After a free morning to explore Fira in more temperate climate, we ventured across the island to the coastal side for a visit to what is often called the “Pompeii of the Bronze Age.” Akrotiri was a settlement on ancient Thira, or Santorini, that thrived in Minoan times. In approximately 1627 B.C., the volcano at the island’s core began to erupt with a magnificent show of hot pumice that blanketed the island and the islands to the east. The settlement was ultimately buried in volcanic ash, preserving its frescoes, pottery, furniture and buildings in a manner similar to Pompeii in southern Italy. It is thought that the inhabitants of the island were forewarned of the eruption by preceding earthquakes and were able to evacuate, which seems likely given the absence of human remains found at the site.
Having been to Pompeii personally, Akrotiri amazes with its covered roof and well excavated remains. In order to preserve what is unearthed, the roof and side walls were built to protect the site from the elements. Upon entering there is a feeling of walking into the world’s largest Costco archeological site. On top of this impressive feature comes the figure that only about three percent of the settlement has been excavated with little more planned for the future unless some method of preservation is devised. We nearly had the place to ourselves. We wandered the ancient city streets, peering into what would have been lavish, three-story homes, commercial buildings and open squares. There is evidence of sophisticated plumbing and drainage systems including an indoor WC on the second floor of a home! Although the majority of remains found here are housed now in the museum in Fira, as well as in Athens’ Archeological Museum, walking through these ancient streets is magical and the juxtaposition of the modern encasing makes the experience even more complex.
After pondering these ancient people, we headed to the beautiful Kamari beach to take a dip in the refreshing waters. We then hopped back to our hotel to clean up and ventured to the other tip of the crescent shaped island to Oia—THE place for sunset photography, high priced shopping, and quintessentially Greek views. No matter how many photos and post cards one sees of the blue domed, white washed churches clinging to cliffs against the azure sea, it is just as beautiful in person. No filter needed. We were left to ourselves to delight in this little gem of a town, many of us on a photographic scavenger hunt, others enjoying the vistas and others the flavors. We ended our evening with another sunset dinner together gaining an alternate perspective of the caldera. We decided a zip line from Oia to Fira (or the other way around?) would be wildly popular, as would a giant water slide descending from the caldera ridge to the sea. Well, one gets creative after several refreshing glasses of Greek white wine!
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