Our last evening in Santorini (after a hilarious and thoroughly necessary donkey expedition down to the old port in Fira that afternoon) was spent in Oia (pronounced ee-uh). Somehow this hillside town on the northern tip of the island has successfully balanced the busloads of tourists with its normal life, unlike the capital, which seems to be made up completely of visitors. All in all, it is charming in the extreme. Our first visit was to Atlantis Books, recommended by a friend of Amy's as it was founded by Tufts alumnae. As you descend a short staircase into the whitewashed shop, the things you pass are an indicator of what is to come; a suitcase of books, and a birdcage home to not a bird, but a pipe. Once inside, our glee (bibliophiles that we are) was audible. The best way to describe it, which Amy and I both immediately seized upon, is a shipwrecked treehouse. Books cover every wall, fill every curved niche, lay on every small table. There is a cat named Max who favors the Recommended section. Atlantis is even home to its own Lost Boys - bookshelves swing open to reveal hidden lofts where the crew of kids who run the shop in the summer sleep at night. We made quick friends of the current employee, J, who happens to know someone I know from Colorado. Smallish world indeed. He landed in Oia after college and Teach for America with an offer to work in the shop. I told him I have an eye on his job.
He sent us next to the shop Maria Baba Vida, "where locals shop," full of beautiful and strikingly original jewelry. She uses everything from precious metals to the local volcanic rock. After a solid amount of time chatting with the girl who ran the place, and settling on a few gifts for friends and family, she shooed us off to watch the famous Oia sunset. It did not disappoint, although it was quite misty out on the horizon, but the most impressive thing was how many people showed up to watch! Shutters were clicked, breaths were held, and as soon as the final sliver dipped out of site, the crowd broke into applause, and then we all strode away laughing, in search of dinner. How will future archaeologists know about the intensity of our pilgrimage and obsession with the setting sun? We left no trace.
We very luckily got a table at a beautiful restaurant that had caught Amy's eye. It is called Nectar and Ambrosia. Very fitting - the food (and the view) was fantastic. I had a couscous salad, with tomato and lemon and fennel and wedges of grilled pita, and Amy had pumpkin ravioli that was not sweet (as is often, sadly, the case with squash rav) in a light sauce. Yum!
As if our evening could get any better, there arrived at our restaurant (of all possible places, our restaurant!) the party of... a wedding. The bride arrived via donkey (of course), beautiful in white and delicate long veil, surrounded by her new husband, the small wedding party, and two Greek violinists, who played until all were seated. It was beautiful.
The next day, after a bus ride and a flight on a teenytiny plane, we arrived on Rhodes.
Stepping off the airplane, I felt like I had entered a new county. It felt much more tropical in climate (palm trees!) and vaguely Middle Eastern in atmosphere. I had the strangest feeling of being almost unsure if Greek was the appropriate language. This confusion is understandable in the context of the island's history - changing hands among countries, once overseen by multilingual knights, always Greek as much as anything but with influences ranging from Venice to Rome to Egypt to Turkey. This feeling lingered through the endless, crowded bus ride and walk into the walled medieval city, and has only been tempered (but not completely absolved) by successful Greek conversations, and yet another inquiry demanding (Am I sure my parents are not...? My face looks very....?) if I am Greek. Whether these complimentary accusations would occur so frequently if I did not speak a smattering of the language in greeting, I shall remain forever unawares, although to be honest it has happened even when I remain mute.
Last night we had a small but satisfying meal at a nearby taverna, situated under a huge spreading tree. (Eucalyptus? Plane? I will ask tonight.) There are cats everywhere, mostly a little strange in the eyes and skinny in the ribs - generally feral.
Today, since as a Monday museums are closed, we went to Eli beach, just around the corner and with a 20ft high diving platform. We plan to return to "our" restuarant tonight...a plan cemented when we saw, passing it today, a cat asleep in the net under the tree.