Slowing down in Santorini

I left Athens for Santorini, hungover, bleary-eyed and bleating out directions to my cab driver who dialed his wife on his cell to translate. The Blue Star ferry ride took nine hours. I sat my backpack down in the economy section and collapsed in a chair. Elderly men were swinging and clacking their komboloi worry beads and shuffling a deck of cards at the table next to me. One of them was wearing a cabby hat and a tight knitted sweater pulled over a round belly. He smiled at me. I drifted off and awoke to a little grandmother with her hair pulled in a bun putting my feet up on a chair to rest. She patted my legs and nodded to me while rattling off in rapid-fire Greek.

I pretended like I understood. “Efxaristo.”

Fira

My lethargy vanished by the time I was travelling from the port to my new digs at Caveland. My insane cab driver drove at an incredible speed up the side of the cliff, switchbacks and hairpin turns no discouragement for passing others in the process. I didn’t care; the landscape kept my attention. The caldera, a perfect broken ring of volcano, jutted out of the sea as if guarding the lost city of Atlantis. Truthfully, it does. There are secrets everywhere.

My home for the past couple of weeks has been inside a cave. I rented out a private room on Airbnb, figuring I’d seek solitude between the earthy walls of an old winery. Instead I found myself striking up a kinship with the couple taking care of the hostel, Milly and Dan, and then a young Israeli lawyer named Inbal. One night we indulged in cheap 2EUR plastic bottles of white wine, cigars, and went to a nightclub where youngsters painted their faces skeletal white. We walked home vowing to change the world.

Dan and Mily Inbal, Ami, and Candice

They’ve since moved on, and I’ve become the Caveland ghost. I wake up in the mornings and brew some coffee and then sit outside at the stone table in the courtyard, the dogs sunning themselves at my feet. People come and go, and still we connect. I stayed up drinking wine and ouzo last night with a Canadian musician and her daughter. Paid sorely for it today.

I’ve covered all of the sites. I climbed to Ancient Thira and explored Akrotiri, the Minoan town wiped out by the eruption. Hiked the caldera’s rim to Oia, where the traditional homes look like melted butter and windmills turn in the breeze. The first time I laid eyes on it all I had to blink back tears. So long I have waited for that precise moment, and it was exactly what I expected. Everything in Greece is what I expected. I felt my soul pulled to the earth, my heart open, my happiness all encompassing and real. On the walk back with Milly and Dan we chatted for hours about everything with the sun setting behind us and nothing but the horizon waiting ahead.

Oia

Now in my last few days on Santorini I spend my time taking people to my favourite restaurant, Tsipouradiko. The man who runs the show knows me by name. I spend all my money on food. Bacon-wrapped chicken souvlaki. Pickled anchovies. Grilled calamari with lemon dressing. Lentils with sun-dried tomatoes. Steaming bowls of bouyiourdi. Fried feta drizzled in honey and sesame. Fava bean spreads. Mounds of halva, gloriously strange halva.

Another night I found myself at Kyria Niki, listening to fiddles and bouzouki. Men and women filed out onto the dance floor one at a time, dancing the Zeibekiko dance. The waiter came along tossing napkins into the air, popping bottles of champagne and pouring cheap carafes of wine. An irreplaceable joy warmed my body on the cold walk home.

I feel myself changing and shifting, unwinding and unclenching and releasing. I practice yoga and have given up my mascara wands, my eyeliners and my steampunk necklaces. My pajama pants are riddled with holes, and I find myself…free. Free from failed relationships and a stagnant career. Free from wondering about men and thinking about men and worrying about men. No desire, none in my body. I am sexless and unburdened. No hope for a Stavros and no need. I. Am. Free.

Candice in Oia
  • March 10 2014

    So, have I told you I’m coming to Greece yet? Because I’m coming to Greece.. and hitting Portugal, Spain, and Italy on the way. #euro2014

    Seriously. Leaving May 6th-ish. This sounds like exactly what I need and Santorini sounds like exactly where I need to be. UGH. Free. Sounds nice.

    • March 13 2014

      Really?! Keep me posted on your plans. I’ll still be in the islands around then, although only until the 14th or so. Ee!

  • March 10 2014
    Natosha

    Best piece of your writing that I’ve read so far! And you always write well :) I am so glad that you are where you are…and I don’t just mean Greece. You sound like you’re at peace with yourself.

    • March 13 2014

      Awww, thanks Natosha! I know you’re a big reader, so that means a lot

  • March 10 2014

    Sounds lovely! It’s always nice to take a step back and slow it down.

  • March 10 2014
    cheeesefries

    Jealous and hopeful.

  • March 11 2014
    Kelly Dunning

    Candice! This is beautiful! I felt like I was there with you – you’re such a good writer. <3
    I'm soooo happy that you are enjoying Greece so much and that this experience is having such a profound effect on you. All the best on your adventure. *hugs*

  • March 11 2014

    I’m so jealous that you’re spending so much time in Santorini! I was only there for a day and felt like I could have stayed there forever. What a beautiful place. definitely going back. Enjoy the relaxation!

    • March 13 2014

      Do come back! I’m ready to move on now, but I’m so glad I spent the amount of time here that I did.

  • March 20 2014
    Katherine

    “I owe nothing. I own nothing. I am free”- Zorba the Greek

  • March 31 2014

    I did not like Santorini. I spent most of my time on Milos, Crete & Rhodes. To me it was one giant tourist trap. Good for that sunset picture than time to move on. I paid 10 euros for ice cream. I drove the whole island, checked out the black sand beach but that was it. Will not being going back.

    • April 03 2014

      Try the off-season! I loved it. But agreed, it’s an entirely different vibe from the rest of Greece. Didn’t find it had as friendly as an atmosphere as some other places.

    • April 03 2014

      Also, how was Milos? I’m interested in going there

  • April 02 2014
    creativenomad

    beautiful! absolutely loved Santorini. Spent as much time as was possible!

  • May 04 2014

    I always love the peaceful feeling at Santorini, the blue the white and the sunshine.

  • December 05 2015

    I would love to go to Greece…
    nestor recently posted…Cuba and religion

    • December 08 2015
      Candice

      One my absolute favourite places!

      • May 11 2016

        Thank you Candice for the well written article about Santorini as well as your travels and experiences through the region. My wife and I are traveling to Venice Italy on 5/14/16 to board a 14 day cruise in the Adraitic sea. We love to travel and my work in the oilfield has taken me all over the world. Perhaps our paths will cross one day. In the meantime I will enjoy reading your stories !

        • May 16 2016
          Candice

          Ricky, I guess I just missed you, I was just in Venice! Haha. Enjoy you cruise, the Adriatic is UNREAL!

      • May 11 2016

        Thank you Candice for the well written article about Santorini as well as your travels and experiences through the region. My wife and I are traveling to Venice Italy on 5/14/16 to board a 14 day cruise in the Adraitic sea. We love to travel and my work in the oilfield has taken me all over the world. Perhaps our paths will cross one day. In the meantime I will enjoy reading your stories !

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