Why the Greek islands kick mainland Greece’s arse

If you’ve been reading my blog of late, you’d know that I’ve been hating on Greece.

Well… I’m pleased to report that Santorini has restored my faith somewhat.

You see, tourism is the lifeblood on the islands, so there’s a lot less of this CBF attitude that made mainland Greece my solo backpacker’s nightmare.

My first two nights on Santorini are at a gorgeous little hotel, run by a very sweet Greek woman called Poppy.

My only complaints were that I seemed to be the only guest not on a romantic getaway and Poppy’s directions to get to the main town of Fira failed to mention that I needed to turn a sharp left.

All she said was – “turn right at main road, can’t miss it.”

Let me assure you – you can and I did.

Can’t say I was too happy about it either, fresh off an eight hour boat ride to get here. It was all too hard. I ended up abandoning my plans to treat myself to a romantic dinner with caldera views and went back to my hotel and ate muesli out of a cup.

The next morning I did manage to locate Fira.

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Don’t get me wrong, the view from my morning coffee was spectacular, but it smelt overwhelmingly of donkey shit and the streets were lined with shop after shop selling touristy crap – and come lunchtime pearl-wearing, champagne-sipping cruise-goers.

I must say, I took great pleasure in watching one of them (who clearly had an overly romantic idea of what a donkey ride down the caldera would be like) holding on for dear life while this donkey thrust her around like a baby’s rattle, as the poor thing (the donkey) struggled not to buckle at its knees under her weight and the Mediterranean sun.

After I’d had my fun people watching, I ventured to Oia to see Santorini’s famous sunsets.

Oia is seriously like being in a postcard.

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At one point I became so overwhelmed by this type of view I forgot to hold onto my glass of cherry frozen yogurt and it obliterated all over the restaurant floor.

One word for you – mortified.

The rest of the afternoon I was a rubbernecker at people’s weddings.

I can see why you’d get married here, but to be honest the view is so ridiculously beautiful it can upstage the bride – particularly this one who committed a fashion crime worse than sneans.

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As for the sunset, the clouds decided to roll on in, right in as the sun was going down, so this was about as good as it got.

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The next morning, after some Skype coaxing from my best friend, I moved to Perissa (the beach side of the island) and into a eight person dorm to save myself from another day of talking to myself.

I spent the afternoon on the beach with a Canadian ex-Mormon divorcee I met on the bus and then the early evening sipping 3 euro cocktails from a golden oldies’ bar which played the likes of the Bee Gees and Rick Astley.

After waving her off at the bus stop, half cut, I found myself a cute little restaurant for a romantic dinner for one.

To be honest, I actually don’t mind dining by myself but for some reason it seems to make other people nervous. I got many a stare from the loved up couples and honeymooners strolling past, and more welcome – many a free wines from my waiter.

Needless to say I got myself accidentally drunk and knew it was time to leave when I shaped two napkins into dinosaurs and began having a T Rex fight – complete with sound effects.

Next I went in search of a bar one of my old radio colleagues used to work at.

There I met an Athenian liquor sales rep who also seemed perplexed as to why I was travelling by myself, but most of all, why I hadn’t found myself a Greek lover. According to her this is very, very strange.

It got me thinking, I’ve been here three weeks and apart from the bartender at my hostel (who has a girlfriend) and the guy I saw at a bar shaking his arse better than Beyonce – no-one has caught my eye.

In saying that, I have been wearing a daily contact lense in my right eye, which is actually the prescription for my left eye, for at least a fortnight.

I know, it’s very bad, but seriously Greek optometrists never seem to be open.

The next day the Athenian took me out for the day. It was amazing to have wheels again and to not have to rely on Greece’s crap excuse for public transport. We drank good coffee, we ate good food and we went to Red Beach – famous for its red and black sand.

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That night I hung out with the only other girl in my dorm. We decide to make a night of it, but when we arrive at a popular backpacker’s watering hole it’s like we’ve walked into 2Pac’s funeral. We’re the only ones there and they’re cranking the old school R&B tunes “I believe I can fly” and “I’ll see you when I get there.”

We have an earlier night than intended and when we wake we find the only other person in our dorm (a Chinese guy who speaks little English) eating Cheerios (I’m convinced that’s all he eats) and drinking red wine straight from the bottle. Seriously dude – it’s 9am on a Monday.

I spend my last few hours in Santorini lying on the black sand beach, 30 metres away from my hostel.

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It’s here I can’t help but think to myself about how much I’ve mucked Greece up.

I spent too much time on the mainland trying to see ancient ruins (which you just don’t get when you’re from such a young country) and not enough time on the islands where they actually understand that tourism is a lifeline for their economy.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll come back to Santorini – but not by myself.

It’s a wildly romantic and beautiful place – best shared with someone you love.

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