Today I am taking you to Greece. It feels utterly perfect to write that because there is the warmest breeze drifting in through my window and the sunlight today is so clear, everything drenched in it has been thrown into sharp, colourful relief*. You want a photo? Oh go on then, this is the view outside my office window.
Blossoms, a church and a whole lot of grass. Weiden is covered in long, green, Dandelion-riddled grass at the moment, it is absolutely carpeting the place. Either I have forgotten what green looks like, after a winter of naked trees and dead grass, or this town really is the greenest place I have ever seen. It even smells green right now because there are people across the road mowing their lawn and I may or may not be inhaling nostril-fulls of mown-grass-scent because there are few better smells in the world.
So with that Bavarian vista in mind, let’s go back to Greece.
In two months, I will be back on Santorini, this time for a two week summer break – my days of being a bar girl for drunk English tourists and offensive Australian backpackers are over. This time, I am meeting my parents on the island, where I will have the privilege of being a tour guide for a week – I am hoping like mad my Dad rides a quad bike because only hilarious things can come of it. Thrilled as I am to be able to share it all with my parents – stomach-swelling Greek feasts at my favourite restaurants, sunsets, Amoudi Bay, Atlantis Bookshop, wineries, donkeys, Vlychada, the ancient towns, my favourite hotel in the world and the lighthouse – the other day bought news of something else; the ruins of Akrotiri have reopened.
The entrance to a classic cave house in Emporio
That’s right my friends. Santorini isn’t just beautiful, delicious, friendly and somewhere I possibly lived in a former life which would obviously explain our spiritual connection, she has history. A massive volcanic explosion in around 1500BC blew a huge hole in her middle, creating the crescent shape she has today (with the minuscule Thirassia floating off to the side). The volcano destroyed the settlements – although lack of skeletal findings indicate the people were successfully evacuated – and covered the island in ash, preserving, amongst many things, a site that would be excavated in 1967 and named for the nearby village of Akrotiri. What they found, stunning evidence of the Minoan civilisation – frescoes, jars, paintings, staircases, housing structures, pipes and water closets – has put Santorini second only to Crete in terms of the best known Minoan sites.
Most of the findings were put in a museum in Fira, Santorini’s capital, with some of the famous, full colour frescoes also sent to Athens, and the actual site remained open to interested visitors. In 2005, two years before I first visited the island, the roof of the protective structure in Akrotiri collapsed, killing one person and injuring seven others. The site closed down and every single time I have zipped past there on my quad bike, on the way to a tomatini filled lunch at The Cave of Nikolas, the gate has been padlocked, the sign explaining its closure firmly in place. So it has been a constant frustration – a lover and student of Ancient History and a soul of Santorini and not once have I been able to fuse the two. Which is why I was so bloody excited to hear that in April, the ancient, Minoan site of Akrotiri opened once more to the public. Santorini, she of the sunsets and donkeys now has her most famous historical offering open once more. Despite people saying there aren’t enough signs or maps or information for the uninformed, I plan on standing on that ground and breathing in that ancient dust until someone removes me or I develop sunstroke.
But there are a few things I won’t be seeing this summer, namely most of the beautiful frescoes salvaged from the site. Whilst some are on display in museums in Athens and on Santorini, most have been locked away because the government cannot afford to hire security to protect them. Engineer and Santorini local, Klearchos Kapoutsis, wants to change this. You can learn more about the excavation of Akrotiri (and indeed anything you ever wanted to know about the island) on his site – English translations are at the end of the posts. Klearchos is also a sensational photographer and has documented the reconstruction of Akrotiri as well as daily life and cultural events on the island. I warn you photographs will not let you go.
For now, enjoy these photos of the extraordinary, 3500 year old Akrotiri frescoes, locked away until further notice.
Click here for more photos and stories from my Santorini summers.
* I wrote that yesterday. Today it is grey and drizzly. So, also a good day to go to Greece.