Greece

The sculptured town of Oia was etched against the clear blue sky. The snow-white buildings perched precariously on the side of the volcanic mountain and slopped dramatically towards the Aegean Sea. 

The colourful houses looked as if they were built on top of one another and the symmetry of the architecture was sympathetic to the landscape. The Dome shaped rooftops were painted a distinctive blue and the bells of the Orthodox Church echoed in harmony with its nearby neighbour. The air was crisp with the scent of sweet perfume and the smell of fresh bread wafted from a nearby bakery. Vibrant flowerpots decorated narrow alleyways and butterflies were plentiful in the courtyard gardens. Colourful wicker gates marked the entrance to each home and shopkeepers washed the spotless paths in preparation for their day. From a distance Santorini resembled a well-decorated wedding cake and I envied the inhabitants of this tranquil paradise.

The calm was suddenly broken by the sound of a ships siren.

Numerous cruise ships were moored in the centre of the sunken volcano 300 meters below. The passengers were ferried to shore in a manner that resembled the Normandy landings. The tourists descended on the town like the first wave of troops attacking the beaches on D Day.  Women bedecked in their finest jewellery led the first assault. They stumbled forward in their high heel shoes. They struggled to maintain their grace and composure as they were transported up the steep mountain slopes on donkeys. The heavy brigade took up the rear. Overweight men, wearing shorts that exposed their knobbly knees, sweated profusely from the exertion of it all. They were overburdened with bags and cameras and resembled walking coat hangers as the temperatures rose. Onward they charged and engulfed the town in their droves. They went from building to building like street fighters in urban warfare. They were focused on their mission. The hand-to-hand combat was clearly evident in shops displaying a Sale sign.  The battle hardened emerged from the skirmish with the smile of victory on their faces. The new recruits and the unfit were overcome and collapsed into nearby cafes in need of R&R. It lasted all day and then it was over. Two blasts from the ships siren and the hoard retreated at speed. Once more the heavy brigade took up the rear and they panted  and struggled with their spoils of war. Back to their ship to recover, debrief and lick their wounds. Some time later they turned to the west and sailed into the sunset to another day and another conquest.

This paradise had lost some of its gloss. As evening descended nature took control, calm returned and the colour of that sunset will remain with me forever.

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