22 May 2017

Creatively Inspired By Santorini...

It's not often you can say that you arrived on an island at midnight to a backdrop of fireworks and loud bangs (I'd flown in smack bang in the middle of Greek Easter). Although my trip didn't turn out how I expected (I expected to stay for four months and left after two weeks), it was certainly transformative. Life-changing even. I didn't expect visiting a Greek island to change the course of my life, but it did.

Statues in Fira, Map of Santorini by Atlantis Books, a cool gallery in Oia, my labradorite ring 
I spent the first week in a small village in the centre of the Island called Megalochori. With ten restaurants and four vineyards, the permanent residents and visitors are no strangers to gastronomy and oenology (the study of wine). Unlike Fira and Oia (the bustling capital and the picture-perfect tourist magnet respectively), this small village is discreet and like many other small towns and villages on the island, boasts much cheaper accommodation than the likes of Oia (you pay for the stunning view). Luxury villas with private pools are springing up in the area, offering visitors a sanctuary from the crazy-busy summer crowds of July and August. My friends took me to a cliffside church where I witnessed the most stunning sunset I'd ever seen nursing a beer, thankfully avoiding the crowds.

The beautiful sunset through a lens
There's a lot to do and see on an island that's just ninety square kilometres. I took a trip to the tiny island of Thirassia (a ten minute boat trip costing the princely sum of one euro). A huge volcanic eruption in 1628 BC caused Thirassia to detach from the main island, and it is reminiscent of Santorini of old. Almost three hundred people reside here, without internet connection or a local shop. Sample seafood at the port, or enjoy the view from the Panorama cafe. The view from the monastery is sublime. I also saw the prettiest church I've ever seen (and there's over a thousand churches on the island).




I was taken aback by the amount of artistic talent concentrated here; painters, potters and jewellery designers flock to the island for inspiration. There are many galleries in Santorini which attract a growing crowd of collectors. My visit to Earth and Water, the studio of award-winning ceramicist Andreas Makaris, inspired me to take a pottery class. I fell in love with his surrealist bowls, and especially the wine jugs and pots. The light captured in the famous whitewashed cliffside buildings painted by Christoforos Asimis (founder of AK Galleries) motivated me to pick up a paintbrush again. Ladies, make sure you have a hefty jewellery fund before you come here. It's dangerous. 


Painting by Christophus Asimis, AK Galleries
A trip to Atlantis Books. the only bookstore on the island got my creative juices flowing even more. This quirky literary paradise boasts first editions of much loved classics such as The Little Prince, Breakfast At Tiffany's and Catcher In The Rye. I bought The Atlantis Dialogues by Plato (containing the oldest known descriptions of the mythical lost island) and their wonderful map of the island, and took myself up to the terrace to enjoy the magnificent view of the Caldera, the volcanic crater formed by the collapse of the volcano into itself. I think this was the point when I decided no more messing around, I want to write for a living. 



After my first week I ended up closer to Fira in the village of Karterados, at Caveland, an 18th century wine cave renovated into a hostel. The gardens filled with lemon, pomegranate and pistachio trees coupled with my pumice cave provided the perfect retreat. Yoga on the terrace overlooking the sea cleared my clouded head, confused by considering yet another career change. It was also convenient to visit the local black volcanic beaches, Kamari and Perissa - for more time to mull things over and fill up on amazing Greek food. 

Before I left, I was happy that I got to do the eleven kilometre Fira to Oia scenic hike. If you haven't fallen in love with the island, you'll cement your lifelong relationship over the course of three and a half hours. Walking along the caldera, you pass blue-domed churches, stunning villages, luxury complexes and enjoy a 360 degree view of jaw-dropping coastline for the entirety of it. I left the day after, with a renewed desire to write, paint and create. I've travelled a lot, but I've never been as inspired. Thank you Santorini for getting me back on track.



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