Once we reluctantly left the beautiful town of Oia, the second largest after Fira Town, on the island of Santorini, Greece, we were taken to Domaine Sigalas, one of several small wineries on the island.Because the island is so hot and dry the grape vines are pruned into round basket-like shapes very low to the ground. In this way moisture from the air is trapped in the middle and the springtime blossoms are protected from the stiff winds. The grapes then grow in the center of the ‘basket’ with the leaves covering them providing shade from the hot summer sun. Very ingenious. Domaine Sigalas produces a rosè, four red and four white wines. After our wine tasting we were driven up and over the crest of the caldera rim back to Fira. We were taken to the Nomikos Foundation which has a wonderful display of three-dimensional photographic reproductions, representing the prehistoric wall paintings of Akrotiri which offer a glimpse of what life was like in the 17th century BC. The entrance terrace offered a pretty nice view of the ship and the sea. At the winery we sat with Andrea, one of the ship’s videographers and her friend Leigh, one of the ship’s dancers. When we finished looking at the displays of Akrotiri Andrea joined John and me and we went looking for the donkeys.
There are two ways, other than the road, to get back to the bottom of the cliff and the ship. One was to walk for about 10 minutes and ride the cable car down. The other is to ride a donkey. It took us awhile to find where the men and their mules (not donkeys) were stationed and it took a bit more time to convince one of them to go down with only the three of us. The fellow that eventually agreed was going down anyway to take some more mules to the bottom for people to ride up. Unbeknownst to us there was no path. Rather wide, shallow stairs followed a switchback route down the cliffside. Now, riding an animal down a steep slope is challenging enough, riding one down a staircase was very interesting. John turned in his saddle to take my picture just as his mule landed hard on one of the steps and was almost thrown off. It was great fun though!
We could see the cable car route as we descended.
Very, very energetic people will walk down, or up, the stairs. We all had a great time on the ride down. However, we were told later that you never, ever ride the mules down the stairs; only up. When they go down apparently they just clamber down quickly and there is nothing you can do to slow them down. Thankfully we had the fellow in front leading the way which, I guess, saved us from a harrowing trip.
I absolutely loved our day in Santorini and would go back there anytime. What a beautiful, interesting place!