Travel Journal: Marketing the Sunset

sunsetJust over a week ago, a big full moon traveling a few thousand miles closer than usual made a big worldwide impression, especially from photographers with long lenses that made it seem like the orb would crash into Earth’s major landmarks.

The moon also rose the next night.

A much better job in creating a place specific area for an even more common event takes place on the Greek island of Santorni.

Not that the picturesque, mountainous, volcano-made crescent in the Mediterranean needs this particular bump. It has a lovely hive of cave houses of all different eras, blue-topped churches every hilly block or so, parades of burros offering rides and the usual endless narrow streets of jewelry and native arts.

In the village Oia, at the top of Santorini, however, the sunset is the nightly selling point. There, terrace-top restaurants and bars sell dusk as an especially magical time, street musicians help create a festive mood, and no camera goes unused taking shots of the sun going down.

Which it does every night.

This sunset happens over the water, which has the potential for spectacular photos, glazing glimmers across the darkening blue.

But something has gone wrong with the sunset .

As it becomes a bigger red ball as it approaches the horizon, it never actually sets on the water. Rather, after becoming all stripy like Jupiter, and then misshapen like a beachball that’s sprung a leak, it kind of just fades away, into the band of humidity-made fog, sand and other particulates near the surface; a half circle, and then a smudge of a lipstick frown, then poof, nothing.

No one is so critical as to boo a sunset, but this is a pretty whispy disappearing act. All whimper, no bang.

It doesn’t seem to bother the tourists, who line the street and shoot endless pictures of the descent, or friends, or selfies with friends at this critical moment. (Which, again, happens every night).

Some with changeable lens actual cameras strapped on necks, many more with the palm sized pocket sized version, everybody else with phone cameras that are often just as good. (The worst, of course, are the people who walk around using their iPads as cameras; with the big screen in front of their faces like deconstructed glass plate cameras from the 19th century (though with no hood over their head).

There are scenes of concern at the edge of this pleasant picture. The skilled musicians churning out a zesty Hungarian Rhapsody every night are, a merchant informs me, recently out of work employees from the state broadcaster ERT, shut down as a money saving measure earlier this month.

After a week in the Greek islands, there’s been little evidence of the Greek financial crisis. Our driver from the ferry boat said he was a chemical engineer from Athens who couldn’t find other work. A sign at a bar in Rhodes said “WE STOP CRISIS WITH LOW PRICES.”

Tourism is still big here, maybe the biggest industry in Greece. Agriculture is making a comeback; the local food is delicious.

And where there is ingenuity, there is a way: Marketing the sunset.

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