweet, thick brew, even though their english and our greek were woefully inadequate for much conversation.)
we lazed through the mornings, watching mediterranean life from our sun-splashed balcony, marveling daily at our good fortune at finding a hole in the rock.
we stayed for awhile at amoudi, a tiny fishing village spilling into the sea. some homes and hotel rooms are cut into the cliffs, so visitors learn about the benefits of ancient air conditioning from all-stone interiors. still, it was so hot, we slept safely with the door and all windows open. (hence, anna’s morning peeks.)
as the only non-europeans in the place, we were invited for coffee and pastries at stone balconies overhanging the sea.
most days, we swam with the locals, jumping off rocks into the same water where fishing boats were moored.
our part of the island had no beach, so on their days off, english-speaking neighbors invited us for picnics on white sand beaches frequented only by santorini residents.
we lazed and learned about greek history and culture; and compared notes about the differences between american and greek cultures (especially their easy-going approach to vacations and time off from work).
in late afternoon, we climbed the steep hills to the village of oia above, to explore galleries, shops, restaurants and tavernas.
some visitors rode donkeys to beat the incline: the poor animals looked so hot and tired, and we were so hot and tired already, that it just didn’t seem fair to climb on them.
still, the donkeys are an attraction, and everyone photographs them.
most of our shots are architectural, because we never tire of whitewashed buildings and blue domes, especially when they’re set against the impossible blue of the aegean.
after enjoying watery sunsets nightly, we had long, leisurely dinners next to the sea, with the fishermen whose catches landed on our plates.
learning that we looked forward to his fresh fish every evening, one fisherman would grab our hands in his, show us what he was grilling over a wood fire, and invite us to select something from his catch. (all this in greek, so every dinner had an air of mystery.)
anchovies, sea bream, snapper, branzino: they were so exquisite, no fish has ever tasted the same anywhere else.
including the ones we couldn’t identify, but relished just the same.
weeks later, our hands still carried the scent of the fisherman’s hands.