The nippy northern wind flogs the rim of Santorini's caldera. As if the Meltemi wind came earlier this year. First May's weekend sun can burn your skin but it is too weak to warm up the lava formed rocks and white streets. Greek women wear long skirts and scarfs to keep warm. Yet it is comfy enough for holidaying Brits in their sandals, shorts and revealing dresses.
In the late afternoon, when Helios drives his chariot of sun towards the earth-circling Oceanus, he throws pink spells on the bell tower of the church of Panagia Platsanis in the centre of Oia.
The church was originally build within the Saint Nikolas Castle at the edge of a cliff. The tragic earthquake of 9 July 1956 saw the church destroyed. The area became unstable and the decision was taken to rebuild the church in the centre of the village.
The most charming traditional Cycladic windmills are located at the western end of the village. Their breathtaking beauty bathes in the rays of the setting sun. In the past the stronghold wall extended towards them as they grinded split peas and barley for the castle. Some of them are now let out as holiday homes.
Tourists flock to Santorini and Oia to experience the magic of the butter-melting eventide. Cafés, restaurants and hotels proudly incorporate the word "sunset" in their names in hundreds of variations. Dozens of sailboats finish their daily cruises west of Oia to offer the breathtaking view. Brides-to-be hire catamarans sailing into the sun for their hen parties.
The man in the blue "I ❤︎ heart Santorini" hoodie may be a fisherman or maybe he abandoned fishing as a source of income recently. Fishermen sailing in ones or twos in small boats have it the worst in the chain of fishing industry. Greek people can afford to buy less fish. The amount of fish caught in Greece dropped by a third between 2007 and 2012 and the remaining catch lost a third of its value.
Turquoise is believed to possess the power to keep the evil spirits away. Hence church cupolas, windows, doors, walls, staircases and fences are painted sky-blue to protect the buildings and their inhabitants. Perhaps it is not surprising to see so many splendid churches on an island tormented by volcanic eruptions and disastrous earthquakes. Another legend says that during the Ottoman rule, Greeks were not allowed to fly their white and blue flag. In defiance they painted their houses in white with turquoise domes.
Oia is built on a steep slope of the Santorini volcano caldera. The houses and restaurants are carved into the caldera on the seaward side at 150 metres elevation above the sea level. In 1890 Oia had around 2,500 inhabitants and 130 sailing ships. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 1956 destroyed the village and caused major emigration. The population shrank to 306 in 1977. Later it redeveloped into a picturesque tourist destination. Presently the island of Santorini hosts about half a million tourists a year.
I would love to enjoy the sunset again. Imagine you sit on a terrasse or perhaps in a comfortable chair on a deck of a sailboat. The mineral notes of the local wine in your glass remind you of the volcanic soil that refuses to contribute much nutrients. The grapes huddled in a basket woven from vines to protect them against the strong winds. You watch the sun going down and dream...