Santorini, oh Santorini! Even its name seems mystical and romantic! What history it has! It was the home of an ancient Minoan civilization which lived here until 1630 BC. That's right, it was the 17th century before Christ that they inhabited a land known then as Thera. The people had gained wealth by way of the Aegean Sea, not as seafarers but as masters in the art of trading. In 1630 BC all of that changed with a mighty eruption of Thera's volcano. The Minoans had already fled the island taking with them their fine jewelry and other small items. Volcanic ash filled their homes but also preserved them for future generations.
Fast forward to 1967 when archaeologists discovered the ancient city of Akrotiri. Here the Minoans lived in two to three story houses on paved streets. On the basement or first floor of the home, stores of food and water were kept. Upper levels were used for weaving. Rooms were small at around 6 or 7 feet squared.
Stores lined main street selling pottery of various forms for water and food storage and for oil lighting.
G and I toured Akrotiri; it is an amazing place and has yet to be fully uncovered. What really brought this place to life for us were the rooms which still had ancient water vessels in them. Some of these appeared to have been totally revealed; others were still encased in volcanic ash.
You could also see stair steps which had cracked down the middle.
Wall frescos were found intact in several of the houses. Dolphins smiling happily, blue monkeys swinging, and somber sedate women adorned these rooms. The colors used called out a joyful reality for the wealthy Minoans.
One item left behind was a small golden ibex. It was in clay box and for some reason was forgotten when the Minoans left in a rush. Pottery from other islands and countries were also found here and testify to the worldly nature of trade for the Minoan society.
While the eruption forced the Minoans to flee, it allowed Thera to become modern day Sanorini.
From our hotel patio we can look down 1000 feet and see the caldera which is now covered in water. Remnants of it exist today as rocky, craggy islands. The majority of houses, restaurants, and retail establishments on Santorini are painted white and accented with domes and window frames painted in sky blue. It has been this way for centuries. The white reflected the hot sun but, because it was limestone based, it also killed bacteria in the water that collected on their roofs. Ultimately, this became the household drinking water.
We are staying at the Scirocco Apartments in Fira, and our unit is exceptionally cute. I think the curved doors and the blue accents add touches of the exotic and just keep multiplying its mystical appearance. The town is built on the volcanic rock from the 17th century BC eruption.
It is stunning with level after level of buildings extending up. All overlook the caldera! To reach Scirocco Apartments we were dropped off by the taxi on the main street. The driver told us where to stand on the sidewalk and admonished us not to leave that spot.
A few minutes later, Eddie, a 20 something Greek youth, showed up, took our luggage, and guided us up the cobblestone pathways and alleys which led to our apartment. He turned us over to Arturo who gave us both a bottle of cold water and then proceeded to tell us where to visit, where to eat, and where to shop. He underscored that we were not to rent a moped but to either rent a car or go by bus. All of his advice was right on the mark. He also gave us a copy of a hand drawn map which highlighted the path back to main street. He was adamant that we were not to turn right or left while going to the grocery store. Again, he was right. We are having a wonderful time here