On Saturday of Easter weekend we were all ready for a relaxing day – on dry land. We’d all had plenty of down time during the cruise portion of our tour, but it was nice to be on terra firma. Most tour members simply relaxed at our fabulous hotel. But certainly some heard the Siren call of Fira town with its glittering jewelry stores, boutique clothing outlets, and fun souvenir shopping.
A sizable group ended up at the pool serviced by a bar. As usual with this group, there were a lot of laughs. And even though the water was quite cold this early in the season, there was a very healthy participation in a spontaneous performance of water ballet. Watch for the video.
That evening we adjourned to Venetsanos Winery, another impossibly picturesque venue for a wine tasting. Santorini is famous for its wines. The volcanic soil is perfect for grapes and the locals had solved the significant wind problem by training the vines in wreath-like circles close to the ground. The grape clusters are assisted into the ring interiors for shelter.
The “wreath” technique further serves to help irrigate the vines with the collection of morning dew each day before the winds pick up. Quite ingenious (impossibly so?). We tasted a crisp clean white, a rich tannic red, and a super-sweet Vin Santo which is used for communion on the island.
All the while we enjoyed another stunning view of the caldera. However, our luck had finally run out with the weather and high winds and heavy cloud cover kept it from being an ideal outing. After tasting we retreated inside the unique winery. Venetsanos was the first commercial winery on the island. The designer used gravity to transport the juice into descending vats, cut from the terraced hillside, and eventually piped down to the harbor below where huge barrels were filled and exported to France, Russia, and other parts of Europe. Quite as ingenious as the ancient solution for wind and aridity.
Our final day of the tour was the climactic best. Orthodox Easter had arrived and we had made arrangements to share Easter Dinner in a family Taverna. We arrived shortly after noon and were taken to the back garden area to see the Easter lambs being slow roasted on long spits. Traditionally, the spits were hand-turned with each family member taking a turn. But mechanization has replaced the elbow grease in recent years.
After being warmly welcomed by the family and seeing the cooking operation, we were seated outside under a vine covered arbor. Wine and mezedes (“little morsels” or appetizers) flowed freely and most were quite full when the main course arrived. But everyone made room for the lamb – tender, succulent, and full of flavor. The meal was completed by a special Easter pastry baked by the grandmother. There were kisses and hugs all around when we finally pushed back our chairs and reboarded the bus for the trip back to our hotel. I think most people retired for a nap (I did) but a few took another refreshing dip in the pool. That evening, one last impossible-vista happy hour next to the lower pool closed out our tour together.