Traveller letters: Beautiful Santorini has its dark side, or should that be 'brown' side?

BRAY WATCH

On a recent trip to the famously picturesque village of Oia, Santorini, I was unpleasantly surprised by its dark side, or should I say 'brown" side.

Upon a "romantic" 300-step walk up and down to Amoudi Bay I was shocked to see both the state of the four-legged, heat-struck donkey" taxis" which appeared slaves to unfit tourists, and the trail of devastation that was left behind by these animals.

Donkey poo consistently covered all 300 steps. For such a postcard-perfect place, it's a real shame to see such a site not cleaned up.

Ed Thomas, Mont Albert, VIC

LETTER OF THE WEEK: NIGHT OF MIGHT

In your May 25 edition you made mention of the magnificent Library of Celsus in Ephesus. It reminded us of a trip to Turkey when we explored these ruins and surrounding areas, all of which we found historically fascinating.

We enjoyed a dinner set in the foreground of the library, tables set up with white-starched cloth falling to the ground, chairs covered with bows, centre table decorations of roses and candles, sparkling white wine and fabulous food.

All around the ruins were candles glowing in the twilight with a palm court orchestra playing haunting melodies. After dinner we were allowed to wander through the ground floor of the library before walking through more candle-lit ruins to our bus.

It was truly a night to remember forever.

Elaine Barnett, Mosman, NSW

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AUSTRALIANA STORY

I had a chuckle at the letter "Point Taken" (Traveller, June 1) as it reminded me of a secondhand bookshop we discovered in Sandy Bay, a suburb of Hobart.

Not knowing which section to search in, I asked the proprietor if they had an "Australiana" section. Her reply was, "no sorry, only just Tasmanian."

Marilyn Bennet, Castlemaine, VIC

CZECH MATES

One good reason to travel is because "they do things differently there". In a case in point, I recently booked tickets some weeks in advance with Prague Trains for the trip back from Cesky Krumlov to Prague and, with a five-minute changeover time, on to Dresden.

I was astonished to receive a phone call one evening from a representative of the company informing me that engineering works are scheduled for that day, which will result in my missing the planned connection.

He offered three alternatives, one of which was to cancel and obtain a refund, but I chose to proceed when promised that they would "combine your ticket with the connecting leg on to Dresden to give you greater flexibility in case you miss the short connection in Prague".

He wished me a pleasant journey and sent the reissued tickets immediately by email. What public service. I can't even imagine that happening in my own country.

Marie Goldsworthy, Geelong, VIC

THE GREAT DIVIDE

In May this year, my partner and I joined around 100 people on the maiden voyage of Coral Expeditions' new small ship, Coral Adventurer, through a string of welcoming eastern island communities across the Indonesian archipelago on our way to Darwin.

A few days after leaving Singapore, we dropped anchor off the south-west tip of Java, near to Ujung Kulon National Park, an isolated sanctuary with the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest on the Javan Plain.

On the morning of the second day, just before we weighed anchor en route to Jakarta, I left the main walking group to return to the beach accompanied by one of our local guides, Heri. He told me he lived in a village a few hours' boat ride away along the Java coast.

When I asked him how he had fared in the tsunami caused by a massive underwater landslide on nearby Anak Krakatau, a few days before Christmas 2018, he didn't immediately reply.

Then he looked at me and explained that he had lost everything: his wife, two children, both of his parents, his home and escaped drowning as he was swept inland by the wave.

He showed me the scars on his body. And on top of that, his livelihood as a guide was under threat because tourists had stopped visiting the park as a result of the tsunami and a subsequent eruption by the volcano, within sight of his village across the Sunda Strait.

The distance between our parallel lives had never seemed so great and yet the bond of friendship, albeit transitory, was real, genuine. It was a moment that defined the journey and the very nature of travel for me, reminding me of the world of privilege into which I was born.

Michael Meadows, Rochedale South, QLD

ERRORS OF OUR AWAYS

Similar to Margaret McCann's (Traveller Letters, May 25) experience in Paris, it seems that some overseas destinations prefer to make money from tourists' mistakes rather than helping them.

We stayed for three nights in the quieter Dorsoduro district of Venice. We were able to purchase vaporetto tickets at each of the stops except at our stop. On asking a ferry official where we could purchase a ticket, his only response was to ask where we boarded and then used his mobile.

At the next stop, three unfriendly inspectors boarded and stated that we should have bought a ticket from the ferry hand, who was not selling any tickets. We were both fined €50, plus a surcharge for paying the fine at a post office.

Our recommendation is to buy multiple tickets at a ticket-office to allow for stops where there isn't one.

Wayne Perry, Merewether, NSW

FULL ADMISSION

I recently travelled to Oslo to catch a ferry in Bergen that travels up and down the coast carrying supplies, locals and visitors. I experienced sudden horrendous back pain on day one and I had to cancel my trip.

Three days later I was admitted to hospital in Norway with MRIs showing that I had a fracture in my back.

So what about my trip? I decided to change my itinerary to suit the circumstances which meant that I was having a great time in hospital in a foreign land.

I saw a bit of Norway through the window, I watched multilingual staff being amazing while my stay was "free" because we have reciprocal arrangements between Norway and Australia, thank heavens.

So I called the travel book I won't write "Why Carol Went to Norway To Get Five MRIs". It's a travel story with a bittersweet ending. Instead of seeing icebergs I gained an inside view of a great hospital full of lovely people.

Carol Oliver, Daylesford, VIC

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