Santorini – Illusioned and Disillusioned

Traveling to Santorini is on the wishlist of most people who have even seen a photograph of the island somewhere, let alone avid travelers. The place calls for such attachment because of the architecture, colors and the beauty it offers. It is also the most well connected and the most commercial of the Greek Islands. Tourism of Greece banks itself on Santorini and Athens as the primary attractions. There are no two ways that such a place would be on our itinerary.

We took Seajets again from Folegandros, the beautiful and romantic stop of our honeymoon. Using the sea is the quickest way to reach Santorini. It is only about an hour and a half to reach Santorini and you would not even realise when the time went by. On arrival you realise the magnitude of commercialization when humongous, probably the best in Europe cruise liners dot the coastline. There is a constant array of small ships ferrying passengers from them to the coast.

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Cruise ships on the Santorini coast

For our stay in Santorini we had picked Ampelonas Apartments in Imergovili. The apartment by itself was setup beautifully, giving photogenic views of the sunrise from the courtyard right in front of the room. The place typified the white architecture that is sort of the trademark of the place.
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Ameplonas Apartments  – The courtyard and our room
One of the things that attracted me more towards Santorini were the ruins of Akrotiri. Akrotiri is a bronze age settlement that was found in the late 1800’s and extensive excavation were begun by the Greek government only in 1967. The most exciting part is how the settlement was almost completely destroyed and preserved both due to volcanic activity. The settlement which dates approximately back to 5000BC was destroyed approximately around 1627BC. It was fascinating to understand that the houses were built of a timber structure and infilled with bricks. At the time of the volcano the timber was destroyed, so during excavation the volcanic ash that filled the void thus created, was replaced by Reinforced Cement Concrete.
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Timber framed construction with brick infills.

Further ahead there was a house which was assumed to have toilets as per the beliefs of the archaeologists. There are some signs that it probably was. The kitchens were found intact with its pottery and drums that must have been used for storage. There were designated storage areas in the kitchen as you would find in any modern home. Another important feature of note in these ruins is the planning based on a grid. Today most of the cities in the world use this design that was in use since 5000 BC

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Greece, Santorini, Travel, akrotiri, ruins, house, beams, structure, layout, roof
This place makes us realise that we have not really progressed far ahead in term of architecture at least. In about 3500 years what we have been able to do is replace timber with Reinforced Cement Concrete and add electricity. The place is very similar in planning and layout to Dholavira, an ancient Indus Valley Civilization city in Gujarat, India. My travel to Dholavira can be read here. Some of the artifacts found here have in fact been able to conclusively prove my thought of the trade between these two civilizations. There is an elaborate structure that was created to protect the excavations from the weather. Ironically, it fell when it was nearing completion, there was no damage to the ruins however.
That day we also visited a local wine making factory. The plant was shut for visitors and the access to the vineyards was also not allowed for some inexplicable reason. The grapes were probably sour!
The next day we were very excited about visiting an active volcano. It was a bit of a trek up towards the volcano and you are advised to carry water with you if you are visiting in the noon time slots. Again, we were disappointed here as what you could feel is the heat under some rocks and Sulphur fumes coming out of some cracks in the barren landscape. May be I was expecting lava or something to be seen, only to realise later that the whole of Santorini would be off limits if that would be the case. In any case I would recommend that is an avoidable activity, however hard it is sold you you on every nook an corner of the island.
The boat ride takes you further for a swim in the hot springs. This is probably the more interesting part.
My wife and me at the black beach  – Santorini
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Santorini and its architecture
The last day was our designated relaxing day. We chose to go to the black beach. Facilities like the banana ride, jet skies and other such water sports are available. We spent a good fun filled evening indulging in water sports. The beach is lined with good cafes and restaurants to complete a perfect evening around that area.
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A view from our hotel – Santorini at night
Vegetarian perspective. 
Good enough to survive. That is my verdict for the food available in and around that main market of Santorini. You will get various cuisines though as expected from a commercial tourist destination. I believe one of our follies was not going to Lonely Planet recommended places, but even those places were more focused on sea food. There are good bars and pubs to enjoy a night life in Santorini.
We did not choose any cruise around the island, or walk in the villages etc. The previous island that we visited were far better compared to Santorini. The natural features of Zakynthos and Milos had given us a plethora of experiences and knowledge about the natural landforms. Milos and Folegandros being part of the Cyclades that were affected by the volcanic eruptions from Santorini were similar in terms of geography. Architecturally, I found Milos and Folegandros as a much more natural environment that was not not altered or customized for tourists. The local tours in Santorini take you to a specific village that very forcefully is maintaining its past. It is very evident from the number of shut houses and the splash of white even on newer ones.
I might be one of the few people who did not enjoy Santorini as much as I should have but my reasons and the experiences from the other island were better. Akrotiri was enlightening but the other places were disheartening.
From here we moved to Athens, a single day stop over to indulge in the history of Greek history. Then it was a double the baggage that we had to carry back home. It was a bag full of memories, experiences, pictures, momentos and an enhanced relationship. The Greek sojourn helped me cement my nascent relationship with my wife. This is believe is the perfect place for a honeymoon of you are looking at the trip from my perspective. Even otherwise I strongly recommend traveling to the Greek Islands at least once to soak in the beauty. As a package is it one full of excitement!

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