Santorini isn't just stunning views and beautiful vistas. It's also an island of import to archaeologists and the site of an eons-old wine tradition.
It was time for us to take a day to learn all we could about these two pursuits.
So that's not a very long time to become an expert on ancient history, or wine - that didn't stop us from getting back on our little leggies and setting off to perhaps one of the most important archaeological sites anywhere, ancient Akrotiri.
Akrotiri is known as the "Minoan Pompeii," because it was buried by a volcano (same as Pompeii) - the same one that blew out the center of the island circa 1650 BCE.
We were really excited to see the buildings, which from all accounts are remarkably preserved. When we showed up, though, we were told admission would be free because of the construction going on on the giant UV-protecting roof/cover.
So, this is what the ancient site of Akrotiri looked like to us:
We couldn't see anything. I tried matching up the little bits of what we could see with the descriptions in my book, but nothing doing.
(sadly, in September of 2005, the roof - which had been under construction since 1999 - collapsed, killing a British tourist and injuring several tourists and workers.)
So, unfortunately, we weren't able to get too much out of our visit to Akrotiri. But - it was free!
Leaving the site, we hailed a cab. "Take us to Boutari!" we cried. (follow that link, click on wineries, then click on santorini. Stupid inability to permalink.)
And he did.
And we ordered two tasting flights of Boutari's wine.
Which came with olives and cheese and tomatoes and dry crackery bread for palate-cleansing.
It was a little surprising, how much wine they put in front of us. Some we liked more than others, and we hadn't heard of the grapes most of them were made of. I enjoyed them all.
We passed a vineyard, which was very different from those we saw in Italy.
On Santorini, they twist all the vines around each other and grow the grapes in the basket created by the leaves and vines. This protects the grapes from the relentless sun and winds.
Though tour buses passed us every, oh, thirty seconds or so, the area where we were actually walking seemed to be inhabited by the people who honest-and-for-real live on the island.
(Note that, by this time, I had wisened up and bought a hat.)
This is apparently a car repair shop. (Thanks, Leda, for the translation!)
We did finally make it to Santo Wines, our buzz from Boutari having quite worn off.
The tasting building and shop run by Santo Wines is set in a building with a beautiful view north towards Fira. I really wanted to like these guys - it's apparently a collective run by some of the grape-growers on the island. I always do like supporting the little guy!
Again, we ordered too much wine. We were definitely not expecting each glass to be so full!
We struck up a conversation with the guy at the table next to us, who happened to be from Fort Lauderdale Florida - the same town my grandparents live in.
He offered to take our picture as we sat with our wine.
As he took our picture, he said "You have plenty of shots of the two of you - you need one of the view!"
Well - O.K... this pic does show you the lovely view from Santo Wines, though.
Our reaction to Santo Wines was a little different than our reaction to Boutari. While a couple of the wines were nice, for the most part they were really unbalanced - sweet yet sharp, not a good combination.
Disappointed, we left to catch a cab to Art Space, in the small town of Exo Gonia. We heard that this place was a gallery which had a nice selection of wines you could try while looking at perhaps a few pieces of art.
Well - it was emphatically NOT that, in that it was much, much more interesting.
Adonis, the owner, welcomed us enthusiastically to the cave-like gallery. We were only able to take one picture before he asked us to stop, and we respected his wishes. (there are a bunch of pictures if you follow the art space link above, though.)
As it turned out, Adonis ran a gallery in an extremely old building that used to be a winery. He had some old wine-making equipment, along with what he called the oldest remaining traditional tomato paste maker in all of Greece. The gallery was full of the art of up-and-coming Greek artists, and Adonis was very knowledgeable about these artists, along with the history of Santorini and Greece in general.
He was a very interesting guy, who we were lucky to meet.
Then - he offered us some of his homemade vin santo to taste (the Santorini kind, not the Tuscan kind), just bottled and without a label yet. It was wonderful! So... we bought a bottle. We are waiting for a special occasion to open it up- perhaps a second anniversary? Hmmmm....
Next time - the archaeological museum of Santorini, and perhaps the worst meal we had in Greece.