In my last post, I tried to describe all the sounds I heard that early morning in Fira and share my experience witnessing the town waking up. But I didn’t just close my eyes and listen that morning, I also took the time to observe and notice details I missed the previous days.
The early morning gave me some quiet time to take things slow: no crowds, no traffic jams in small alleys, no shop owners trying to direct your attention to their products, no donkeys with their bells, no distraction whatsoever. It really allowed me to go at my own pace and stare as long as I wanted at the water, the cliff, the houses, etc. Anything I wanted. So when I got tired of walking around, I chose a seat on a cold balcony ledge and stared out at the sea, the volcano and Thirasia, the island facing Santorini.
Thirasia, seen from the Three Bells of Fira
From Santorini, the white houses look like snow on top of the mountain. It’s interesting because that’s also how Santorini looks like from the volcano, I just didn’t pay enough attention until I looked at the photos while sorting them.
Panoramic view of Santorini, from the volcano
The town looks isolated on top of the island, you could only distinguish one main road connecting it to the port at the bottom. What would happen if that road was blocked? Would the town be completely cut-off?
Thirasia made me think of an isolated fishing village where life is simple and carefree. I started to imagine what daily life is like on the island and for some reason, it reminded me of Kubo and the Two Strings (one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in recent years).
The calm and undisturbed water in the morning seems a deeper blue than during the day. At 6 in the morning, the sun is still on the other side of the island and Santorini casts its largest shadow of the day on the water.
Fira still in the shadow at 6AM
The only boats you can spot around the island are the completely still cruise ships docked between Santorini and the volcano but by 6.30, some boats will start traveling to and from the volcano.
First boats in the morning
Even after they have completed the 20-minute trip between the volcano and Fira Old Port, I could still see the trace they leave on the water which only fades after another boat has crossed it and left a new trace.
From that balcony ledge, I could also see the cliff on which the houses sit. I didn’t realize it the previous days but all 3 volcanic colours of the island were layered in the formation of the cliff: you could clearly distinguish the white at the bottom, the red in the middle and the black on top.
While sorting through my photos, I realized that the sunset made the red, black and white of the cliff even clearer
It’s quite a strange thing to see all 3 colours in one place compared to previous days when we had to drive from one place to another to see the red beach, white beach and then black sand.
Red cliffs, white cliff, and black sand
It takes a lot of effort for Santorini to maintain the crisp white colour of its houses. You could often see “do not step” or “wet paint” signs and it wasn’t uncommon to see hotel staff repainting their rooftop and walls. They would do so every 2-3 weeks. So while staring at the town, I noticed one grey dome among all the white hotels. Time and certainly ashes from the volcano had turned the white to grey. It’s as if this dome was forgotten as tourism and commerce became more important.
After noticing it, I ventured through the maze to find the grey dome and arrived at a church.
By 9.30 or 10am, Fira is fully awake and becomes the town that I experienced the previous days: a crowded and popular tourist destination. In certain narrow alleys, it was difficult to pass the crowd of tourist.
Gold street, 6am vs. 9am
Fira square, taken 3 hours apart
Having the whole staircase to myself vs. sharing it with other tourists
When you have a whole staircase to yourself, you notice certain things more, like the numbers on the steps or the multilingual decoration of a store.
Waking up early and not going back to sleep was definitely a good decision! Just by being there at different times of the day, I got to experience a different side of Fira. And one thing I learned about myself from this: I still only observe with my eyes. For the next travels, I’ll have to make a note and use more of my other senses to experience the place even more.