/ Archive for Europe
Europe, Photo Highlights — By Slava Sakhnenko on December 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm
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Santorini is an island (archipelago, actually) in the Aegean Sea that over millenniums belonged to Greece, Roman Empire, Turks and finally Greece (again). One of the most photogenic locations on Earth, Santorini is known for it’s beautifully laid out tourist towns cut into the volcanic hillside, which make for some of the best sunset viewing in the world.

The Island

The volcanic eruption of Thera in Santorini was a defining event in Greek history and has been speculatively suggested as an explanation for biblical plagues against Egypt, as well as the sinking of Atlantis. The archipelago was left in its current shape, resembling a volcanic cone with the top blown off, and the impressively steep cliffs encouraged the construction of the vertically stacked villages that now make the area such a popular tourist destination. Photo by Paul Watson

The Architecture

All the volcano explosions and earthquakes in the area made the islanders a bit a bit apprehensive about building tall houses, so few buildings rise above 2-3 floors. And the ubiquity of pirates that the Aegean region was once famous for, caused the inhabitants to create settlements far from the sea, on high cliffs. The whitewashed buildings, popular among the Cycladic islands, are sometimes coloured with volcanic ashes. Photo by Ting

The Dogs

Sobering news about the stray dogs and cats that fill Santorini, often providing convenient photo-ops for tourists as they sleep on warm rooftops:

I’m sorry to bring a dose of harsh reality to this, but I can tell you that unless an animal is actually “owned” by someone on the island it will, for the most part, go hungry and be neglected and sometimes abused by almost all of the locals.  Most of these poor creatures are at the mercy of the more sympathetic visitors who feed them from the tables of the restaurants or from their rooms when the cats come for a handout. When you see animals that look “happy and well-fed” it’s almost always because of this, and probably you’ve seen them looking that way only from the middle of the summer onward when they’ve had a chance to be fed by the visitors and recover from the off-season’s scarcity of food and water. Once the restaurants close and the tourists leave they’re on their own until the beginning of the next season, sometime in April.

Photo by Vlad Malik


The island is also famous for the Mykonos windmills that feature prominently in many photographs. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how these would work, until I read this article by Keith Vaughan:

A major disappointment of this adventure was the lack of sails on the masts of the windmills. I had seen spectacular pictures of the Mykonos windmills in guidebooks with full, billowing white sails, and these images are still available on postcards. Perhaps it was something to do with the out of season time (my visit was in May), but I did hear statements from one hotel owner in Mykonos town that “we don’t do that anymore.” Perhaps the reluctance to put up the sails has something to do with modern-day vandalism, but whatever the reason, it left a void in my memory of this wonderful place—but I won’t hesitate to go back!

Photo by Marcel Germain

Map of the Island

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