This rant is a departure from food for a moment. If you haven’t noticed, what my blog is really about is my lifestyle. Food happens to be my greatest passion. Travel is a close second with reading and music not far behind. These things really all come together when I am living in balance. I consider myself a hedonist, which is best defined as “a school of philosophy which argues that pleasure has an ultimate importance and is the most important pursuit of humanity”. This is my ‘religion’.
Santorini has me in a frenzy. I want to love it. I want to cherish it as the most stellar geological freak, window-into-history, nature-kicks-everyone’s-ass, mind-fuck on the planet. It is all of that, and more. The deeper I dig into the history the more I am intrigued and the more I want to learn. The longer I stare out into the caldera, which is my current view as I write this from my balcony at the Oia Blue Villa (pictured above), the longer I want to drift in amazement at how insignificant we are compared to the power of this earth.
But then there’s the fucking tourists. I know, let’s just get it out of the way….I am a hypocrite and an elitist. What gives me the right to claim superiority over any other traveler? Who am I to judge someone else and feel that my experience is more valid or just than theirs? I have no right to judge others when I myself am a tourist. Herein lies the paradox. I get that. I own it. But I still feel it and I don’t apologize for it.
For the uninitiated, Santorini was a honking volcano in the middle of the Mediterranean until around 1600BC. It was also a major outpost for the Minoan civilization, which pre-dated the Greeks and vied for power against the Myceneans. Until the thing blew up. I mean the whole island popped it’s lid and left nothing but the edges of the mountain (the rim) and a vast sinkhole (the caldera) that spans 18 km at it’s widest point. This was the 2nd largest volcanic eruption in the history of humankind. The first was 73,000 years ago and left only 10,000 people on the planet. Look at the aerial shot and you’ll get the picture.
I’ve been to a lot of cool places on earth. I’ve seen many geological wonders. But this place takes the cake. Where else can you witness the raw force of nature at such a scale up close so accessibly? And the Greeks don’t mess around. They’ve built villages all along the inside of the rim. Stunning white villa/caves sit precariously on the edge of the abyss with winding stairways, cafés, terraces and infinity pools that scoff at the 700ft tsunami that rose from here 3600 years ago and destroyed Crete. It’s tasteful, yet alarming.
The cruise ships pull up to the harbor and a stream of tour buses pick up the pods and drop them off in the various villages, Oia being the most scenic and sunsettyful. The pathways in Oia are very narrow, which means it gets tight. The presence of the crowds is palpable, and this isn’t even close to high-season now. In July and August the place swells by multiples with throngs of people, 10 cruise ships at a time and nearly overflows into the volcano. And it’s not the type of tourist that ‘gets-it’. It’s the cruise-ship, packaged tourist, all-you-can-eat-buffet, day-excursion, barely-get-your-hands-dirty-with-the-local-culture stuff that I abhor. Mix that with Germans and Italians having their party holidays and add in a nice stream of backpacker-ouzo-thump-thump-full-moon-ravers. And again, I know, I am an unapologetic hypocrite and an elitist. Tough.
Scholarly types are pointing at Santorini as the most logical location for the legend of Atlantis. Plato provides the most lucid account of this mythical city, now under the sea. It would make sense that a Greek story actually occurred in Greece, considering their somewhat limited world-view at the time. Standing here I understand how it is possible. Much of his writing about Atlantis matches the place well.
But moreover, the metaphors in Plato’s tale of Atlantis strike me.”When the human nature got the upper hand” (Plato, Critias 121b), they became sinful and invaded by crimes. As a consequence, they were bound to loose their paradise. Maybe all this tourism is building up to something and we’re supposed to be lured here so that badass mother-earth can bitch-slap as many people as possible, during a full-moon party while all the cruise ships are having Mexico theme night.
So, again, the Paradox. I’m still looking out on the caldera. I just had an hour conversation with our villa’s concierge who is a South African transplant and manages a crop of luxury properties on Santorini. But she totally gets it and agrees. Yet, she moved here. She’s so drawn to the primitive power of her Atlantis, that the shlock are just a manageable nuisance that clog her paradise for a few months a year. AND, they enable her by providing buckets of cash for her thriving business.
For me, I am storing away the images and emotions so I can recall them when the world feels small. I doubt I will return here. I’ve got my slice of Atlantis and my ship sails tomorrow (no, its not a cruise ship, wiseass).