Santorini - looking for the lost city of Atlantis
Crescent-shaped Santorini , the precious gem of the Aegean, is actually a group of islands consisting of Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni in the southernmost part of Cyclades. The whole complex of Santorini islands is still an active volcano and probably the only volcano in the world whose crater is in the sea. The islands that form Santorini came into existence as a result of intensive volcanic activity; twelve huge eruptions occurred, one every 20,000 years approximately, and each violent eruption caused the collapse of the volcano's central part creating a large crater (caldera). The last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago (during the Minoan Age destroyed the thriving local prehistoric civilization, evidence of which was found during the excavations of a settlement at Akrotíri.
Akrotiri at the southern end of the island was our first stop on the island and is known as the "Pompeii of the Aegean". Excavations began in 1967 and what has been discovered in over 3000 years old and has been well preserved under a thick blanket of pumice since 1600 BC. Of interest is the fact that many of the 30 buildings found to date are 2-3 stories high. Murals have been located which demonstrate life as it was in those times. Women were painted white, men brown They even had a sewerage system - 3600 years ago !!! However no human remains or valuables have been found and historians and archaeologists wonder if the site had been abandoned by the people.
We then headed to the northernmost tip of the island to experience the village of Oia. This is where you see the picture postcard views of Santorini.......white houses with a blue domed roof nestled on a steep slope of the caldera. Naturally we had to get our picture taken to encapsulate the idyllic view of this island. However the village was teeming with tourists and there was much pushing and shoving. Not a pleasant experience so heavens knows what it is like in the peak season!!
It was then on to lunch at a traditional restaurant - Maria's - which the ship uses for its guests. The restaurant was located on a beach with gritty black sand. Not what a good Aussie beach looks or feels like !! Unfortunately the lunch was a disaster - greasy, lukewarm food that appeared to be just thrown on a plate - no points for taste or presentation. Our group were very disappointed but looked forward to our afternoon of further exploration of the island.
Our final stop was Firá the picturesque capital of the island; perched high up on the edge of the Caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Walking through the cobble stoned streets was peaceful and there were some amazing views out over the Aegean. To get back to the ship we took a hair raising 3 minute cable car ride back down the steep hill to the tender station. The cable car has vastly improved access to Fira and the income from the tickets is given to the islands communities for development work on the island. A percentage of the ticket price is also given to the mule drivers in order to help their tradition survive.
For many people the island of Santorini is the epitome of the Greek Islands - trendy, cosmopolitan - but for me there was something missing......a lack of soul.