Santorini, Greece and the Donkeys

We’re finally in Santorini! We are so excited, but had to get up early again (we’re doing a lot of getting up early for being on vacation and are probably going to need a vacation for this vacation when we get home!) If you’re here for the infamous donkey story, skip down a few paragraphs to after the second picture!

Santorini used to be a huge circular-ish island until a volcano erupted and completely blew out the entire middle of the island… so now it’s a crescent shape with some small islands on the west. Our port was Fira, more in the middle of the west coast. It was beautiful but completely different than we thought. I know you’ve seen those pics of white buildings with blue domes….. only thing was, those are up at the top of the bluff. All of the cities are. There’s not really any beaches on the west coast because it’s straight up. We took a bus up these super steep switchbacks and drove to the northern most town of Oia (ee-ah). That’s where we got to see the blues domes and take all those postcard pictures which was amazing. We’re pretty sure we should go back someday!

From there we headed to a winery on the tour and were drinking wine, eating cheese, olives and bread before 10am. The winery was on top of a bluff and the view was absolutely beautiful! A few glasses of wine, toothpicks of cheese, and handfuls of “bread” that we called lava rock because it was so hard (think of a really big crouton) and we were off to the largest church on the island and had free time from there. We decided to do some shopping since this was really the first time we’d gotten a chance to. We’re so interested in seeing all the amazing sights at every stop that shopping gets pushed to the back burner.

Santorini is the perfect combo of winding, hilly, cobblestone streets (which are super slippery by the way!), great food, beautiful views, friendly people and great atmosphere. Very relaxed and resort-ish. And we’ve never seen so much jewelry in one place in our lives! You name it, it’s there. Gold, silver, beautiful blue opals that look like the sea, amber, tangerine colored, and tons of Greek looking designs. Pretty much every store had jewelry…. It was unbelievable and all we wanted to do was take it all home 🙂 (I pretty much want to pick up every city we’ve been in and bring it home.) We ate lunch at this café right on the bluff overlooking the ocean and had so much fun talking to people that we met.

After more shopping, we were off to do the one thing that we were so excited to do…. Ride the donkeys! I know, I know, who wants to willingly pay to ride a donkey? But we heard this was a MUST-DO in Santorini and wanted to soak up every ounce we could– we were like little kids waiting to ride! We could tell we were getting close to where they were by their smell (not so fantastic), so we wound our way through shops and cafes, down a million slippery, cobblestone steps and found our way to the donkeys. We paid for our ride and were helped up onto the donkey. I had someone quickly take pictures for us before we started down the mountain and barely got my camera back before they started out.

Oh yeah, that’s right…. We were at the TOP of the cliff about to go down all those switchback steps on a donkey. We saw the steps earlier- they were wide with cobblestone so we weren’t worried. Uhhh, ya. We were wrong. We were excited right until those donkeys started moving. Everyone told us to take them, but no one told us that we should take them UP. Or that it was going to be TERRIFYING! We had all our shopping bags on our arms, completely loaded up and cameras in the other hand to take these once-in-a-lifetime pictures. It totally felt like we were going head first over the front of the donkey! It was so jolting, but we were already going so there wasn’t much we could do. My donkey liked to stay a little to the right and we had heard they like to hug the walls so we would have to be on guard for stiff-arming the wall so we didn’t get crushed. Uhh, thanks for the advice!

Well, luckily we didn’t have that problem. Our problem sent us straight into a sea of donkeys– imagine 50+ that wouldn’t move. Our donkeys hugged the outside wall (making us closer to falling over the cliff) and plowed through. My legs ended up getting caught on all the other donkeys and bent backwards, completely scraping and scarring my knee while almost losing my flip-flop like 4 times! Literally as soon as we started moving down the cliff, I yelled up to my friend that this was probably the worst decision ever and I couldn’t tell if I should laugh or cry!

Oh, and don’t worry, we ended up with hilarious videos and pictures of this little excursion…. this once-in-a-lifetime experience because we’re never doing it again! We passed people walking up the steps on the way down who would ask about the ride and I’d make sure they knew that if they ever took a donkey in Santorini, that they took it UP the mountain! They all laughed at us because quite frankly, the expressions on our faces were priceless. And in all honesty, I’m not really sure if going up would be any less terrifying!

About halfway down, we were getting a little more comfortable and were taking more pictures. My shopping bags had ripped halfway and in an effort to not lose everything we had just bought, they were now shoved in a mess on my lap while I tried to hold on for dear life. It was ridiculous to say the least, but a great experience for story-telling! We passed a few ladies who were pinned against the side of the cliff in terror as the free roaming donkeys decided to give them a little unwanted love. Upon reaching the bottom, we met up with people from our cruise waiting in line to tender back to the boat and they asked if we had seen anyone coming down. We told them about the petrified women and they laughed hysterically and claimed them as their wives! We were not alone in our experience!

Long story short, we made it down the mountain in one piece and immediately took showers when we got home. We’d say Donkeys 1, Humans 0, but we think it evened out with the story we get to tell!

So if you’re ever curious about riding the donkeys in Santorini, now you have a heads up!