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romantic volcanic island ofSantorini.

Santorini. it is said. is the Saint-Tropez ofthe Greek islands; exclusive. exquisite and expensive. But Saint-Tropez is a haven for the self-conscious Giorgio Armani-clad rich and facelifted. cloying G~stringed groupies and swaggering Euroneds; it is essentially tenser than a war zone. And laid-back Santorini is the complete antithesis; the tourist influx is mainly comprised ofcarefree back-packers drawn by the alluring scenery. Although pricey by Greek standards (still cheap) it lacks the ostentatious richer-than-thou atmosphere ofthe ‘chic’ French resorts.

The scenery is beautifully bizarre owing to the island‘s unique geological structure; it is volcanic and consequently sheer and intensely stratified cliffsides take up most of the east coastline (the more inhhabited halfofthe island). Because these profound cliffs drop straight into the sea there are only a few tiny beaches on the island. Each ofthese generally has something strange about it; one is ofscorching black sand (impossible to walk barefoot on after 10am); another is red with the water full ofpumice and another is located at the bottom of 256 very wide cobbled steps ensuring a tranquil seclusion.

Apart from Crete. Santorini is the

furthest-flung Greek island, it has no major airport and although only 75km square it is the biggest island in the area. the only sizeable one in fact. As such. its remoteness arouses a liberating sense of detatchment from the rest of the world the perfect holiday retreat.

There are only five towns on the island and all are very different in character and worth a visit.

Perissa in the south-east is a small service town which has its population of a few hundred bloated tenfold during the summer months; mostly by back-packers, many ofwhom sleep on the beach. The key word for Perissa is hedonism: daily life revolves around sun, sea and sand. And night-life consists of a few primitive ‘discos’; free entry jeans-and-T-shirt affairs mostly. The main focal point is the open-air beach bar where all the hippies and beach-dossers hang out; they leave the bar, walk along the sand, lie down and sleep. then they wake up, walk nowhere, sunbathe and rise only to eat and head back to the beach bar. This cyclical elemental life continues all summer.

Ioa, at the opposite end of the island, is more romantic. It was wrecked by a devasting earthquake in 1956 but insisted on rebuilding itself, paying no heed to

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It is an idyllic clifftop town. perched on the northern tip of Santorini. and unlike Perissa. residential Ioa stays Greek all year round; the tourists blend in with the Greeks in this small wealthy town. There is precious little nightlife but the peaceful days can be spent in picturesque hillside bars and restaurants. gazing across the calm. mesmerising (and oddly unpolluted

for the Med) sea.

Ioa is the home of the island‘s oldest ritual; for centuries hundreds, even thousands, have been congregating each evening at eight on the tiny headland to watch the exceptional sunset; the sun disappearing behind an invisible line well above the horizon, leaving a rapturous, irridescent flow behind.

The key word for Thira. the capital, is sex. It is a foil for the other places; the one over-commercialised tacky town on the island, it stands well apart for its ugliness, brashness and bawdy atmosphere. Whereas in Perissa you will hear anything from Talking Heads to the Kinks to Led Zeppelin, Thira is strictly George Michael/Sam Fox territory. People go there for one reason. In such a tacky place it does not even matter if you have a face like a Tory Cabinet minister (as for actually being a Tory Cabinet Minister you may be I

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Kamari is bodies it's a nudist colony. Nudity is accepted and practised on many of the other beaches too. adding to the distinctly uninhibited. relaxed atmosphere on Santorini.

More interesting (arguably) is Akrotiri. where a whole town which was destroyed in an earthquake in 15()()BC (ie predating Crete‘s Minoan civilisation the hitherto oldest of Europe‘s archaeological towns) is being uncovered. Unfortunately it has all been covered in aircraft hanger-type shedding, so the sense of the ages is somewhat blighted by the unnatural light and lack ofoutdoor sensations.

Many tourists and travellers have commented on the difficulty of associating ancient classical Greece with the negligible ‘modern‘ culture, whose greatest recent contributions to civilisation have been Nana Mosskouri and Demis Roussos; at night, ifyou chance to glance upwards you will be transfixed. The

crystalline sky. enveloping the calmness. inspires a profound atmosphere. an ‘and-here-is-the- universe-for-you-to-contemplate‘ feeling. You can sense Plato‘s muse.

But one does not go to Santorini to write philosophy; one goes to see Ioa (while it is still there) and savour the resplendent variety and general serenity of this dreamy remote


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INFORMATION Square. Edinburgh (031 668 and tent). , 2162) toriurther details. -

Getting There Thereaitera 10 hr boattrip Gemng Around moms. mm and buses“, lor about £9. leaving twice Regular buses will take you Athens are plentiiul. Flights “8"!!- fnrvzgemtgn it? Wallis)! departirom Glasgow, 888 an . ey are en Edinburgh and London and Where to s‘ay crammed. WWW prices ranga 1mm Rooms can be rented in floorspace. Mopeds and £145-£185 return with B.A most towns irom £3 motorbike! can be hired for and £123 single with B.A. upwards per person per Eli-£20 per day in Perissa.

Student and young person ilights cost £160 return irom London. Contact student specialist Campus Travel.

day. Hotels are in

abundance and start around £5 per day. There are Youth Hostels in most at the towns

Thira and Ioa. Cars can be rented too in Thira. The quiet mountainside roads in Santorini are deceptive;

The Hub. llillhead Street ranging irom £1.80—£3. they have the niches! and so John Street Glasgow Prices for the lame accidenmnfllc “"0 in (041 357 0608 and 041552 campsite in Perissa range Greece - one oi the worst in


What to Do

Other than the aiorementioned sights and activities there is one boat trip (3—4 on oiier) worth taking which will take you to the oil-shore volcano; exciting ieeling ol glimpsing a subterranean world. There is also some good diving and snoritelllng to be had in Ioa. some hill-climbing lust outside Perissa. plenty oi sceneryto take in and plenty at private Arcadian groves to bask in. Bamshacltle cinemas (otten


showing lilms that have scenes shot in Santorini- narcissism triumphs over taste). bars. discos and excellent inexpensive restaurants are always available too.

Useiul Puhficafions

Eperon's Guide To The Greek Islands, Arthur Eperon (Pan. £4.99) Travel writing oi an overtly subjective variety. with very briei lniormatlon boxes. Let's Go: The Budget Guide to Greece (Harrap Columbus. £9.95).

American. thorough with a small section on Santorini and plenty oi useiul lniormatlon. The Insight Guide To Greece (APA Productions £9.95) Colourtul. historical and cultural guide with maps. Rough Guide to Greece (Harrap Columbus, £6.95). Very uselul, unpretentious. budget guide to all you need to know.

Useiul Addresses

The National Tourist Oiiice oi Greece. 195—197 Regent Street. London (01 734 5997) are usually helpiul.

The List 1— 14 September 1989 71