We decided to get off the beaten path … I mean way off. In fact I think we were trespassing (if that fence we climbed over meant anything). We’d been hiking the Santorini Cliff Trail between Fira and Imerovigli, marveling at every sight, but it was time to do the backstreets.
We’ve learned that you see the coolest stuff if you go where the local Tourist Board doesn’t want you to go. Over the years we’ve mastered this technique and usually managed to stay out of trouble. The key: follow the local folks … and then go a little farther.
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
So we tagged along behind a boy with a fresh loaf of bread tucked under his arm to a row of simple homes – laundry neatly hung outside, kid’s toys scattered about, and delicious cooking smells wafted through the window. Yep, this was the place. When he ducked into one of the doors, we carried on up the footpath, reaching a sagging fence surrounding an overgrown, rocky, hillside clearing.
We stood there with our heads cocked, trying to understand what we were seeing. Then it dawned on us. We’d found them – some of the famous Santorini Cave Houses! Definitely pre-renovation. They had been built … and abandoned long ago. It was like a Nancy Drew mystery – way too tempting to not go exploring. So we climbed the fence.
As I was studying the exterior, James cautiously stepped inside and disappeared down a passageway. The next thing I knew there was a commotion inside the house, sudden movement … and two enormous brown eyes appeared. It was a donkey – a big donkey! We stared at each other dumbfounded, she quickly sized me up, then trotted headlong straight for me.
We’d obviously invaded her turf, so I wasn’t sure what to expect (having grown up around farm animals). But as it turned out, she just wanted some love! She nuzzled and pushed, seemingly starved for attention. When James emerged he couldn’t believe his eyes. I’m not sure who was more surprised – us or the donkey!
We parted company with the donkey and continued our hike, climbing up the hillside along a paved walkway. It crested the ridge and ended abruptly at the front doors of three upscale houses – definitely not traditional tourist territory. We realized we would have to backtrack. James turned around and said, “You’re not gonna believe this!” I turned around and there was the donkey coming up the path. She’d followed us. Unbelievable!
She greeted us like old friends. After a few neck pats and ear scratches she headed on up and went to the front door of one of the elegant houses! Oops! Time for us to exit.
We scooted back down the trail, and as we looked back over our shoulders, we saw a guy in a red sweater come out. We thought that he was yelling, “Hey, is this your donkey?”
As I said, we usually manage to stay out of trouble.