Today we're going to leave Christmas and its excesses behind and return to Santorini! On our fourth day, we woke up early, driving to Akrotiri in the south to see two of the most raved-about attractions on the island: the ruins of a Minoan Bronze Age settlement and the Red Beach.
Although fascinating, the site at Akrotiri isn't nearly as well preserved as some of the ruins we've been lucky enough to wander through, such as Angkor Wat, Pompeii or Ephesus. Suffice to say imagination is really needed to reconstruct the ancient bustling civilisation, since most of the finds, such as pottery and mosaics, are housed miles away from Akrotiri in a museum in Fira. It might be a question of budget, but even replicas of these mosaics and pots in situ would have made the site come to life and made for a much more exciting visit. If you're a budding classicist, however, I would still recommend a trip to the site. Finally, unlike the three sites mentioned, a warehouse-like shelter has been built around Akrotiri, and the air inside is unsurprisingly incredibly stuffy and close. Luckily, the sea is but a few steps away!
After the heat of the archaeological site, the sea breeze was our salvation, gently whipping at our faces as we climbed the hill. Suddenly, the Red Beach loomed into view. A cliff overhanging a bay, its rusty scree bleeds into the sand below, staining the beach and its shallows red. I'd just been time travelling, skipping back a few thousand years to visualise the Minoan settlement. Now I felt like I'd been on a voyage through space: this barren, copper-coloured landscape could have come straight out of Star Wars or The Martian.
We took one look at the swimmers who scuttled out of the surf covered in brackish seaweed from head to toe, damp hair caked in black and red sand, and resolutely decided not to take a dip, preferring to wander further along the beach, where bright red faded to blacks and greys with a russet tinge.
Mysterious doors set into the side of the rock sparked a flurry of questions. Could they be fishermen's homes, cave dwellings hollowed out into the cliff? Maybe they led to nowhere and everywhere, like the doors in Monsters Inc. And what on earth did the electrical cables connect to, jutting out into the salty air? Sadly, this was one enigma that remained unsolved.
Sweaty and the soles of our feet coated in sand, we clambered back up to the road where we enjoyed some ice cream before taking a cab back to the hotel. There, we showered and had a swim before dinner in nearby Imerovigli.
One of the things I found the most interesting about Santorini was that many of the island's restaurants, tonight's included, try their best to cater to their wealthy guests by imitating Michelin-star cuisine, but mostly fall short of the mark. Other than Selene, the only eateries really worth writing home about are the small tavernas who stay true to homely Greek cooking. I felt that many of the other restaurants would have been far better had they presented their food simply, with prices to match. There's no denying that the food in Santorini is good for the most part, using fresh ingredients - but the way in which it's served can feel overblown and veer towards the pretentious. Then again, I suppose this is what happens when an island becomes a tourist magnet to this degree.
Though you might feel swindled when you're paying through the nose for a pseudo-Michelin experience, you quickly realise that you're really shelling out for a comfortable view of the sunset. And oh my, what a sunset it is.
The days in Santorini are all too easily whiled away. There's a lot of adventures to be had if you want to go looking for them, and even if you don't, hours can easily pass with a good book in your hand in the shade. Our day at Akrotiri zipped by, and all too soon I was tucked up in bed, dreaming of a small fishing village on a red shore, six millennia ago.
If you've missed my earlier posts on Santorini, you can catch up here: