A Travellerspoint blog

Day 12

A pretty town and ancient ash

sunny 27 °C

Santorini was back to her glorious best after yesterday's rain (remember, it NEVER rains in Santorini in June!) - hot, humid, sunny and not one cloud to be seen.

After a full English brekkie, the tour began. First we went up to the highest point on the island, where the Prophet Elias Monastery sits overlooking the whole of Santorini. This is a birds-eye view of Kamari, including the island's airport. This is the oldest land on the island, from before there was a volcano, so it's made from the only limestone around - hence the quarry I guess.

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The humidity means things at a distance are a bit hazy, including the horizon. Somewhere out there is Crete!

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As for the monastery, there are only a handful of monks there now, but they do make things to sell in their wee shop, including religious artworks, preserves and vin santo wine (of which I bought a small bottle of the 2002 vintage - too small to share, I'm afraid!). Their church is small and pretty

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As I headed back to the bus I heard what I thought was a group of schoolgirls laughing and carrying on, but it was this bright gaggle of ladies, obviously totally enjoying themselves trying to pose for a group photo. They didn't seem to mind me snapping them too!

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Santorini doesn't have much in the way of native vegetation, and such a meagre rainfall limited to about 6 months of the year and around 32cm of the wet stuff (with the exception of yesterday, of course!), that most of the plants and trees are introduced varieties, like tropical palms, eucalyptus and cacti, like this one

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Even their grapevines grow differently to anywhere else. They're low to the ground and the growers curl the vines around to make a kind of basket to keep them from growing out of control and to protect the grapes from the sun

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We next went to the pretty, traditional village of Megalochori (or Megalohori). Though not all of it is pretty!

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But most of it is. This bell tower is one of the most photographed on the island, and it's easy to see why!

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There are pretty views everywhere

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Even an everyday row of flower pots look different here somehow

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And of course I couldn't resist prying into this lady's humdrum life, could I? If I ever see her, I'll apologise personally.

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Then it was back on the bus (air con could have been better) and off to the main attraction - the archaeological site of the very ancient city of Akrotiri. It was discovered in the 1960s and the painstaking work to release it from its deep covering of volcanic ash began all that time ago, and there's plenty more to uncover. It was buried in the latest volcanic eruption of the island in 1630BC (yes, 3,600 years ago). It's essentially Greece's Pompeii, but some 1,700 years prior. Another difference compared to Pompeii is that no bodies (human or animal) or valuables were found. It's believed that the citizens knew what was coming because of earthquakes and such, so they took all their jewellery and anything else they wanted to take and left town well before the eruption. It was only buried in ash because the eruption was so powerful, all the magma and big rocks were spewed out and will have landed much further away. That has made it easier for the archaeologists to uncover it, and also had the added benefit of preserving much of the decorative features in the houses. The walls of many of the houses were beautifully and colourfully painted with gorgeous frescoes. These have all been removed and are held in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, and a few pieces in the main Santorini town of Fira. Other items like pots are also in the museum, and are really unusual in their designs. Enough rabbiting on - here are some pics of the dig (it's fully under cover)

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Tiny model of the town as it stands to date

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Wider view from the entrance - the port end of town

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Side view of a house - they've replaced the old wooden framing with concrete for stability

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Pots in a building or 'bank' where workers would have got their wages. Not money, but produce, such as seeds and vegetables, fruit. They would not have had a monetary system back then, it was a barter economy

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View of the main street, with the sewer system left exposed. They were an advanced civilisation, and the houses even had inside toilets connected up to the sewer.

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Steps broken by powerful earthquakes prior to the eruption

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The "Admiral's House"

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Beds - they were obviously very small people or they couldn't lie straight!

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A look inside a house

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I totally wanted to touch, but they had people watching like hawks!

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It's believed that the citizens made animal sacrifices before leaving, in the hope they would return - this pile of what looks like rubble is animal horns. They worshipped Gaia, the Earth Mother back then. Zeus, Apollo et al didn't even feature for another couple of hundred years. When our guide told us that, it really brought home just how long ago this city existed and even thrived - it was the most successful city of its time, which is why it's thought by some to be the lost city of Atlantis.

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A final look back over the city. I know that to some of you it looks like a pile of old rocks, and I guess in a way that's just what it is. But it is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of our time, and that alone deserves the attention.

After Akrotiri we went to Perivolos (Perissa Beach) for lunch, then finished up for a very quick wine tasting at the Santo Winery, which, as you can see, has a stunning view over the caldera and north right up to Oia on the northern point of the island

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Well, that's my War and Peace for today. The top item on my bucketlist enthusiastically ticked off. Tomorrow will be a lazy one again, then on Sunday I'm taking a cruise around the caldera and finishing with the sunset at Oia.

Posted by judesbucketlist 19:19 Archived in Greece Tagged churches greece santorini europe cyclades thira bell_tower akrotiri greek_islands archaeological_sites megalohori megalochori thera

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