Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Visiting Santorini's Ancient Side. Akrotiri.

The ruins at Akotiri.

One of the main reasons for leaving Oia and relocating to Kamari was so we could explore the western side of Santorini.  Located on this side of the island are a couple of archeological sites that, by all accounts, we must see while we're here.  So, we did.   The first was Akrotiri, the ruins of a Bronze Age Minoan settlement.

The Minoans originated on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately 2700 to 1450 BC.



An outpost of Crete, Akrotiri was settled by Minoans as early as 3000 BC and reached its peak after 2000 BC, when it developed trade and agriculture and settled the present town. The inhabitants cultivated olive trees and grain and developed sophisticated forms of art and architecture.

The settlement was destroyed in the Theran eruption about 1627 BCE and buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and many objects and artworks. The site has been excavated since 1967. So far only about 40 buildings have been uncovered and are estimated to account for just 1/30 of the site.

Without a doubt, this is the oldest archeological site I've ever been to.  

We headed to Akrotiri yesterday, right after settling into our room at the guesthouse that we're staying at while we're in Kamari. Santorini is such a small island - it probably would have taken us less than half hour to get to Akrotiri but it took us a little longer than tat as we made some stops along the way plus it took us some time to just find the entrance to the site.

This place was pretty empty.  I think most people who come to Santorini for the beaches and to spend time in the the tourist hotspots of Oia and Fira.  Archeological site.  Not so popular.  No crowds is fine with me.

Bro got us our tickets.  When we travel, he's responsible for handling all our ticket purchases.


Just a handful of souls around.


We headed to the entrance.


Inside was a massive archeological site that was entirely closed by the building.  It was hot day today so it was welcomed relief that the entire site was indoors!  The roof had glass inserts to allow light in.  My initial reaction to it was that it reminded me of the enclosure that surrounds the Terrace Houses at the Greco Roman ruins at Ephesus.  A raised wooden walkway wound through the site.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a map or any documentation that explained what we were seeing though there were descriptive plaques located at what one would presume would be the highlights.

Facing the site with the entrance door behind me.


For the most part, the site just looked like a massive, albeit somewhat organized looking, collection of rocks.  We did see some ruins of walls. In the photo below, the walls were the supports for a complex of buildings.


We pretty much scooted along the path; really didn't know the significance of much of what we were looking at unless there was a descriptive plaque.  Otherwise, it just looked like a whole lot of rocks.

There were more tourists inside than I had expected.  We crossed paths with a French tour group.  Bro eavesdropped on what their guide was saying and then struck up a conversation, in French, with a few of the group members.  Bro is working on teaching himself French so he takes any opportunity he can to practice and what better way that to strike up a conversation with French tourists!

Observation platforms were sprinkled throughout the site.  I quickly figured out these were spots overlooking highlights. 
This one overlooks the Pithoi Storeroom.

Pots (pithoi) were incredibly well preserved in the ash and many were found with traces of olive oil, onion, and even fish still inside indicating that these buildings were stores.

The Pithoi Storeroom.

At ground level were the ruins of a place named Triangle Square.  The open area aka "square" is triangular in shape, hence its name.  Several homes, belonging to wealthy families were located here.  The one thing that was unusual about the homes were that they were multi-storied.

The wealthy homes were extensively decorated with frescoes which were well preserved by volcanic ash. Most of the frescoes now reside in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and some can be seen at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira on Santorini.  I didn't notice any on the site.


Waiting his turn to read the descriptive plaque.

A vessel for serving food or maybe wine?

From the Triangle Square, we continued to Millhouse Square, a complex of partially restored buildings that were used for storage.

 Remains of the buildings in the complex that was named Millhouse Square. 

Peeking through the entryway of one of the buildings in Millhouse Square so named
because most of the buildings in the complex appear to be stores.


We probably spent around an hour wandering through the site.  I think we would have gotten more out of it had we had an audio guide to go along with the map that was in the brochure.  With the walkway leading us around, we really didn't need a map.  It would have been far more helpful to have the highlights e.g, where Millhouse Square is on the map.  Too bad as well that we didn't know about the rooms with the frescoes and too bad we didn't get to go to the National Archeological Museum when we were in Athens :-( Next visit.


Back outside, we found a shady spot to sit under a trellis to have a quick bite to eat.  Bro had brought along butter and honey, yes, butter and honey sandwiches that he had made, this morning, using up whatever ingredients he could before throwing the rest out.  The sandwiches weren't bad except the toasted bread had gotten really hard so biting down on them was painful on the roof of my mouth.  I did like the butter/honey combo though :-)  We must have been sitting in the only shady spot though because as we munched on our sandwiches and grapes, one tour group leader after another shepherded their group in front of us to give them their introductory spiel.  I have to admit, I did learn a few things listening to them!

One set of ruins down, one more to go!