There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city.
Elizabeth – Bioshock Infinite
It’s a matter of constants and variables, although the World may seem a bit recurring. I came back from my trip to Greece, and been working on the pictures since then, both for the Icelandic ones (which are still far to be finished) and on the less ones of Santorini.
So this piece will be a bit bridgy, and will be the last one using the old signature watermark.
The island of Santorini, or the original one, exploded nearly 3600 years ago due to the Kamani volcano which is situated in the middle of it. The remaining shape is therfore that of a set of landstrips circling the Caldera (the huge water-filled hole generated by the explosion). It is leashed by strong winds which are a pain in the ass if you decide to tour it by motorbike, but are the only relief to the harsh temperatures and cooking sunlight.
Of course, it is full of tourists, and the bite of the recent economical crisis is evident from the semi-spoiled cars adorning the panorama (particularly between the minor cities). But the invasion of italians and americans is such to mantain a sort of paradise for the pockets of the inhabitants, every waiter (stress again: every) speaks italian at at least a decent level, and it’s easy to get smiley because of their pick-in lines “mangiare senza pagare!” (Eat without paying!) and so on. We had the opportunity to chat with some greeks and some other tourists, having funny conversation on politics and brexit (two gramp brits willing to “put troops on the borders” and having strong opinions on brecit “it was the only solution” “We made britain not great anymore”… A random duckhaired american should get some inspiration by these folks).
But anyway, you’re eager to see some pictures. Aren’t you?
The geometries fpund in the architecture of the cities are endless. The typical blue sky is the background for the white walls with blue details and domes. Thera, or Φηρά if you wanna be radical chic, is the capital city of the main island, it’s a tortuous network of stone roads connecting each of the Caldera-facing houses. Greeks are anything but stupid, and know how to take advantage of the incredible panorama.. by using the roofs!
A trail goes from Thera to Oia (which is the picture you have in your mind thinking about Santorini), and crosses two other important towns: Firostefani and Imerovigli. Another typical picture of the island comes from the former of the two, that is the church of Agios Theodoros. It has to be said that the blue of the dome was pretty pale, probably due to the degrading effect of the sunlight and airborne sand.
The place was a training ground for practicing some composition-exercise, and I wanted to focus on the use of geometries, here’s another take on the subject.
This place is not on the main road, and you need to take a detour of 5 minutes, which are probably too much for the regular tourists which prefer not to get there (but keeping a postcard to remember the place) or reach for the view with an overconditioned minibus. There were like 2 other folks here on our first reach, and more than 20 the last time; in this latter case they were all chinese and kept shooting pictures as if the world was coming to an end. Thinking about it, I’m probably giving my back in some picture which now is in China.
The Island got its name from the dedication to Saint Irene, and for her the cathedral of Perissa (following picture) is dedicated. Probably, the extreme importance of the building, is the reason why in 7 days it was never opened, and I had to sneak my hands behind the external gate to get the picture.
Oia, the sunset city, is best known for the ritual of the sunset. And I say ritual because that’s the feeling you get when looking at it with hundreds of other tourists pushed together. There was of course room for some pun, people use to clap their hands when the sun splashes into the sea, and then rush to get our from the viewpoints heading to restaurants and taxis.
Foolishness aside, it’s a pleasure for the eyes to wander in the city, and some hidden gems are revealed only to those leaving the main road.
The sunset is best seen from the ruins of the byzantine castle, and if you are eager enough to last after the tourist rush, looking on the opposite side you’ll see the whole island sparkling light from the cities buried in the dark of the night. Given the strong winds, and thus lack of clouds, the milky way will appear as background.
We toured also the caldera, walking on the sleepy volcano and reaching for the less populated island: Thirasia. This island has almost one city (on the reef facing Oia there’s just a fuel station for the boats and maybe a couple of families enjoying the peace), and this is splitted in two. On the sea level there are some taverns (greeks love the lemma) and here the climby road reaches the top of the island, where the real houses are. The feeling here is that of a ghost city, there are ruins of hotel which kinda resembles a completely decayed version of the Grand Budapest Hotel, with dried pools and stray cats purring for food.
There are also some working machines, like Cats and small trucks, completely abandoned and left to corrode.
I’ll leave you with a panoramic shot, in which you can clearly see the roundness of the planet (or easier some 12mm distortion). This was taken from Thera, which is the city you see on the left, in the middle the crude reality of cruises (3 ships that night), and the island you see in the middle is Nea Kameni (aka the volcano), while on the right you can see Thirasia (abandoned city).
Now, this wouldn’t be a bridge entry if it didn’t connect anything, and so here we are. In the last piece, when I was talking about the first period in Iceland, I connected you with the first day, now we’re literally hitting the road and heading from Reykjavik to the first stop, which is Pingvellir national park. Here Luca, my buddy, went for a run (he’s a runner, and he’s free girls) and I hiked the surroundings.
The park is the prime minister summer estate, and you can go to visit the house if you really have nothing better to do, but my suggestion is to get the the first waterfall you’ll be encountering: Oxararfoss.
Here I got to test the ND10 filter (which is a photographic filter dark enough to increase your exposing time of 10 times to have a picture with the same exposition as the unfiltered one, giving long-exposure effects), and catch its limits. As you can see the picture is not much sharp, that’s becuse of the added glass between the sensor and the subject.
From Pingvellir we reached in the afternoon our first restplace, Laugarvatn. Here we camped in a desolated camping, where nobody knew where the owner was, and it was not even possible to contact him, finally we were tasting our first bites of wondered Iceland. I didn’t tell it before, but we were mainly eating de-hydrated food, practicing our cooking skills, which are base stats for being italians. We even managed to eat Pizzoccheri in the middle of nowhere some days later, but that’s another story.
The following day, we started with was going to become our daily routine:
5:30 a.m. wake up and tent dismantle
6.00 a.m. in the car, hitting the road.
We eventually reached Geysir when nobody was up yet, and only met literally 3 tourists in the park containing Strokkur geysir: “the geyser that gave its name to all geysers”
The following doesn’t count as a self portrait, but I couldn’t hold to catch the strength of the sentence.
When it was about 9 a.m. we reached for the second destination of the day, Gullfoss. Here we felt the space and saw the first glacier. In the background of the glacier lies one of the many ice tongues of Vatnajokull, and there it sits, majestic as hell, staring at you. Blown away by this beauty we descended to the waterfall (Foss is the icelandic suffix meaning waterfall).
It is hard to describe the feelings, but I hope this picture will at least give you a hint.
Moving forward we went back on the road, and headed to the snaefells penisula (it’s a lot of km, beware). We then passed again on the shores of pingvellir’s lake, and managed to capture the peacefullness of the region.
Now something important: getting out from the main roads, and in general gettin into places with few people, we are brought in strict contact with local fauna. Not everyone of us would like to receive an unexpected visit from an unknown dude, nor everyone would be willing to share the space and their favourite places with, again, some random dude. Birds are very similar to us in these situations, and particularly when they’re in the breeding season. Figure out the scene: you go hunt for some food, get home and set the house to look as romantic as it could be, to welcome your lady, and at the point of meeting your neighbor comes ringing the bell. You wouldn’t be happer that these birds were. So it happened, bot th me and to Luca, that some indigenous bird decided to advise us of our trespassing, shouting screaming and flapping at a very close distance to our face.
Kids these days…
The Chevy didn’t care about screaming pidgeons and lack of asphalt, even on the most graveled road the engine kept going and tires devoured the road. We didn’t have a single problem with this beauty, so again, if you are planning a trip by car, check these guys and ask for the chevy.
Bite after bite, we reached our destination, it was still the time of almost permanent light, so we arrived in a mist of sunset which lasted until the early morning of the following day. Probably the light, the colour of the ocean which was exalted by the contrast with the bushes and stones, or maybe the lack of chaos, the fish and chips or the sweet breeze of wind, or maybe all of these are responsible for the thunderbolt that struck my heart. This town is pure beauty, it’s kindness, peace and nature. Welcome to Arnarstapi, welcome home
The town is placed between the basalt cliffs and the snaefellsjokull, which looks like a tender guardian protecting the city.
In Iceland there are plenty of sagas covering each and every mountain/river/volcano/city. In Arnarstapi, the story is that of Bárður Snæfellsás. He was half orc and half human, and one day, after losing his cool he gave up on humans and went up to the mountain. Many said his treasure is buried somewhere, and his spirit became that of the mountain’s guardian. In recent times, since nobody had a picture or a facebook profile of him, a local artist has been charged of representing him (so that if you had the chance of meeting him you knew at least his shape).
Get ready, the best is yet to come.