The tranquility of the moment was shattered when the donkey licked my ear.
It was my own fault, really. I had refused the waiter’s suggestion that I enjoy breakfast inside. Instead, I ordered tart Greek yogurt and honey on a breezy café terrace overlooking the lagoon of Santorini.
An hour later, I was still picking threads of honey out of my hair.
My sticky head was irresistible to the donkeys. We crossed paths on a narrow lane outside the café where I paused to shelter from the wind. Each donkey wore a multicolored pattern of beadwork on its bridle and carried a striped blanket with a simple, leather saddle.
The donkeys sauntered slowly downhill toward the Old Port, where they would pick up passengers and carry them back up the steep, zig-zag pathway.
Turning uphill, I followed a sun-bleached sign toward town.
It was still early, and the clifftop town of Fira was just beginning to wake up. I watched a shopkeeper sweep the white, stone steps of her business. She greeted another shopkeeper as he threw open the thick, blue shutters on his store. “Kalimera,” she said to me. Good morning.
I climbed numbered steps until I reached the top of town.
The narrow footpaths that had been empty during my ascent were gradually beginning to fill with people. I fortified myself with sweet and sludgy Greek coffee, and then I reversed course. Descending quickly, I hid my sticky hair under my hat as I passed a chain of familiar looking donkeys.
At the base of the cliff, I hired a boat for the half-hour trip to the village of Oia, on the northern end of the island. Oia, like Fira, clings to the rock face at the top of steep cliffs.
In Oia, I saw more of the postcard-perfect blue domes that I had expected on Santorini. I hadn’t imagined, however, that they would be woven so seamlessly into the townscape.
In every direction, white churches stood by white houses next to white walled gardens. Blue domes were complemented by blue doors and blue gates.
Some buildings even flew the blue and white Greek flag.
I wandered through the town, and then took a seat on a wide cliffside terrace. The waiter delivered a Santorini delicacy: fritters made from locally grown tomatoes.
Those red fritters were the only things in my field of vision that weren’t blue or white. The whitewashed walls matched the billowing clouds on the horizon, and the blue domes matched both the sky and the lagoon.
The colorscape of Santorini invited my eyes to linger, and it relaxed me. The other diners on my terrace were also settling in contentedly. Before long, we were sharing some of Santorini’s distinctive white wine. Someone commented that the wine tasted like minerals because of the volcanic soil. Others thought it tasted like honey, and I giggled to myself as I remembered the honey-loving donkeys I had met that morning. Finally, someone said that the wine tasted “blue and white,” and everyone agreed.