Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Greek Isles: Naxos and Santorini

Blue Domes of Santorini - 6" x 5" ink & watercolor sketch on Kilimanjaro 140 lb. watercolor paper

After leaving quiet, laid-back Amorgos (read about it in this post), we moved on to the island of Naxos. It was a place that seemed "just right". Not too big and touristy but with more shopping and gelato shops than on Amorgos. (And you must know that gelato is a very important part of any Leslie Fehling workshop trip!)

The gang, out for our morning walk  

We stayed at a hotel just steps from the beach and a short walk to the historic town of Naxos (also known as Thora), where a maze of narrow cobbled streets and walkways surround a Venetian castle on a hill.

It was a fun place to just meander around, stopping in shops along the way, then head down to the harbor for some lunch at a seaside restaurant.

So many pretty things to was hard to decide what to sketch!

The Portara or Apollo's Gate near Naxos's main city of Thora

Our stay in Naxos was brief, just two days, but I really enjoyed my time there. It's a beautiful place with nice shops, wonderful restaurants, and beaches that are perfect for swimming, walking, and sunset watching.

The last stop on the tour was Santorini, where we spent four nights. The C-shaped island surrounds an underwater caldera (crater) that sank thousands of years ago after an apocalyptic volcanic eruption. It makes for some spectacular scenery...

and we sketched it!

Santorini is a bustling, touristy place where cruise ships dock daily and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants, so it's quite a different experience from the quieter pace of Amorgos or Naxos.

But even on Santorini it was possible to escape the crowds. There were quiet cafes and side streets that didn't seem to tempt the tourists who only had a few hours in town. And several people in our group took long hikes along the caldera rim, away from towns and crowds, and were rewarded with peace, quiet, and amazing views.

I preferred sketching and having a gelato with friends!

Also on this trip, I developed a taste for a drink called cappuccino freddo....

Doesn't that look good? It's just an iced cappuccino with espresso coffee on the bottom and frothy milk on top. In Greece, drinks don't come pre-sweetened, so they always ask if you want any sugar in it. It's so cool and yummy - I just had to figure out how to make it at home, so I Googled it, ordered some Nescafe instant espresso from Amazon, got out my milk frother, and whipped up my own cappuccino freddo here in Prosperity, PA. But what I can't duplicate is the view that I had in Santorini when I was drinking the one in the picture...

Well, it's about time for me to wrap up this lo-o-o-ng saga of my nearly 4-week trip to Italy and Greece, but let me just share a few more pictures of a sunset cruise we took in the caldera on one of our last evenings in Santorini. It was interesting to see the island from a different perspective, floating on the clear, cold waters of the caldera.

We had a great view of the gondola going up the cliff, and the zig-zag path of the mule trail. (I'm not sure what could ever entice me to ride a mule up a slippery path cut into the side of a cliff!)

We had a surprisingly good dinner on the boat, and it included a taste of ouzo. The anise-flavored liqueur has a distinctive taste that isn't to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it.




Our final morning in the islands was spent touring the ruins of Akrotiri, a five-thousand-year-old settlement dating to the early Bronze age. The inhabitants evacuated the settlement before the massive volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC, which created the Santorini caldera and buried the village under tons of ash, preserving it for present-day archeologists to find in the 1960s.

We had a wonderful tour guide who really brought the place to life for us. This was an advanced civilization that created amazing works of art, traded with distant lands, had sophisticated infrastructure, and worshipped a female goddess. There is speculation that the story of Akrotiri was the basis of the legend of Atlantis.

The largest heart-shaped rock I've ever seen was part of the Akrotiri excavation. It was perfectly shaped and over three feet across!

We had some free time that afternoon, so I walked into Fira again along the caldera path.

It was my last chance to explore, so I wandered around a bit, stopping here and there to browse in a shop or grab one last cappuccino freddo, then headed back to the hotel for a final get-together with the group.

We shared our sketches and talked about what the trip had meant to us, what we had learned and what our favorite places and activities had been.



Christine and Wendy

Christine's sketches of the group

Then we went to a cute little restaurant in Fira for a farewell dinner, all homemade Greek food, of course.

One final stroll through town, with a stop at our favorite gelato shop, then, with lots of hugs and even a few tears, we said our goodbyes.

Steve, Wendy, Milla, Connie, Pat, Candy, Christine, Leslie, Saundra, Virginia, Marilyn, & C.R.

Travel changes you. It helps to clarify what's important and makes you appreciate the everyday things you take for granted at home. It makes you realize that there are very few true necessities in life, and that taking time to absorb beauty is good for your soul. Travel teaches you in countless ways and opens your eyes to new possibilities. You return home a new person.

I am not the same,
having seen the moon shine 
on the other side of the world.

- Mary Anne Radmacher


  1. I love seeing your sketch of Santorini and some of the shared sketches from your group. What a wonderful time you all must have had! With so much history and beauty at every turn, I think it must be quite difficult to choose what to include in your journals. I can’t wait to see more of your sketches.

    1. I filled an entire journal with sketches and written commentary, but had no time to paint during the trip, so I'm really looking forward to spending some time finishing up my travel journal.

  2. I have So loved seeing your photos and reading about this beautiful spot on our earth.

    1. Thanks, Ginny. I appreciate your taking the time to read my extensive posts. I took so many beautiful pictures - it's hard to narrow it down to a few for my blog, so I tend to err on the side of including more. Glad you enjoyed seeing them.


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