The Donkey Tales from Santorini

Santorini, Greece: April 2010

Back while I was studying in Edinburgh, Steph, Allie*, and I decided to take a cruise across Venice, Croatia and about five different Greek Islands. We had just finished a rather exhaustive finals period and we were looking forward a week of doing absolutely nothing.

Our vacation routine was quite regimented. Every day, we’d roll out of bed around 10:30AM and immediately scamper off to one three endless buffet breakfasts. After piling our plates high with healthy waffles (grains), chocolate covered strawberries (fruit) and several scoops of ice cream (dairy), we’d sit out on the deck, basking in the sun, as our resident cruise director, Steph, would explain our options for the day. Most days involved tough activities, like deciding which restaurant we wanted to eat at or which poolside we wanted to occupy.

That particular day, Steph announced that we would be disembarking in Santorini, one of the quintessential picturesque Greek Islands, perched on the edge of a volcanic crater and sprinkled with whitewashed houses accented with cobalt blue roofs, doors and gates. In order to reach the actual town, she announced, we could either take a cable car, walk the thousands steps or, in a rather hushed voice, ride a donkey up.

Immediately, Allie and I latched onto the idea of a donkey. Allie- because she is a true equestrian and has a great appreciation for all horse-like animals- and I because I can’t resist a cheesy tourist photo- could not fathom a cable car or actually walking up the steep volcanic cliffs. As we animatedly started to talk options—me asking, for a friend, if the donkey could sense fear and potential through off a unsuspecting rider—and Allie comparing the merits of horseback riding to donkey riding. After a good twenty or thirty minutes, we realized that Steph had not contributed a single word to the conversation. In fact, she seemed uncomfortable. Like true friends, we ignored here and got ready for the next adventure.

We docked a little before sunset, and meandered our way through the crowds to the donkey line. At this point, we gently asked Steph “are you excited” and in return got an outpour of emotion and impassioned speech on donkey rights that lasted the entire line for the donkeys. According to Steph, this was a result of full day’s concern for donkey riding.

Our faces must have looked so shocked that Steph stepped back and agreed to take a look at the donkeys and then consider whether to walk up or cable it up. With that, Allie step towards the donkeys and with the air of a well-seasoned Westminster judge evaluated the first donkey lead out and declared it okay. With that, I jumped on the first donkey, who was so happy, so glossy and had so much enthusiasm that he took off with a jovial gallop the moment I was seated. This of course left no time for Steph to negotiate a plan B.

I am told that the second donkey brought out was equally as happy and glossy as mine, and Allie expertly hopped on and pranced off. Steph was left behind waiting for her happy and glossy donkey. Allie soon caught up with me and we enjoyed the scenic ride up the windy cobblestone paths. Our donkeys intuitively understanding when we needed to pause for a photo break or when we needed to overtake a chubby tourist. Finally we reached the top and treated our selves to photo shoot. Fifty photos later, we realized that Steph still had not arrived. Thirty minutes later, we were okay I was worried that the donkey had thrown Steph off. Perhaps donkeys really could sense fear. Finally, forty minutes later, we saw Steph riding, in her words” “smallest, mangiest donkeys [she] ha[d] ever seen. Ears askew, dull fur, and calloused bald patches where years of saddle use ([she] guess) had rubbed just a little too hard.”

Hours later, after we had fully enjoyed the epic views of Santorini at sunset, we walked down the steps, no mention of donkeys whatsoever. It took Allie and I about a respectable twenty minutes after we had boarded the ship to start mocking Steph on her Charlie brown Christmas tree of a donkey. Steph says she has recovered from the incident, but I swear there is still a twitch whenever we casually suggest another donkey ride.

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The Stairs up to Santorini

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Riding up

Exploring the hidden gems

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Stopping for a photoshoot

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The Start of Sunset

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*Steph’s childhood friend and one of my favorite partners-in-crime

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