I am reborn on Crete, my new, beautiful home away from home, and from here, I get to explore the whole of the legendary Greek island paradise. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in it and I chose to make it my way of life for a brief while.
When I left Romania, the sky raptured above us like the proverbial witch to spite us: fog and mist danced on the horizon while heavy rains enveloped the streets in lifeless grays. But we drove on, stubbornly and oh, so aware of the bliss of the sunshine waiting for us on the land of the Minoans. It took us ages to reach our new destination. One wet, cold, death-defying drive and one ferry later, we reached Heraklion at dawn, just about right to find the first cafes placing chairs on the sidewalks. It was magic, the kind of imagery you expect when you are a writer on a perpetual quest for kalí zoí (la vita bella).
As la vita bella has it, my husband doesn’t get “we have a week to explore.” When he wants things to happen, they happen right now. So a trip on the sunset avenue happened as soon as we touched base on Crete, because Santorini, well, Santorini tastes like childhood, and love, and dreams… Santorini is, by all definitions, kalí zoí.
I may be biased now. I may expect too much and notice the unnoticeable. But Santorini is full of trash in all the wrong places. Random visitors gaze at the skies and they rarely adventure close to the places used to dump trash. Uninspired, I failed to snap a picture of the horror before Fira, but I should have. Thinking back, I realize the kindness of the ordinary traveler for not bashing Fira to oblivion for the utter disregard for the fragile ecosystem and environment of the island. Or is it ignorance? Hard to say. Nevertheless… it’s a pity.
Santorini is one drop in the bucket. As I learned, after researching the issue, landfill management is a big problem in Greece, for many islands. They call it a “garbage crisis” in some publications. Travelers do mention the issue in TripAdvisor reviews quite often. And celebrities like Will Smith take their precious time to lord it over some small Greek island showcasing their “garbage collecting” skills for a cheap PR op. But the truth is: the Greeks give them these opportunities for free. If littering on beaches were a criminal offense, and tourists and locals would be forced to pay a fine for leaving trash behind on beaches then the Will Smiths of the world would hold nothing over this corner of paradise. In Romania, as well as here, we collected trash without making it a media event. But then, we are ordinary people and ordinary people don’t get celebrated for doing the right thing.
So I wonder… if we stop encouraging the “others” and celebrate more of the indigenous, would we achieve more? Or is kalí zoí interrupted the new way of life on Santorini?