In a ocean full of islands, Santorini certainly is unique – not just unusual — it must be one of a kind.
From a distance, many cruisers on the Aegean Odysseythought the island was a snow-capped mountain. Return visitors, however, knew differently. As the ship neared, it gradually became apparent that these were houses.
Like most Greek off-shore settlements, the buildings are nearly all super-white, often with blue roofs, or a few other pastel colors, all designed to keep the interiors cool under the hot sun.
The main villages are far above the ocean, clinging to rough cliffs, giving residents and visitors an aerial view over our ship and other vessels slowly milling around far below, their tenders shuttling to and fro to small landings at sea level. From there, cruisers ascend to the heights by bus, donkey, or cable car.
Our guides tell us that until somewhere around 1600 BC, Santorini was a single island, perhaps roundish, when it blew up in a tremendous volcanic eruption, cleaving itself into five parts, and forming an ocean-filled caldera.
Archeologists, geologists, and other ologists disagree in lesser or greater amounts about Santorini. Romantics have long said that the island was once the fabled Atlantis, before it suddenly sunk into the sea.
With some evidence to back it up, others say a tremendous tidal wave caused by the eruption traveled to Crete, effectively wiping out the Minoan civilization there in one fell swoop. (See the previous blog entry below.)
The prevailing opinion today is that it was the smoke and ash from the eruption which gradually ruined the crops and food sources of the Minoans. That, combined with an earthquake there did the job, and so Santorini may have had little to do with it.
Aegean Odyssey cruisers who toured Santorini on this Sunday were treated to an archeological tour of the site referred to as Akrotiri, a bronze age settlement that was contempory with the Minoans. In fact, we were the first shipload of visitors to see them since they were recently reopened to the public after a long period when they were not.
By the way, our own population of some 340 passengers were treated in the evening by a company of frenetic Greek dancers. At one point, the audience was invited to participate.
No shrinking violets here. It seemed almost all in the ship’s Ambassador Lounge lept into the center to form an inner and an outer circle, kicking and skipping together for nearly 15 minutes. O-pah!
April 22, 2012
Photos by Robert W. Bone