Hi again guys! In continuation of one of the best holidays we’ve ever had, here is the 3rd part of my Santorini Island Blog Series! This time, join Me and my wife Jill as we explore the capital of this world-famous Greek Island, the breathtaking town of Fira! For Parts 1 & 2, just click on these links: Santorini Island – Heaven On Earth (Part 1): Our Journey to Paradise & Santorini Island – Heaven on Earth (Part 2): Costa Marina Villas Santorini.
*FIRA, SANTORINI – Day 1*
We arrived in our beautiful hotel in Fira, Costa Marina Villas, at around 1:15 in the afternoon. As tempting as it was to linger and rest a little bit longer, we were just too pumped up to let what remains of the day pass by without exploring Santorini! So after freshening up, unpacking our stuff and having some much needed puffs of smoke in our private balcony (we weren’t able to smoke for around 6 hours now since it wasn’t allowed to smoke in the ferry on the way to Santorini), we were off!
My wife Jill organized our itinerary for our Greece getaway and we agreed that since half the day was gone, we better yet go straight to Akrotiri (to be blogged in Part 4 of this Blog Series) which was just a 20-minute bus ride away from Fira and reserve our remaining two days exploring the rest of the island.
We were supposed to go right away to the bus station but did I tell you we were famished!? Haven’t had a decent meal since the night before at I Kriti (to be blogged soon) in Athens and didn’t have time to grab breakfast either as we left our Athens hotel early in the morning! The only solid food we had on the ferry were some Pepero Chocolate sticks and croissants (“emergency” food stash we brought from Dubai for sudden bouts of stomach grumbling)!
Researching about Greek food, we knew what would make a great and authentic quick bite – SOUVLAKI & GYROS!!!!
Good thing we planned ahead of time and had a list of TripAdvisor recommended food spots in Fira & Santorini in general and we knew where we wanted to try out this famous Greek-style fast food – NICK THE GRILL!
But did we find Nick the Grill? Nope ha-ha!
We were new to Fira and somehow we missed Nick the Grill on the way to the bus station because we were quite in a rush since the next bus to Akrotiri was barely half an hour away at 2pm ! But then, time and time again, we proved that indeed one of the joys of traveling is the part when you decide to be spontaneous, go with the flow and just let yourself get lost!:) We spotted this interesting snack spot along Fira’s Main Square named LUCKY’S SOUVLAKIS (rated top 10 in TripAdvisor among the restaurants in Fira) which was crowded with customers! A general rule for finding quality bites when new to a place – go to the restaurant with most customers in it! That’s exactly what we did and what can I say – LUCKY’S SOUVLAKI is one of the best reasons to get lost in this paradise island!
SOUVLAKI is a popular Greek fast food whose name came from the medieval Greek word souvla which meant skewer – due to the fact that it consists of yummy, tender pieces of marinated meat (usually pork) grilled on a skewer! One of the most favorite ways of having souvlaki is wrapping it in lightly grilled pita together with sliced tomatoes & onions, french fries and a generous amount of tzatziki sauce (sauce made of strained yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, dill, mint or parsley) and that’s how we wanted our souvlaki.
Ordering at Lucky’s Souvlakis was easy as there were pictures on the wall displaying the meals they offer and all you need to say when ordering is the number that corresponds to the meal you want – I already forgot what no. it was but we ordered the one which had 2 Pork Souvlakis with softdrinks included!
Lucky’s Souvlakis was a straightforward kind of fast food where there’s a long bar where customer can eat and some extra small tables. From the bar you can see how all the yummy souvlakia are prepared with the grills and some huge rotisseries containing humongous meat slabs for the gyros! Service was also great as it was a family-run resto with the lovely kind elderly lady and I believe it’s her husband who are taking orders from the customers. After taking and then paying for your order, you go to the “grill guy” who then prepares your meal. Took us less than five minutes of waiting and our pork souvlaki was ready and man was it yummy!!!
The pita, a bit crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside came as a surprise as we thought it was thicker than what we’re used to! And the pork! Oh my God, tasty, juicy, tender – it was perfect! Paired with fresh vegetables and the creamy tzaziki sauce, we were in heaven! Quite a filling and delicious first time experience of the famous souvlaki – and quite affordable too (our meal costed only 7 Euros!).
Fira Bus Station
But then 2pm was almost there so after finishing our succulent pita wraps as fast as we can, we hurried off to the bus station which was just a few more meters walk. The bus station of Fira is conveniently located in the town’s main square, right in front of the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. The K-Tel buses going to the different parts of the island are all lined up in the station with each route displayed on the screen at the top-front part of each bus. We went to the station booth and the guy there said we board the bus right away as fares are collected by a guy in each bus who also gives out the tickets while on the way to our destination – Akrotiri (Coming soon – our adventures in Akrotiri will be in Part 4 of my Santorini Blog Series).
Seeing the Famous Caldera View of Fira for the Very First Time
We spent around 2 hours enjoying the prehistoric Minoan settlement of Akrotiri and by around 4:30 pm, we were back in Fira. One of the great things about Greece is that the sun sets at around 8pm, giving us more daylight time exploring the town! From the bus station, we walked uphill towards the dome of the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira passing by numerous shops selling local wines, souvenirs and lots more!
From the time we arrived at Fira around more than 3 hours ago, we still haven’t seen the caldera side of the town so the complete feel of what it was to be in Santorini hasn’t still sunk in – but then when we arrived in the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira, we were stunned!
Right at the side of the cathedral was the world-famous, perpetually picture perfect view of the Santorini caldera with the deep blues of the sea thousands of feet below us and the volcanoes Paleo & Nea Kameni looming over the horizon!
It was simply breathtaking, definitely one of the most unforgettable moment in my life that I can never get tired of repeating over and over again – with the cools spring winds brushing our face & the gentle afternoon Greek sun, I’m still having that smile I had back then reminiscing how it felt, surreal…sublime. Jill and I just stood there for some minutes, as the beauty was overflowing and was too much for the senses!
The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira
After taking our time just absorbing the fact that we were indeed in one of our dream destinations, we proceeded to the ORTHODOX METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL OF FIRA, the main church of Santorini’s Capital Town.
The church is painted in blinding divine white, with a huge dome that can be seen from a distance from any part of Fira or Santorini nonetheless!
It has an impressive bell tower with rolling arches surrounding its courtyard.
The arch which serves as the main entrance to the church has a wonderful mosaic on it and the ground has a mosaic of the double-headed eagle, the symbol of Orthodox Christianity.
But nothing prepared us for what was inside this already magnificent church!
Colorful & wondrous Byzantine style frescoes all over the interiors of the church with a colossal fresco of the Christ Pantocrator (meaning Christ Almighty) in the dome crowning everything! I have never seen an inside of a church adorned so beautifully and as majestically as this one! Sadly, photography is not allowed inside the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira so I am not able to show you all those works of art by local artist Christoforos Asimis! Fortunately, the church sells postcards for 5 Euros each showcasing some of the artworks inside pictured below:
Sitting in one of the benches inside the church, my wife and I prayed to God and thanked him for giving us the chance to be there, to see Greece, to travel and for all the blessings he is continually giving us. After lighting a candle and placing it in the candle stand, we exited the church, still dazzled and very happy.
It was almost 6:00 pm and we were really looking forward in experiencing the sunset of Fira so we decided checkout this restaurant which is the top rated/No.1 of all the restaurants in Fira in TripAdvisor, V LOUNGE CAFE & COCKTAIL BAR. Known to be one of the best spots in Fira to appreciate its sunset, we were at first reluctant to try this place out as it was quite pricey based on the reviews but once we saw the place, we understood why!
The vantage point from where you can see Fira, the caldera and the golden horizon from the restaurant was priceless – such was its effect to us that ended up wanting to try it out! Reserving our seat at the edge of the restaurant’s balcony for 7:00pm, we headed straight back to Costa Marina Villas to have a bath and change for the amazing night we were about to have! Come 7:00 pm, we were back and needless to say we had a really amazing time there – I’ve actually decided to blog it separately soon: The Timeless Fira Sunset at V Lounge Cafe & Cocktail Bar.
After lounging and letting almost 3 hours pass by at V Lounge Cafe & Cocktail Bar, Jill and I walked around the narrow streets of Fira to see some shops – we eventually found a local leather shop selling Santorini-made leather goods such as bags, sandals, wallets and more, NB Nikolaos! We were attracted to the shop when we saw one its products which was a baby boot made of sheep’s wool and leather (for our future kid); Jill ended up buying two pairs of sandals together with the boot! The shopkeeper who was also the owner was very much welcoming and very proud about his products. Shopping in Fira was fun for us because most of the products are made there or by Greeks and nothing would make us happier than supporting products of the local people of countries we go to!
Such happiness extends to our habit of trying out local beers wherever we go and fortunately, there was convenience store next to the leather shop where we were able to get ourselves local beers for only less than 1 Euro a can! We got ourselves Mythos Beer, made by the 2nd largest brewery in Greece, and Alfa Beer, which we though was a local beer because of the Greek letters but realized that it was actually a Dutch brand ha-ha! With the cold winds blowing, we strolled down back to our hotel where we freshened up and enjoyed the beers in our balcony before calling it a day!
Needless to say, our first day in Fira, Santorini was nothing short of amazing! Having only seen less than a quarter of the town, we couldn’t wait to see the whole of it the next day!
For the rest of my Santorini blog series, just click on the links below:
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