Santorini, Greece, an Island in Time
A Photo Essay
Story and Photos by Lee Daley
What is it about the Greek island of Santorini that captivates all who visit? It’s easy to credit its beauty to the shimmering blue Aegean, the drama of its whitewashed cube dwellings built atop one another, clinging to cliffsides, some even built cave-like into one. But inexplicably, it’s much more. One has only to wander for a day along the winding pathways above the caldera in the village of Oia to sense the fundamental union of elements at play.
There’s a primal symmetry here, an organic sensuality captured in the rough stone stairways and arches, the heavy hand carved wood doors, the classic Minoan pottery, the cool marble walkways. It’s Escheresque and Gaudiesque, yet–unlike these great artists’ works–there is, for those who let it penetrate, a tactile, mystical relationship between the viewer and the view.
Perhaps the primal element that so pervades Santorini goes back to the ancient Minoans who occupied Crete and the surrounding islands. Archaeologists have found remnants of the Minoan civilization such as frescoes, pottery and temples here. Some scholars believe the ancient island dwellers were inhabitants of the lost realm of Atlantis, sunk under the sea in a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Plato claimed the story of Atlantis to be true and that the mythic city lay in the Aegean near the whereabouts of today’s Santorini. Today, many historians believe the presumption that the Aegean and the Minoan civilizations are one and the same.
The whitewashed, cubiform homes and monuments of the island’s two towns, Oia and Fira, cling to cliffs above an underwater crater called a caldera. One of the greatest pleasures of a stay on the island can be found in walking the paths along the cliff tops with their spectacular sea views of the outlying islands that dot the waters.
In all of Greece, the eternal influence of the gods lives on. One sees it in the architecture, interior and exterior decorations, the sculptures, even the food and wine. Classical Greek sculptors infused their work with the grandeur and spirituality of the gods and the idealization of the human form. If the legacy of Atlantis lives on, perhaps its spirit explains the magic of Santorini, an island in time that is truly timeless.
If You Go: On our first trip to Greece, my spouse and I flew into Athens, spending three nights at Hotel Central near the Plaka. Though modest, we found the accommodations comfortable and especially enjoyed the view of the Acropolis from our room along with the panoramic overview of the city from the hotel’s roof deck. Since then, the Hotel Central has been elegantly refurbished and renovated. The rooftop deck is now an elegant restaurant boasting a dazzling Acropolis view dramatically lighted come dinner time.
We then flew on Aegean Airlines from Athens to Santorini, where we stayed at the five-star Majestic Hotel, located at the entrance to the town of Fira. The hotel’s location affords an unobstructed view of the sea, the sunset and adjacent islands.
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