I had been thinking of Santorini lately. Some people on Facebook had mentioned it was high up in their bucket list, and although I’d been there already, I couldn’t help wishing I could go back soon.
Santorini for me was all about slow days and slower nights, walking aimlessly in the villages of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli, and wanting nothing more than just to clear my head. It was at this frame of mind when I saw the rocky headland protruding from Imerovigli to the Aegean Sea.
It was called Skaros Rock, Santorini’s first fortress protecting the island from pirates. It also served as Santorini’s capital until the 18th century.
It doesn’t look much now, but people said that Skaros used to have a vibrant population in the medieval times, complete with a castle known as Epano Kastro (“Upper Castle”). During its time, there were around 200 houses in the settlement, mostly Catholics.
Despite its beauty and impregnability from pirate attacks, living on Skaros Rock had its perils from natural disasters like earthquakes. The damage was so bad in the 1700s that the people decided to leave it and move to Fira, now Santorini’s capital.
It was middle of the afternoon when I arrived in Imerovigli via a bus from Oia. I was meandering in the village’s small side streets and alleys when I happened to look out at the caldera and saw Skaros Rock and the small chapel of Agios Ioannis (St. John) down below.
At that time, I didn’t know the rock’s name. There was no one near me whom I could ask about it. I just saw there was a path towards the rock; hundreds of concrete steps descending and then ascending into the peak. It was a path that just begged to be taken, so I did.
While Skaros Rock looked close enough, it still took me almost 30 minutes to reach the end of the path. The view just kept getting better as I went down the stairs. The contrasts between the red and black rocks of the cliffs and the calm blue of the ocean was indescribable.
It was already getting darker and colder when I reached the end of the path, so I decided not to walk up to the peak anymore, nor to go around the rock tip. If you get a chance to go there, do so. You can see more ruins of the ancient houses, and down below, on the northern part of the rock, is the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti.
You could see some ruins on the rocks, a mute testament to what was once a bustling settlement. I also found a cavern, the remains of what I assumed used to be a house. From the inside, there was another hole leading deep down into the mountain. What it was for, I had no idea.
I suppose I could have pushed on, discovered more ruins and found a better view. If I had taken advantage of the numerous travel and tours packages offering cheap holidays in Santorini, for example, I’m sure I could have seen more, and done more. I would have been able to “maximize” my trip to Santorini, as some would claim.
And yet, standing there all by myself on Skaros Rock, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My trek was solitary but much enjoyable, and the view I had of the caldera–even though I wasn’t at the peak–was already priceless.
From a distance, the village of Imerovigli seemed so far away. It was so beautiful and scary at the same time, to feel so all alone and isolated. I didn’t feel lonely though.
For me, that sunset on Skaros Rock only emphasized the fact that no matter what our problems may be, there will always be beauty around us, waiting to be seen and appreciated.
I certainly had my fill of that in Santorini.
Have you been to Santorini? Would you want to go?
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