Santorini: Blue, White and Blackout

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Well, we’ve done it again. Our latest run-in with misadventure struck during our trip to the island paradise of Santorini last week. It never fails. Despite our careful planning and extensive research that goes into preparing for a trip to our next destination, misadventure always finds us. Remember Not Your Average Travelers in Turkey or Bull Run of Another Kind in the countryside of Cataluña? It seems to be waiting in the wings ready to pounce at that perfect moment when you’ve switched to vacation mode and have left the real world behind. “Relaxation? Not so fast!” it taunts. We are uncertain when or how it will strike, but we can be certain it will without fail. Santorini was no exception.

A jewel of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is one of the most famous of the cluster of Greek islands knowns as the Cyclades, and for good reason. The biggest island, Thira, is a crescent shaped outcropping of craggy cliffs left behind from a massive ancient volcanic eruption. Thira faces a handful of other smaller islands that are a result of the submerged volcano. Together, with the water-filled caldera at the center, this circle of islands is called Santorini – and it is undeniably beautiful.

Idyllic white-washed villages cling to the cliffsides as if to stake claim to their rightful position in paradise. Gracefully domed churches of the deepest and softest blues meld with the skies above and the sea below. Winding cobblestone paths saunter in, out, and around cave houses and boutique shops teetering on the edge of land and sea. And then there are the sunsets. Oh, those sunsets! I’m not sure I have ever witnessed Mother Nature put on a more magnetic display of color and beauty. Remember that vacation mode switch I mentioned earlier? The sunset on that first night flipped the vacation switch to “on”.

Or did it?…

Sunset from Ammoudi Port
Sunset over the caldera from Fira

What happens when the one and only power transformer on an island explodes? In August? In Greece? BLACKOUT. The entire island is left without electricity and running water, and it remains this way for nearly two days!! Once the initial panic gave way to frustration and realization that no power meant no showers and no air conditioning after spending a day in the blazing summer sun, I resigned myself to remember that this is Greece. And not only is it Greece, but it is an island far from the mainland. I would have to cast my “fix it now” expectations aside and instead change my perspective to see the positives in this situation.

Oia with power
Oia without power literally five minutes after the picture above was taken.

So, what was the outcome? For those first 36 hours I found the Aegean to be quite refreshing and cleansing after a long day in the sun. Dinners by candlelight were enchanting and romantic. Restaurants hung lanterns from rafters and tree limbs which cast a soft glow in plazas under a harvest moon. Sleeping with the doors open allowed a cool sea breeze to fill the room, the distant sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep. No wifi, no devices, no TV. We were officially off the grid and loving every minute of it. Establishments, including our hotel, gradually invested in generators that at least provided running water at all times, but power remained touch and go until Saturday, our last day. While we were grateful to have the comforts that electricity brings once again, we found ourselves longing for the simplicity and tranquility of the blackout.

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