We booked a tour of the caldera. After clambering down the hundreds of steps to the port of Fira (thinking what goes down... must come back up later), we boarded a cool, old wooden ship that rocked with the waves. Our first stop was on the central ash cone, Nea Kameni, which juts out in the middle of the caldera and is quickly reached by self-propelled seafaring implement.
Santorini caldera ash (Nea Kameni).
Santorini caldera ash.
The ash pit is pretty large and was the site of many eruptions. Little pamphlets explain which crater was made in which eruption, listing the spewed materials, thereby justifying the appearance of each respective cone. Quite interesting stuff really, considering it could be alternatively described as a big pile of rocks.
Afterwards, the boat moored near some hot springs by Palea Kameni (the old ash pile). We jumped off the boat into the sea and swam to the springs, swimming through the temperature gradient. This was amusing and confortable in the direction of increasing temperature, and... let's say, motivating, in the opposite direction.
Nea Kameni is on the left. The hot springs are just off the left of the picture, so you'll have to sort of imagine them.
A long food stop in Thirassia and a short stop in Ia later, we were back in Fira, with this to look forward to:
Stairs with a capital S.
Part way up.
This was actually quite amusing, and was but a teaser for all the other changes in elevation we'd have to tackle while in Greece. There are little rest spots along the way:
Rest in the shade.
It seems beasts of labor still very much have a home in Greece as well, what with all the wheel-unfriendly terrain about. Donkeys ferry people up and down the stairs for a small fee.
Donkeys donkeying. I guess this is a practice run since nobody is sitting on them.
This is what it looks like as you reach Fira.
Now the picture above denotes a count of approximately 600 steps to the top of Fira, but that's a figure that is difficult to drop into comparative context. The steps are quite deep (well over a meter, sometimes two) and the ground between the steps angles up, so that when you reach the next step you've actually increased your potential energy by the height of another actual step or two by walking quasi-horizontally.