Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Santorini (Thira)

A procession of buses, rental cars, semi-trailer transport and minivans ferrying hotel passengers scales the sigma of switchbacks up the cliff face from Santorini harbour.  I’m in one of the minivans.  Collected from the ferry boat, I’m being taken to my hotel in Fira.

Fira is the capital of Thira, the Greek name for the island.  Santorini, though predominant, is in fact the Italian name.  In ancient times the capital city (acropolis) was Thira, now ruins.  This all gets a little bit confusing to the non-Greek speaker, particularly as the Greek letter for F is Φ and the letter for the “th” sound is θ.  It’s a good thing everybody speaks English.

I’ve been lazy with my language in Greece.  So far I’ve only been to heavily touristed areas where English is the lingua franca, and there hasn’t been a need for me to consult my Greek phrasebook.  Usually I make an effort anyway, but it involves learning another alphabet and, well hell, I’m also trying to learn bloody shorthand and I’ve got to give myself a break somewhere.  But, in Rhodes and Santorini especially, there are more signs in English than there are in Greek.  It’s abundantly clear that the industry is tourism.  On the way into Fira we pass a restaurant with a sign reading: “Señor Zorba Mexican Restaurant—All you can eat BBQ ribs.”  American tourism.

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