Sunday, November 8, 2009

Santorini, Part 1

Santorini is a small archipelago located between the Greek mainland and Crete. The islands surround a lagoon, which is the volcanic caldera. The walls raise virtually straight up from the lagoon to a height of about 980 feet. There are some buildings at lagoon level where the harbors are, but most buildings are on the top. Originally it was one island, which blew its top in a gigantic volcanic explosion approximately 1500 BC. It may have been the largest volcanic explosion in recorded civilization. Some think this was where the legend of Atlantis originated and that the demise of the Minoan civilization on Crete was from the resulting tsunami. The largest town is Thera, located on the largest island of the same name, with a population of about 12,000. Thera also has an airport and is where the cruise ships call. There are ruins on Thera that are being excavated that were buried in ash at the time of the eruption. Unfortunately they were closed at the time we were there and have been closed for a couple of years because of an accident. Below is a photo of the lagoon from Thera; the water is 1300 feet deep.

Approaching the islands from a distance your eyes and brain get in a fight over what you're seeing. Your eyes tell you you are seeing snow rimmed islands but your mind tells you that is not possible. As you get closer, the snow becomes white washed buildings.

Thera can be very crowded. Six or more cruise ships in the harbor each with 1200 or more passengers makes a crowd at the top of the cliff. One gets to the town by walking up a zigzag path dodging donkey poo, riding a donkey up the zigzag path or taking a cable car.

The photo below is a view of Thera from the end of the cable car line. The town seems to cling to the mountain and cliff. Some of the houses have one of more rooms dug into the hillside and are thus covered with pumice, which has a lot of air trapped in it and makes excellent insulation. These places are prized for their coolness in summer and warmth in winter.

The young lady below took the cable car but carried her own donkey souvenir.

The streets are narrow with most of the buildings painted white. There are many stairways and steps and many colorful doors and windows, two of which are shown below.

A view of some of the backs of houses/buildings. I especially like the terrace with the big sunflowers.

The photo below is taken through an entry gate to a terrace overlooking the lagoon. I believe it was a small restaurant.

More doors and windows.

Below is a photo of the entrance to a taverna.

Another window with yellow as the predominant color this time.

These are baskets of natural sponges for sale.

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