If I were to sum up 2015 in a few words – I would say, a crappy year. That’s it. But, then, I will take a pause, breath in and let my mind astray into the closed box of memories that I keep away from the reach of my monsters. And there, by the end of the lane, where the bulb in the lamp post flickers incessantly, while the rest of the area is plunged in darkness, I arrive at my hidden portal. It houses those bits of happy places that still warm me, when the cold outside is biting or the heat is intolerable.
Amongst the sheaf of memories is my Christmas of 2015. Amongst those very heaps is my new year of 2016. That snowy night, counting down to midnight in a small club by the road, hidden from view by more of those pretty houses and the rocky roads. A shot each, with best of friends. Music thumping in our ears. Pretty, pretty Fira. You stole our hearts, locked it away for good in your mystic enthralling air.
A note here for the people who plan to visit Thira – everything is closed on January 1. We walked on for endless miles in search of highly reviewed eateries, only to be disappointed. Not even the towns, or churches were open. But that’s the catch, as, dear traveller, I cannot begin to tell you what that does to you. That you are there. In the cradle of that unsurpassable beauty, alone. With no sounds of modernity, the din of human intervention. You are there, alone, to absorb in all of that intoxicating aura, undisturbed. That your voice echoes through the small steps leading up to a blue domed church. Pine cones litter the streets, and you walk on them to reach this place, where, as the sun spreads its splendour in the horizon, the colours brewing in front of you make you feel small and yet so lucky.
So, before we start, even the idea, that I can describe Santorini and pen down an experiential treatise, is laughable. This can only be a mechanical journal of the places we covered. Because, to write down, what that experience actually did to our minds, is an impossible feat for mere mortals like me. So, just take my word, save up a little and take that trip that you have been planning unconsciously, when those blue domes and white walled pictures creep up on your social media pages. Nothing can do justice to what you behold when you are there. The caldera, the calm sea waters and standing aimlessly at the Ammoudi Bay. That is exactly what I did. Stared.
And I walked. Walked in those narrow lanes of white walls, looking over the sea, and a hint of sunlight bouncing off the bluest of domes, and that stationary windmill. I heard my heart race, and my breath mist in front me, swirling into shapeless forms, dissipating in the chilly winds, and the shallow snow. I was blinded, breathless, almost as if my soul, at that moment left my body to fly over that mesmerising sight. Oia, that little village of those ethereal pictures captured by travellers. And I stood in its narrow lane, trying to memorise every particle of that moment in my air, my taste buds. The magic of the gods and humans to create such a thing of pure joy and wonder. The touch of two shades blending in with nature to burst in your eyes into a plethora of all things good. And finding that little book shop, tucked in its corner, a smiling cat and a happy dog.
A slice of heaven, is what I would say if someone were to ask me to describe that moment. For it is a place where colours come to life and dance mysteriously to hypnotise you. Where rocks, water, trees and earth twist and turn to make you wonder at how such beauty is even possible. The red sea, the black sea, the meandering passages of those little towns of Firostefani and Immerovigli, the village of Pyrgos. I don’t think I can ever cease this list of the secrets of Thira. The secrets that you unravel with your stay, the little moments of pure awe and then a feeling of thanking your stars for this moment in your life, where nothing sad, no misery can touch you. Thira makes you feel special, beautiful, it makes you embrace all the happy parts in you and hug yourself in joy. You don’t want to leave. You don’t really want to leave.
It was, in a way, truly fortunate, that we chose to visit at a time, when Santorini isn’t crowded. At all. It almost felt like we were the only people there, basking in all of that majesty. Summers would definitely have a lot of holidaying crowd. But I am told, early December, is an ideal time to visit this breath taking Greek island as well. Although, if you were like me, you would have fallen in love with the isolation, and the feeling of getting lost in those pine shaded roads, or the white washed little homes, the majestic volcano view and the bright and riveting Aegean Sea. No man can return from Santorini without realising what true beauty is, without being awed to the marrow of his bones. Without wanting more, a slice, a morsel of that, forever in his blood. Without leaving his heart behind, to mesh in with the air.
Somewhere down the line, I would like to hope that petty money matters will cease to be the purpose of my life and, marriage and children wouldn’t be the sole destination of my existence. No, they aren’t unimportant. Don’t start bickering with me on that. But a 21st century female participant of the rat race, is hardly a master of her destiny. All I say is for hungry souls like mine, for thirsty eyes like I have, for taste buds that want to forever churn the salt and sugar of wonders and fear, for ears that yearn for the sounds of magic and the tinkle of fairy dust from the church bells, for brains whose nature is too volatile to be contained in jars of jobs and happy homes – that we take that one way ticket, get a job in the bakery round the street in Fira square, right next to the music store and never come back. Till the senses have had their fill, till the art in your veins have flooded the air, and you have soaked in all the glory of the place. To be lost to something of worth, of dreams. Just once, for a while.