In Oia, the hilltop town in the Greek island of Santorini/Thira, hundreds of people crowd the viewing decks daily to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. It has been said that Santorini is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and that is why thousands of people make their way up the mountain everyday from cruise ships that dock there from all over the world. This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend four days on the island just soaking it all in. I will betray my own anti-cliché sensibilities and call the experience as it is: breathtaking.
Mornings would begin by stepping out of our cave house to a view of the solid blue Aegean sea and red volcanic rock. We ate our hotel breakfasts overlooking this view and on some mornings I would just sit there and be overwhelmed. The food from the simplest and dirtiest-looking taverna was phenomenal. I recall, putting a piece of bread soaked in olive oil for the first time in Greece, closing my eyes and being overpowered by the taste of it. Olive oil. It was a flavor explosion, like Greek tomatoes, feta, capers and seafood. It was impossible to resist gluttony.
But the best ritual would be in the afternoons, while the sky was turning orange and the people filled the hilltops with their cameras and exclaimed their oohs and ahs. We would be watching them and the water over glasses of wine and meat and cheese from the local store, waiting for this ball of fire to sink what seemed like the end of the world, wondering how many people are actually staring in the same direction. And then it happens and we get our answer. When the sun goes down and all you can see is this cool tangerine sky, an applause would erupt from the top of the hill. They must be mostly tourists who clap but then it gets you thinking. They have been traveling all over to see the world’s major sights, but here they are gawking, some even sighing, as they applaud something as mundane as a setting sun.