Noilly Prattle

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 6 – the Museum of Prehistoric Thera

model of Acrotiri
Krakatoa Explosion 1883
     A must see on a visit to Santorini is the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in the city of Fira. The artifacts on display there are from archeological digs on the island, many, if not most, of them are from the dig at Acrotiri on the southern shore of Santorini. The pieces we saw dated from around 3000 BCE to the 17th Century BCE and the catastrophic eruption of the Thera volcano that destroyed Acrotiri and devastated communities on nearby islands and on the coast of Minoan Crete from tsunamis generated by the explosion. This “Minoan Eruption” (between 1642-1540 BCE ) was “one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history”. [Wikipedia] The volcano ejected up to four times as much as the well-recorded eruption of Krakatoa, Indonesia in 1883. [Wikipedia] The Krakatoa explosion, 13,000 times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, destroyed 2/3 of the island and killed at least 36,000 people mostly from tsunamis caused by the explosion. [Wikipedia] Multiply Krakatoa by 4 and it gives you an idea of the magnitude of the Theran event. At any rate, the Minoan Eruption brought an end to Acrotiri and marks the upper limit of the artifacts found there.

Museum of Prehistoric Thera
      I will simply list some of my favorite pieces and a short description of them and their dates. They will show an ancient civilization quite advanced in technological and artistic achievement. 

EARLIEST C. 3300-2300 BC

Marble beaker and figurines
c. 3300/3200-2800 BC

Bronze dagger
c.2700-2400/2300 BC

Linear A script incised on tablets
c. 2500-1450 BC

Collared jar and jugs
c. 2200-2000 BC

Nippled ewers
late 18th Century BC
late 18th Century BC


Plaster cast of carved wooden table
17th Century BC

Stone, bronze, obsidian, flint tools
17th Century BC

Stone and clay lamps
17th Century BC
Bronze baking pans
17th Century BC

Bronze one-handled open vessels (frying pans?)
17th Century BC

Clay portable oven
17th Century BC
Firedogs with zoomorphic finials
17th Century BC


Nippled ewer
17th Century BC

Bronze scale pans
17th Century BC

Wall paining of a fisherman
17th Century BC

Bath tub
17th Century BC

Exquisite wall painting of monkeys (resembles an avant garde  modern art design)
17th Century BC

Gold figurine
"Excavation of the find-spot is still in progress and it is therefore to early to draw conclusions about the figurine's significance."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 5 – Santorini - Atlantis Revisited

August 22-24

     Travel in the Aegean is like traveling in time as much as in a place.

       We've all heard slogans such as: “We are all _______ (fill in the blank) now,” used politically to sway public opinion in favor of some intervention in foreign affairs. But, people born into the Western cultural tradition, can, in a real sense, say “We are all Greeks!” since much of our Western political, cultural and linguistic heritage comes from the Ancient Greek civilization.

       The Aegean island of Santorini (also known by its ancient name Thera) is often associated with the Legend of Atlantis. Atlantis, a fictional story by the Greek philosopher Plato, was an advanced island civilization destroyed by a cataclysmic volcanic explosion around 10,000 BC. Thera, a volcanic island, was a thriving society of the Minoan period that was subjected to a massive volcanic eruption and explosion around 1,600 BC that left the once oval shaped island with a big hole that filled with sea water forming a caldera and destroying all life on the island. As a result, the modern Santorini is blessed with spectacular cliffs plunging into the caldera that present one of the most unique topologies in the world—and one of the world's best known tourist attractions. The volcano is still active on the small island of Nea Kameni in the center of the caldera. An eruption in 1950s did a lot of damage, but the towns have been rebuilt and are thriving with visitors.

sunset behind Thirassia
view from hotel room terrace
       We arrived in Santorini by ferry from Tinos with stops in Mikonos, Naxos and Paros before arriving in Santorini—a rather long 4-hours sailing. Santorini in summer is very busy and crowded with tourists. (If you don't mind the winter weather a few hotels stay open on the island and you can have it all to yourself.) The main thing for most visitors is the view out over the caldera from the cliffs around Fira, the main city on the island. Although relatively expensive, if you stay for a night or two, it is best to book a hotel on the cliffside with a view to the west where the sun sets behind the caldera and Thirassia Island. 


pedestrian walkway
Mama Thira's Taverna
       There is a pedestrian path that goes along the cliffside that is usually crowded with visitors taking photos of the stunning views over the caldera. The route is, of course, lined with cafes, restaurants and shops of all kinds from souvenir trinkets to high fashion clothing boutiques and is good for photo ops day and night.

Homeric Poems Hotel

Imerovigli town from hotel terrace

our cave style hotel room

along the pedestrian cliffside path

Nea Kameni - still active volcano (middle right)


Ouzo in Oia
       There is a town called Oia (pronounced eeya) on the northern tip of Santorini that is popular for its sunsets. We decided to take the local bus to Oia to get some photos of the famous sunsets. The bus was crowded and the route precipitous as the bus wound its way along the cliff sides with sheer drops only a few feet away. When we arrived at Oia the bus terminal had people lined up waiting for the next bus back to Fira. The town was so crowded that it was difficult to walk freely so we decided it would be really hard to get a bus after the sunset crowds. Oia itself is lovely perched on the northern end of the caldera. We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the caldera and returned to Fira without taking any sunset photos, but without a long wait in line to get on the bus.

Oia and the caldera (Thirassia upper right)

Fira by night
       All in all, as expected, we found Santorini to be quite different from the relative tranquility of Tinos and felt that a couple days was quite enough for photo ops and visits to the prehistoric and archeological museums displaying artifacts from digs, especially Acrotiri, related to the volcanic disaster that beset Minoan Thera some 3600 years ago.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Europe Summer 2017: Greece 4 – an authentic rural village

August 20

     After seeing so many small enticing villages along the route of our bus tour to four tourist sites, we were curious to see what a non-tourist village was like. We did some research and leg work and found that there was a local village called Tripotamos on a local bus line. Armed with a bus schedule and timetable we took a solo day trip to Tripotamos on the local bus.

"She pointed down the road."
"...we spotted a stairway going ... down
and followed it."
       Tripotamos is a small village only 4 km. from Tinos Town. The village, like most villages on Tinos, is situated on a hillside and so is built in tiers on different levels. When we got off the bus at a crossroads we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, there was no obvious village. We saw a woman on the road and asked her how to enter Tripotamos. She pointed down the road. We headed in the indicated direction and saw a few houses and several cars parked on the roadside. Looking here and there we spotted a stairway going through a stone arch and down and followed it. It led into a maze of small bright sunlit alleys for pedestrians only, no one in sight. It seemed unreal almost surreal, so very unlike the popular thronged tourist villages we had visited.

       The houses, typically, are white walled and brilliant in the sunlight. Yet, they don't look, how shall I say, dressed up in their Sunday best? They had an authentic look and feel that I didn't get in the popular tourist villages and towns, and we saw very few people. We met a very friendly woman who was sweeping the pavement and who spoke a little English. She told us that the permanent population of the village was only 30 people. There are more, apparently, in summer including people who keep summer homes there. I noticed many tiny churches and asked the lady about them. She said they're so small because they're private family chapels—people wealthy enough to afford their own chapels. There is, of course, a larger church for the ordinary people.

a family chapel 
       There are some 2000 churches (2/3 Greek Orthodox and 1/3 Roman Catholic) on Tinos for a population of only about 10,000—that's one church for every five persons. Considering how tiny some of the churches are, that's about all that would fit comfortably inside some of them.

       We strolled around the town, up and down many steps, and soon covered the whole town from top to bottom. The town was very quiet and empty. 
broken crockery


from top . . .

. . . .to bottom

unreconstructed windmill
       There was no taverna or cafe and no street life in Tripotamos, so we decided to try and catch the next bus and return to Tinos. Back at the main road we looked around and waited, with increasing anxiety, for about half and hour in the hot sun. We started to discuss Plan B. Plan B seemed to boil down to walking the 4 km. back to Tinos, fortunately mostly downhill. But just then I glimpsed the bus coming along and we ran to flag it down with a huge sigh of relief.

at Symposion
       When we got back to Tinos Town we decided to eat at an upscale restaurant named Symposion (Συμπόσιοv) after the dialogues of Plato. The food was pretty good but not, as suggested by TripAdvisor ratings, of cordon bleu quality. But it was a pleasant alternative to the basic meat and potatoes approach of the Cavos hotel restaurant in Agios Sostis.