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Beautiful Santorini and the Myth of Atlantis

On one of my educational tours, we stopped in Amsterdam and visited the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family during World War II.

Santorini and the Aegean

Santorini and the Aegean

Visiting Santorini

One of the great adventures which my wife and I have taken in our travels was a three week multiple train ride beginning in Warsaw, continuing through Prague, Budapest, Sophia, and Thessaloniki to Athens, where we spent about a week, with a couple of days in Santorini, then back to Athens and then on to Istanbul.

Santorini, of course, was as different from the other places that we visited as it could have been. The others were mostly landlocked, big cities and countryside beside the railroad tracks that we traveled along, including the one through Romania where our crusty train conductor warned us to beware of "bandits" during the night through Romania. Fortunately, we encountered none.

Santorini is a partially circular island in the Aegean, about 120 miles southeast of Athens, shaped much like a backward facing C from where we stayed on the island at Oai, with gaps between parts of it, left by the volcanic eruption which blew its top and most of its substance away, in the same way that we we also find Crater Lake in Oregon. This eruption of Thera, as the island was originally called before the huge eruption of its destructive volcano about 1500 BCE.

Ours was a lovely place to stay at Oai, at the west end of the island, with ample places to eat and to buy jewelry and other souvenirs, food, and other such items. The buildings were almost all bright white walled, with brilliant blue roofs and doors, absolutely picturesque, and where we had a peacefully, wonderful time.

I discussed the name of Santorini with our innkeeper, noting that Santorini did not sound Greek to me. He told me that the island received its present name at a time when it was under the control of Rome and was named after the Catholic, Saint Irene.

To me, the really interesting question relating to Santorini is if the island was the original place of the fabled city of Atlantis. After research in Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia, I have gone with the research's conclusion, in the words of Encyclopedia Britannica, "Atlantis is probably a mere legend." Plato mentioned Atlantic as an island in the Atlantic, beyond Gibraltar, not in the Aegean Sea, and, according to the discussions that I read, he seems to have mentioned it as as a discussion of a mythical place, not an actual one. According to my research, later writers, including Sir Thomas More's in Utopia, he took Plato literally, not mythically.

The ferry port for the island is in the south. Our internet-found small hotel was at Oai, high on a high cliff looking toward the center of the backward C, and toward the ferry port to our southeast, all the way across the island from where we stayed, costing us a 30 euro taxi ride each way, plus tip.

Source: Personal experience and Wikipedia, Encyclopedia.

Aegean Air Pollution

The first time that I was in the Mediterranean, about 1990, I noticed considerable haze in Athens and on the sea.nearby The second time that I was there more than a decade later, l thought that the pollution may have been worse. In the picture above, a great deal of pollution can be seen in the sunset as a black haze, apparently partially causing the red sunset. I was told by a tour guide at Athens that the acid rain from human activity caused the pollution which is damaging the marble stonework in Greece at a ten to one rate in comparison to the damage which would be done without the pollution. Assuming that this is true, which I do, this is a terrible waste of beautiful stone and of magnificent architecture in this cradle of much of our Western Culture's heritage, a terrible tragedy, as far as I am concerned.

To me, Santorini is a singularly beautiful place, like no other that I have seen, and a place that I would advise anyone to visit if they could.

Source, personal experience and information from Greek tour guides as well as Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.

A Santorini sunset at Oai indicating the amount of pollution in the air in the Aegean

A Santorini sunset at Oai indicating the amount of pollution in the air in the Aegean

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 John Murphree