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The Volcano of Santorini 

Nea Kamini, SantoriniI can't help but to keep coming back to the volcano because even sitting at my desk writing, it looms in the back of my mind like a sleeping giant. And it is asleep , not dead. It's an active volcano that erupted in 1956 and may do so again one day though perhaps not in our lifetime. Proof of the life that still exists within this giant hole filled with water is the island of Nea Kamini in the center of the bay which emerged in 1707. Next to it in the older island of Palia Kamini you can take hot mud baths, usually an indication of something brewing beneath the surface. Sometimes if you sit on the edge of the caldera you can see clouds rise from the sea and come up the sides of the cliffs and then pass over your head at a high speed. It's a really neat experience.

Thirassia, SatoriniAcross the bay is the island of Thirasia which is actually the other rim of the volcano and was once part of the same island as the rest of Santorini. Though it is mostly agricultural, as Thira once was there are hotels, tavernas and the island capital the village of Manola on the top of Thirassia's caldera that faces the cliffs the main island. You can come here by excursion boat from Amoudi or with a car on the small car ferry that goes to Porto Athinaos a couple times a day since just about everything that is not grown on Thirasia has to be brought here by boat. For hikers there are trails between the settlements and their black sand beach has won the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness. With fish tavernas around the island selling inexpensive fresh fish, Thirasia is a nice way to get away from the commericality of Santorini without actually leaving Santorini. By the way the name Santorini means Saint Irene or Agia Irini which is the name of the small church above the port in Thirassia. In the old port of Korfos, reachable on foot down many stairs, or by donkey are some fish tavernas that are visited by fishing boats who sell their fish here.

Santorini calderaOne way to visit Thirassia and to explore the islands and cliffs of the caldera is by excursion boat, most of which typically take you to the Nea Kamini and back. For a longer all day trip with a lot more exploration look at the website of Fantasy Travel's Santorini Sailing Cruise which does catamaran tours leaving daily from the marina at Vlichada.

I had a dream once of Santorini erupting. I had not been there in years but in the dream I was on Sifnos and we saw the plume of smoke and I had the sensation of major change that one gets in a hurricane or when he looks out the window and sees tanks in the square across the street. Even as we talked of what we were witnessing we could see stretched on the horizon the line of boats as the first refugees from Santorini came, seeking shelter from the earth's upheaval.

Santorini calderaSince there were no human remains found in the ruins of Akrotiri, it's a good indication that the inhabitants of Santorini knew what was coming and took off for safer ground. But did they make it? It is believed that when the volcano erupted in the 14th century BC it caused a tidal wave that destroyed the cities of Minoan Crete. That is quite a tidal wave and the eruption was perhaps the biggest cataclysmic event within human history (so far). It was this explosion and the disappearance of about 84 sq kilometers of land that has led many people to speculate that Santorini was the island of Atlantis which of course attracts all sorts of people looking for clues as to who we are and where we come from and perhaps where we are going.

Santorini calderaFor all Santorini has to offer, it's fine beaches, active nightlife, restaurants, excellent wines (the volcanic soil and climate make the island one of the best places to grow grapes in the world): it is the volcano that is the true star of the island. Take it away and all you have is another island with tomato balls. The black sand beaches, the wine, the raki are all by-products of the explosion that destroyed life on Thira and created in it's place a destination that offers what few others do, that is not only fun but profoundly dramatic in scenery. I don't think you could go to another planet and be more impressed then you will be when you see the caldera of Santorini for the first time.

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