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Santorini - the "postcard" island

23 February 2008 / 17:02:39  GRReporter
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Santorini is one of the most beautiful and famous Greek islands and even though it sounds corny, this is the truth. I won’t even try to explain the beauty of the local sights: white houses with blue doors, the windmills, sunsets, sunrises and the sea. All those are known from photos, post cards, documentaries, and multimedia presentations. But the sealed beauty on a picture is only part of the true charm of a small Aegean island, which has exciting atmosphere and it can be felt only when a person visits it.

Santorini, or as it is pronounced in Greek, Sandorini  is actually the name of a small archipelago, located in the southern part of the Aegean sea. Though, very often, this name is used for the biggest island in the group – Tira. As for the etymology of the name “Santorini,” the main hypothesis is that after the islands are taken over the Latin knights, they start calling the island after a local church “Saint Irina.” After some time and enough phonetic changes, little by little the name becomes “Sandorini.”

The contemporary morphology of the island group is a result of the rupture of Strongile Island (as it was its ancient name), because of the volcanic eruption, around the middle of the second millennium BC. Without this geological catastrophe, tourists today wouldn’t have been able to take a boat ride around the caldera. Speaking of volcanoes, I have to mention that this one is one of the active volcanoes in Europe and its last activity was in 1950.

Besides the romantic sunsets seen from Ia and Imerovigli, with which advertisement materials, attracting tourists from all over the world, are full, the archipelago is also famous as the supposed location of the mythical Atlantis, about which speaks Plato. In 1967, the famous Greek archeologist Spiridon Marinatos makes excavations near to the small village Akrotiri on Tira Island. There he discovers a seaport village from the Minoan civilization, which was destroyed as a result of the mentioned rupture of Strongile Island. The area of the village (nearly 20 hectares), the complicated draining system, the structure of the buildings, the exquisite wall-paintings, which decorate some of the rooms, all show that it was one of the main port centers for that age. From that point of view, scientists wonder whether the destruction of this trade and cultural village was not the reason to create the myth about Atlantis. The followers and opponents of this hypothesis have not reached a satisfying solution to the argument. And despite the fruitless result of searching for Atlantis, professor Marinatos’ researches turned Tira Island into one of the most famous archeological sites after Crete.

When it comes to the island’s history during the Middle Ages and the more current times, it is full of curious details like the attack of the famous pirate Hairedin Barbarossa, who attacked and conquered Tira Island in 1573. Earlier, during the Byzantium period until 1204, the island was part of the Byzantine Empire. After the conquering of Constantinople by the army of the Fourth Crusade, the island goes under the ownership of different Venetian families. During 1566, Tire was taken over by the Turks but Akrotiri continues to resist until 1617. Thanks to its strategic position in trade and political sense, Tira and the rest of the island group are privileged during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The archipelago is included in today’s Greek borders in 1912, almost 100 years after the beginning of the Greek rebellion for the freedom from Ottoman slavery.

Whether you are interested in history or not, it shouldn’t matter, because if you want to visit a beautiful and romantic place, then Santorini is probably the best choice, at least when we speak of Europe. And who knows, maybe there you will discover your Atlantis…

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