September 26th, 2008 – by: Allen_Taylor
The island appears to be an unapproachable rock from the sea.
Santorini (Thira to the locals) may be the most picturesque place on earth. The cresent shaped island is what remains of a larger island that was largely destroyed by a volcanic eruption around 1450 B.C. From the sea, it appears to be a big rock, until you look up and see the white houses perched along the top. A great deal of what you see even then are only the front facades of cave houses that are actually built into the sides of the cliffs.
All of the rock on the island is one of three colors: a light gray that is the pumice, the black lava rock, and the red lava rock containing high concentrations of iron. There is very little non-planted vegetation as the island only averages 7 inches of rain a year.
The vegetation that is there relies on the high humidity, evening dews, and the porous nature of the lava rock that absorbs moisture from the air then releases it in the next day’s heat. Surprisingly, the island is known for its wine production, but the grapes are grown in ‘baskets’ on the ground. As the vines begin to grow, they are woven into a basket shape that remains close to ground level. The grape clusters are grown on the inside of the baskets where they are protected from the typically high winds and the leaves also provide shade from the scorching summer sun.
. . . then you look up and begin to see the three villages.
As part of the day’s tour, we also visited a museum of the “Wall Paintings of Thira”. These ‘paintings’ are frescos that have been recovered in archeological digs of the island’s oldest inhabitants.
The island is truly a beautiful place and has convinced me that living under a rock (in a cave) might not be such a bad deal.