A Beautiful Cataclysm

Santorini is one of the most glamorous islands anywhere in the world. The glamor of its setting and of the white villas, hotels and restaurants perched on steep cliffs looking west over the Aegean sea are what attract tourists like me, my wife and my students, who were there in 2004 on a cruise of the the Greek islands.

But there was little glamor in the volcanic eruption that blew away a large portion of the island in 1628 BC. Not only did it destroy a substantial part of the island (then called Thera) but it also created a tsunami wave as high at 100 feet that rolled across the island of Crete to the south, destroying the great pre-Greek civilization that developed there. In fact, this could be where the legend of Atlantis began.

In this photo you can see the white washed buildings which are in some cases perched on precipitous cliffs. You can also see part of the crescent shaped harbor that lies where the volcano once rose out of the sea. For the ride up to the high city, one can choose a modern cable car or a time-tested conveyance: donkeys. We took donkeys up and the cable car down.

Sadly, we only had a few short hours on the island before our cruise boat moved on. I hope you can stay longer.

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