Home » Lifestyle » Travel » Greek Islands: Santorini Past and Present

Greek Islands: Santorini Past and Present

Santorini Village in the 70's

I first visited Santorini, a volcanic island north of Crete, 40 years ago as a newly graduated teacher on a back-pack tour of the Greek islands.

The over-night ferry (the only way to reach the island) docked at the port at the foot of a daunting 600 foot high cliff. The only way to reach the top was via a hair-raising ride on mule-back, bumping up 900 steps carved out of the rock with a sheer drop into the sea below.

My destination was Kamari Beach, which took its name from a small village on the other side of the island. The local bus dropped me off in the middle of a tomato field on my way there. As both the earth and sand were black it was impossible to see where the tomato field ended and the beach began.

I found accomodation in a modest boarding-house set back from the beach but apart from that there was absolutely nothing, except for a ramshackle wooden hut  where ouzo and Coke were served to the few bathers – mostly Greek families and a few adventurous foreign tourists with their bathing towels and sandwiches.

At night-fall the shack was transformed into an eating-place (‘restaurant’ is too grand a word) with a simple but delicious menu of typical Greek dishes washed down with retsina wine. This was the night life on offer in those days. There was no public lighting and I remember staggering back along the beach to the boarding-house in utter pitch-black darkness.

The Santorini of today is a completely different affair. There is now an airport with regular flights from Athens; tourists who arrive by ferry-boat or ship (the island is on the itinerary of many luxury cruises) can reach the top of the cliff by cable-car. The mules are still there as a tourist attraction, so the more adventurous can still go up the 900 steps on mule-back. In the nooks and crannies off the mule-track there is now an infinite variety of little restaurants and piano bars all lit up with fairy-lights for the pleasure of the tourists.

What was once the tomato field  is now the beginning of  Kamari Promenade with its long row of  luxury hotels – all with swimming-pools – overlooking the sea.  The beach is no longer sparsely peopled by improvised tourists with their towels and sun-hats: instead there are rows and rows of  beach-umbrellas and sunbeds – all occupied by sun-oiled, suntanned bodies – and an incredible choice of trendy beach restaurants and bars where you can lounge over a meal in comfort or sip cocktails with a fantastic view of the sea. These and the discos make Kamari one of the hubs of island night-life.

Unsurprisingly, there is no longer any sign of the wooden shack with its Coca Cola sign and three rickety tables!

About Kathy Macchioni

Kathy Macchioni
Kathy Macchioni was born in Yorkshire and took a degree in Modern Languages at Reading University. She has lived in Italy for 40 years, where she works as a teacher and translator.

Check Also

Three Unforgettable Ecuadorian Experiences

Ecuador is an amazing country (about the size of Nevada) that proves the best things …

One comment

  1. A fantastic little island, on our 4th trip back this summer. Although geared towards the tourist market santorini still holds its greek charm and attracts visitors from all over the world. Although resturants are plentiful and cater for all tastes i love the fact that the food on offer is still predominantly greek, nightlife in the beach resorts is reasonably low key, a few late night bars rather than clubs, in perissa and perivolous at least and there is a great beach culture.
    We chose santorini everytime as it has more than sea and sun, there is so much history and places to visit and scenery found in very few places. From my experiences of the greek islands santorini whilst catering for all and offering luxary if you can afford it hasnt been commercialised for the British larger drinking, english breakfast eating tourist in the way many others like Corfu and Zante have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *