Thira Santorini, Greece

Fira: Between the Heights and the Depths of Atlantis

a twilight thira
Thira's hanging houses at nightfall.
Down to 2
Casal descends the staircase that connects the top of Thira to the bottom of the city.
in caravan
Donkey taxi driver leads a caravan of animals to the top of Thira.
Donkey Taxi
Donkey taxi from Thira parked on a corner of the staircase that leads to the top of the capital.
Donkey-Taxi Square
Donkey taxis parked on the steps that connect Porto Velho to the top of Thira.
Thira Homes, Hotels & More
Thira's Cycladic architectural style houses.
The back of Thira
The old port of Thira, on the seabed of the capital.
The religious dome of Thira
The religious summit of the houses of Thira, the capital of Santorini.
Terrace on top of the boiler
Visitors enjoy the peace of Thira on a terrace overlooking the caldera of Santorini.
Thira Fund
The old port of Thira, seen from the top of the capital of Santorini.
Santorini Video
Visitor from Thira shows the scene of Santorini around a family member during a video call.
Volkan Thira
Volkan cinema panel with the boiler of the island-volcano Thira in the background.
Tourists admire the view from the top of the main staircase that serves Thira.
Thira, almost night
White house of Thira highlighted on top of the caldera of the homonymous island-volcano.
Around 1500 BC a devastating eruption sank much of the volcano-island Fira into the Aegean Sea and led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization, referred to over and over again as Atlantis. Whatever the past, 3500 years later, Thira, the city of the same name, is as real as it is mythical.

On the second morning that we spent anchored in Santorini, we recovered the tour of the island through the heart of the matter. A support vessel of the “Celestyal Crystal” takes us to the old port at the foot of the massive slope on which Fira hung.

There, we boarded a traditional wooden boat about to set sail for Nea Kameni. There we disembark, eager for an enriching exploration of the lava core of what was once the caldera of the great Fira volcano.

We reached the smoking summit of Kameni, followed the guide's scientific and historical explanations, and enjoyed the fascinating scenery of the strait that separated Nea Kameni from Paleo Kameni.

We return to the wooden boat and go around it to Athinios, the modern and constantly bustling port that welcomes ferries from other parts of the Aegean.

From there, to those by the cliffs above, we inaugurate a busy road itinerary with stops at Red Beach and the archeological station of Akrotiri, which we will approach with due attention. Later in the afternoon, the driver drops us off at the entrance to Fira.

The Evening Entry by the Funds of Fira

The overcrowded neighbor Oia could even continue to claim Santorini's photographic prominence and stardom in general. Still, we couldn't ignore Fira. After all, this was the capital and the largest city on the island.

A slope takes us from the vicinity of the bus terminal, up the streets, to the Nomikou M. path. When we reach this walled edge, we can hardly believe the panorama that lies ahead and around.

Tourists admire the houses of Thira, Santorini, Greece

Tourists admire the view from the top of the main staircase that serves Fira.

A cascade of white houses, terraces, towers, cupolas, balconies and matching Cycladic architectural elements spreads along the sloping top of the slope, to a threshold with its crazy feel that gravity and erosion continue to tolerate, 260m above at the sea level.

Below are the jagged, jagged ravines of the old boiler. They unfold on a palette of browns, greens and ocher that smooth the transition to the oil blue of the Aegean below, where the “Celestyal Crystal".

As is supposed in a Christian island and city, the churches crown the houses. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral stands out, seat of the diocese of Fira, Amorgos and das Ilhas, certainly one of the sanctuaries with the best views on the face of the Earth.

And, above where we looked, the yellow Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Santorini's main Catholic church, no less gifted in terms of panoramas.

Religious summit of Thira, Santorini, Greece

The religious summit of the houses of Fira, the capital of Santorini.

In a single contemplative moment, we were blessed with the privilege of exploring and living a city on an island like that, without dispute, the most eccentric of the vast Hellenic territory, as dictated by the geological events that disemboweled it.

Nomikou M. and Ipapantis. Two of the Paths with the Best Views of the Mediterranean

We repeated the up and down of Nomikou M. and Ipapantis that continued southwards, a pilgrimage that tired us but the longer we continued, the more divine it confirmed.

From these veins bordering the city, we admire hundreds of other souls in similar delight. Couples in love sitting on floating terraces.

Groups of friends on vacation who sighed at the sumptuousness of the landscapes, installed in other equally or more surreal seats: the one in the Volkan Cinema at the Nomikos Cultural Center, adorned with posters announcing a cinematic program around the Hellenic theme: “Greeks turn to marry” a 2002 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks.

And despite being filmed largely in Vis, Croatia, the musical “Mamma Mia".

Volkan Cinema, Thira, Santorini, Greece

Volkan cinema panel with the caldera of the island-volcano Fira in the background.

It often happens to those who visit Fira on the ever-hurried cruises to stay on the upper levels of the island and the villages. In the middle of June, when the days are the longest, we found ourselves with time for incursions into the lower layers of the capital.

The Uneven Accesses to the Heights of Fira

Three ways of going up from Porto Velho to its heights coexist in Fira: the easiest one, the cable car, which provides a linear 3-minute journey every half hour or every 20 minutes, depending on the season. .

A cement staircase fulfills the same connection in a zigzag version made of 587 demanding steps. Anyone who wants to save the cost of the cable car goes up on foot.

The third alternative, that of the city donkey taxis, has a much higher cost than the cable car.

Donkey taxis in Thira, Santorini, Greece

Donkey taxi driver leads a caravan of animals to the top of Fira.

For, with or without intention, it happens that whoever walks the long staircase meets the donkey caravans. Aware of the traditional origins of the means of transport, we started by positioning ourselves in strategic places to photograph them in motion.

As is often the case, we wanted more. We get into conversation with their owners and drivers, ask us to photograph them more carefully. Without realizing either how or why, we sparked an argument between the owners that dragged on for nearly an hour.

The Controversy Around the Burros-Taxi of Fira

It all started when the one we asked for the photo, dressed in more typical clothes, immediately refused our challenge. Another one who, unlike this one, spoke very clumsy English, tried to justify his colleague. At first, it seemed to us that he wanted to convey that if we wanted to photograph him, we had to hire his services.

We spent a moment sitting down and telling us what was happening. We soon found out that the problem was different: “you come here to take photographs and take the images to publish, right? explained to us.

"And then they make it out, I don't know how many articles they foist on people that animals are enslaved, victims of abuse and things like that."

Donkey in Thira, Santorini, Greece

Donkey taxi from Fira parked on a corner of the staircase that leads to the top of the capital.

Truth be told, we hadn't approached them with such intent. In any case, in an era of sensationalism and social networks in which everything turns into scandal and exaggeration, animal rights defenders had denounced the systematic exploitation of donkeys for unnecessary transport taking into account the existence of the staircase and the good. cheaper cable car.

They alerted the world, in particular, to the violence of animals carrying obese tourists on a route, despite the zigzag route, which is quite steep, just to live a so-called picturesque experience.

However, the controversy stirred up the traditional harmony and professionalism in which donkey owners used to operate, who even have an online site with all the information, itineraries, prices and even the possibility of making reservations and leaving deposits.

The number of passengers who supported their lives will also have decreased significantly.

The Prolific Names and Long Stories of Santorini and Fira

Fira's houses extend north to its own island outskirts of Firofistani and Imerovigli. A good half-hour on foot from the center of Fira, Imerovigli marks the highest point on the edge of the caldera, but also the extreme because it is home to the agglomeration of houses.

From there upwards, the path passes between terraced hotels, resorts and restaurants.

Then, it gives itself over to a domain that is sometimes rocky and sometimes rural and winds up to the western tip of Oia, the only village of comparable size, the only one that overshadows the urban glow of Fira and to which, one of these days, we will dedicate our own article .

Thira Buildings, Santorini, Greece

The Cycladic architectural style houses of Fira.

According to the writings of Herodotus, the island-volcano came to be called Strogyle due to its round shape. Fira (Thira, Thera) was the name later adapted by the Dorics of Sparta, in honor of their king Theras.

Even today, much more popular Santorini will have been disseminated during the Latin Empire (1204 – 1261) in force during the Crusades, as a contraction of Santa Irine, the saint who had a chapel in her honor in the area of ​​present day Perissa and why the Venetian colonists from the Aegean they got used to treating the island.

Of these names, at a certain geological moment from 1500 BC onwards, Strogyle no longer made sense.

The Destroying and Disruptive Eruption of the Fira Volcano Island

The volcano-island entered a relatively long eruptive process that would have allowed the inhabitants to take refuge on other islands. In this process, the great explosion ended up with a brutal power, believed to be many times superior to the famous explosion of the indonesian volcano of Krakatoa.

While it has cleared a 20km crater2, the Fira volcano collapsed a crater over 80km2.

Some theories argue that Santorini's current configuration was the result of a sequence of geological events precipitated by the eruption: first, the collapse of the core.

Couple in Thira, Santorini, Greece

Couple goes down the staircase that connects the top of Fira to the back of the city.

Then, the spread of this reduction until the opening of a northwest channel that allowed the invasion of the sea. Soon, the intense erosion caused by this invasion that ended up making almost the entire western section of the caldera disappear, but saw the emergence of the central island of the volcano of Kameni.

Akrotiri and the Ruined Legacy of the Eruption

A little over eleven kilometers south of the capital Fira, at the bottom of the “great croissant” on which Santorini now rests, we find Akrotiri.

There, we were dazzled by the complex of ruins that, since 1967, archaeologists have unearthed under a great layer of volcanic ash and revealed to the world.

The collapse of the then Minoan Akrotiri took place without the human drama of Pompeii, where the inhabitants found themselves surprised by an inexorable pyroclastic flow during their sleep.

In Akrotiri, no jewels, valuables, much less skeletons, human bones or fossilized bodies were found. The ashes preserved frescoes, pots and many other artifacts and utensils.

This post-eruption reality allowed us to conclude that the inhabitants of Akrotiri and other parts of Santorini will have had time to take refuge in neighboring islands, probably in Crete, the mother island of the Minoan civilization.

In 360 BC, in his work “Dialogues”, Plato makes Critias approach and reveal to Timateus details of a lost city situated in a certain radius of Athens and which Athens came to defeat.

Several scholars have agreed that Atlantis was the Minoan civilization that controlled Thera, Crete, and other surrounding islands.

Thira, Santorini, Greece

White house of Fira highlighted on top of the caldera of the homonymous island-volcano.

This civilization proliferated and evolved precisely until the cataclysmic eruption of the volcano and the overwhelming tidal wave that followed.

Certain scientists estimate that the waves generated measured up to 60 meters. With such a dimension, whether treated by Minoan or by Atlantis, it won't be surprising that they have sunk and ruined it forever.




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