Santorini sights

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Santorini sights
Sunset over the Caldera

Santorini sights – the Caldera

Santorini sights. A crescent island, shaped liked a cookie with a big bite taken out of it, Santorini is part of the Cyclades islands. Lying on the junction of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates it is prone to earthquakes and frequent volcanic activity. It did look like a whole cookie until, in 1450 BC, a huge eruption blew up the island. It left the centre as a huge water filled crater, or caldera.

Santorini sights
Aegean eye candy

Santorini sights – Akrotiri

In Akrotiri, the island has one of the most important archaeological excavations anywhere in the Agean. The prehistoric city is more than 3,600 years old. Beautifully preserved by the volcanic lava and ash which poured onto it during an even earlier volcanic explosion, it’s like the Pompeii of the Aegean.

This event happened some 1500 years earlier than Pompeii. In this case an earlier earthquake had alerted the inhabitants to the forthcoming eruption, so they were all able to safely evacuate.

Santorini sights
Fred Flintstone would have loved Akrotiri

The city is astonishing in its sophistication and complexity. To say this was built 1500 years before the mighty Roman empire and at a time when we in Britain were still living in mud huts is just amazing.

Only 3% of the city has been excavated. It has three story buildings, public spaces and shops with displays of pottery. Most stunning of all are the beautiful coloured frescoes which adorned the plaster of the finest buildings. The colours remain bright. Everything seems a bit smaller than today’s habitations.  Maybe people were a lot shorter, probably due to the fact that they had a lot less protein in their diet than we do today.

Santorini sights
The young fisherman

Santorini sights – back to the bronze age

The house of jars in Akrotiri shows that these Greeks were skilled potters. They had vases for storing and presenting food, for decoration and for rituals. They worshipped nature and many of the designs have fine depictions of ibis, horses, dolphins, swifts and even monkeys on them. they also favoured plants like lilies and papyrus flowers.

These pots seem so modern in design it is quite astonishing. Archaeologists even found a small hollow golden Ibis. It was carefully forged with its little head and horns welded on. They were able to take casts of the remains of elegant wooden furniture. A carved side table that would not have looked out of place in the court of Louis IV shows that these early people loved fine things.

Santorini sights
Old gold goat

The colours in the frescoes are also still vibrant. They used natural dyes like ochre for yellow but also a blue chemical derived from copper shipped from Egypt. This shows that these people knew of and traded with other countries like Africa, Crete and Syria.

Santorini sights
Picturesque port

Santorini sights – head for Thira

In the heyday of Akrotiri, the  climate was probably not so dry as it is now. There seemed to be signs that there were palm trees, antelope and lions here too. Excavations were halted for some time due to financial constraints, but some new finds were made as recently as 2018. This bronze age settlement gives us a tantalising taste of ancient Santorini history.

Thira is a small city which could easily serve as a fantasy kingdom in Game of Thrones.  You descend precarious stepped stone route from the city to the port.

Santorini donkeys

It is steep and winding and the surface is worn and slippery. It is made even more hazardous by the large gangs of donkey taxis which career down the steps all at once before they climb more slowly back up them carrying a lazy tourist.

Santorini sights
The donkeys are coming!

Donkeys are strong animals and many of them are mule crosses which are even bigger. However, when a couple of 20 plus stone Austrians climbed aboard two unlucky beasts,  it just looked cruel. The donkeys start to huff and puff their way up the 537 steps.

Some of the tourists don’t even seem to realise that the donkeys are live animals. They don’t hold on properly and continue to wave their cameras about and video themselves. I do wonder if they ever fall off.

Santorini sights
I’m too fat for this donkey..

People have tried to get the donkey taxis stopped, but it is a very old tradition and provides a good living for the donkey owners. Of course no one was that fat when they started the donkey transport thing.

I don’t fancy yours much..

The donkeys are as much a part of Thira as the blue domed churches or the jaw dropping view across the Caldera. Santorini sights are quite unique and I can’t see this gorgeous Greek island losing its appeal anytime soon.

Read about wine tasting in Santorini here 

Santorini views
Is it a Game of Thrones set?