Thursday, July 16, 2009

Santorini Sunset

Every morning before 11 am, I watch the sun set in Santorini, thanks to two wonderful web cams.

Volcano view:

Caldera view:

Sunset is approximately 11 am PST.

I lived for a few years on Santorini when I was kid. My novel that I’m editing takes place largely in Santorini. To write about the island, I had to do some serious memory dredging, as the last time I was there was more around 20 years ago. A lot has changed (not for the better, I hear) and I had to consult the memories of my mother and family friends (hi, Dana!). I also, through the continued miracle of in the Interweb, asked a couple who’d set up a Santorini web site some questions that they graciously answered. (Like, “Can you still go to Turkey for one day and then come back to Greece and have your visa renewed for another several months?” The answer, if you’re interested, is no. Greece’s inclusion in the EU means tightened visa requirements.)

My concern is in the details. When we lived on the island, cow’s milk was unavailable except at a premium. Powdered or condensed milk (bleech) was available, but we mostly used goat’s milk. That was one of the things I had to check…had cow’s milk become more prevalent over the past 20 years? No, it hasn’t; despite the loss of agricultural land due to development on the island, goat’s milk is still favored by locals.

Internet access was another huge question mark. When we were there (roughly 1984-1986), the tinterweb didn’t exist and even phone access was not prevalent (heck, neither was being able to flush toilet paper, but I opted not to investigate this; it won’t make it into the novel). There was a phone shop in Thira called OTE Hellenic Telecommunications Organization), which was the island’s main phone carrier, and probably still is given its growth in Greece and southwestern Europe. You could go line up to use the phones in the OTE shop, and if you had a friend working there (as we did; called OTE Yannis; so called to distinguish him from the other Yannis we knew), then the line might be shorter. Anyway, I figured that because of this arrangement in the 80s, surely there would be a similar Internet CafĂ© set up in Thira. And there is (thanks to Google), but actually most tourist spots in Greece now feature wifi, and probably all the hotels have Internet access. I would not have known that without help.

Another detail is the fact that almost every lock on the island used a skeleton key type lock, and strangely, every key worked in every lock. It was ridiculous. I literally had one key for three different houses while we were there. I still have it.

I cannot visualize Santorini as I knew it; I have been told many times that it’s changed almost beyond recognition. I still think I would be able to recognize and find the goat trails up the sides of mountains that I used to scamper up, at the top of which would be a miniature phone-booth sized church, and a running spring inside a cave. Obviously certain landmarks stand; the ruins of old civilizations and castles. Businesses have changed and I expect more have popped up in their place.

The sunsets are still spectacular and the view of the caldera is the same. I know this thanks to the web cams above. I heartily thank the team at and Helioweb for running these live cams, which update every 60 seconds day or night. It allows me to see the island that I spent such an amazing time on.

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