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.
Santorini invites visitors to wander its winding pathways.
There’s a primal symmetry here, an organic sensuality captured in the rough stone stairways and arches, the heavy hand-hewn 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.
Santorini stairway leads to a private dwelling.
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 on Santorini. 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 Atlantic near the whereabouts of today’s Santorini.
Hilltop view above the Agean Sea with contrasting architectural details.
The whitewashed, cubiform homes and monuments of Santorini’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.
Heartful Abode: In Santorini. Romance is everywhere, personified here by the heart-shaped bougainvillea.
In all of Greece, the mystical 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.
Clifftop walks offer spectacular views of the sea and the outlying islands.
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 our first stay in Athens, we returned to find the Hotel Central has been elegantly refurbished and renovated. with a rooftop restaurant high above the city and 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.
Adding to the ambience, restaurant views abound throughout the island.
This article has been updated for added information and travel tips.
For information about travel to Greece and Santorini:
Greek National Tourist Office, 305 East 47th Street, 2nd. Floor, NY 10017.Tel: +1 212 421-5777 Info@GreekTourism.com http://www.GreekTourism.com