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Tag Archives: Santorini
The ruins at Knossos were first discovered in 1878 by a local man, Minos Kalokairinos, and the earliest excavations were made. After that several Cretans attempted to continue the dig but it was not until 1900 that the English archeologist Arthur Evans purchased the entire site and carried out massive excavations and reconstructions.
These days archaeology is carefully regulated and supervised by academics who apply scientific rigour (except for Tony Robinson and the Time Team of course) to make sure that history isn’t compromised but it was very different a hundred years ago when wealthy amateurs could pretty much do as they pleased and went around digging up anything that they could find of interest and aggressively reinterpreting it.
Delos, one of the great classical archaeological sites of the Mediterranean, is a tiny island stretching only three miles north to south and barely one mile from east to west. It was here, that Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, son and daughter of Zeus and, like Delphi, is a major sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, the Titan god of gods and one of the most important in all of Ancient Greece.
It is the epicentre of the Cycladic ring and an uninhabited island six miles from its larger neighbour and is a vast archaeological site that together with Athens on the mainland and Knossos on Crete makes up the three most important archaeological sites in Greece.
I imagine that the reason we are not so aware of it is because whereas a lot of the work in Athens and Crete was undertaken by British and American archaeologists Delos is predominantly a French excavation site and we prefer to concentrate on British rather than Gallic achievements.
The excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean; ongoing work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens and many of the artefacts found are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage List, citing it as the “exceptionally extensive and rich” archaeological site which“conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port”.
Delos is just a short ferry ride from Mykonos. We left the old port on a small ferry boat where we sat on the open deck and watched Mykonos slip away behind us and the approach to tiny Delos which took about half an hour or so. It was already hot as we stepped off the boat and paid our admission charge to the island and took the pathway into the site.
There is no set route and visitors are allowed to wander in all directions along the rough paths and the dark grey stony earth overgrown with vegetation, strewn with ancient relics, ravaged by wind which moves across the embers of a past civilization and, if you listen to the warnings of the locals, home to poisonous snakes which will attack if disturbed so keeping an eye out for this danger we set off first to Mount Kythnos, the highest point and a stiff climb where, at the top, we were rewarded with sweeping 360º views of the Cyclades and beyond.
It was a lot easier going back down and once back in the main city which was once home to thirty-thousand people (compare that with a modern population of eight thousand in Mykonos) we walked through a succession of excavated buildings, some with ancient frescoes and colourful mosaic floors, dismembered statues, altars, sanctuaries, agoras and reconstructed temples and arches.
At the centre we stopped to see the Delian lions, one of the iconic images of the Greek islands. These were only plaster copies however because they are now kept in the island museum and one is missing because it was stolen and taken to Venice to become a symbol of that city.
Walking through the centre of the ancient city we passed the sacred lake where Apollo and Artemis were born and then to the far north of the island and the site of the ancient stadium and a view back across the water to Mykonos.
We had been continuously walking now for about three hours in the blistering sun without any shade so we made our way back to the main site and to the museum where we hoped it might be a bit cooler. There was no chance of that and although it was light and airy inside it was oppressively hot so we rushed through the exhibits rather too quickly to do them any real justice and were soon outside again looking for refreshments.
Delos is well worth a visit but here are three bits of advice, firstly don’t miss the last boat home or else you will be stuck on the rather remote island all night long with the spirits of Ancient Greece and the snakes. There is a superstition that no one should stay on the island overnight. Secondly don’t die on the island, no one is supposed to pass away on Delos, it is considered to be bad luck.
Finally, take plenty of water and a snack because there is only one small shop on the island attached to the museum and it is explosively expensive and bearing these two earlier bits of advice in mind we finished our tour of Delos by wandering back to the jetty and taking the early afternoon ferry back to Mykonos.
Santorini Island, Greece
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
The general feedback on my quizzes is that they are too hard. This one was about the Greek islands which I concede might be a bit difficult if you haven’t been to them or have a copy of the Dorling Kindersley Greek Island guidebook handy.
A lot of people knew that the first picture is Santorini which is not a big surprise but then struggled with the others.
There is a winner however and congratulations to:
Who correctly identified all four in the right order:
3 Is that Corfu Town?
Now I suggest that you click the link and take a look at Jo’s blog, it comes with my recommendation.
Corfu: ”this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian” Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’
In 2004 I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with family on the Greek island of Santorini. On the final night I treated everyone to a birthday celebration meal in a taverna and drank far too much Mythos Beer, Ouzo, and Metaxa Brandy and rashly declared that we would do the same thing in ten years time when I would be sixty. I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it.
My children didn’t forget. As 2014 got ever close they kept reminding me about the offer that I had made that night and so eventually I had no option but to deliver on the promise. Sadly the Boss Bar in Santorini closed down sometime between 2004 and 2006 and so I needed to find a suitable alternative and decided upon the village of Kalami on the island of Corfu which we had enjoyed a couple of years previously.
We were allocated seven seats on the plane, six altogether and one a row behind. Kim thought she was being clever by bagging the solitary seat so she could stay away from the children and read her book in peace but I had to laugh when someone turned up and claimed the seat next to her with a small baby in her arms! Luckily the flight passed by without incident.
The landing and arrival were just as I remembered them as the plane approached Cofu, shaped like a ballerinas balancing leg and over Pontikonisi Island, the home of the monastery of Pantokrator. Then over the ‘chessboard fields’ of the Venetian salt marshes before landing on the freshly ploughed runway which gave everyone on board a rough welcome to the island and through the window I could see the same hopelessly inadequate buff coloured and tired airport terminal as the plane came to a gentle stop as the engines slowed from a high pitched whine to a gentle hum.
Passport control was surprisingly chaotic with an unusual diligence not normally a feature of Greek border control and the line shuffled forward agonisingly slowly as the official at the desk took his time checking passports and ID until a second man came along, opened a gate and ushered us all through with only the customary glance at the documents that I am more familiar with in Greece and then, reunited with our luggage, we found the transfer coach ready to take us to Kalami.
At first the driver made slow progress through the growling traffic of the outskirts of the busy town with boxcrete apartment blocks with peeling facades, sagging washing lines and precarious balconies all decorated with satellite dishes and television aerials but eventually he nudged his way through the traffic and we were on the scenic coastal road that took us through Gouvia, Dassia and Ipsos and towards the mountainous north of the island where the road climbed in extravagant sweeping hairpin bends up one side of the coastal mountains and then dramatically down the other side.
It was late evening by now and the journey seemed to take forever, not helped by having to make a twenty minute detour to drop just two people off at a swanky hotel before having to double back to the main road to complete the journey. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem but I was beginning to panic that as the minutes ticked by that the hotel shop might be closed and I would be unable to purchase essential supplies like milk for the children and (more importantly) Mythos for me!
I really shouldn’t have worried because we arrived a few minutes before ten o’clock and as we checked in the receptionist assured me that the shop was going to stay open for some time yet so we settled into our rooms and returned to the street to make our essential purchases.
Having been here before I knew what to expect – the rooms were basic with furniture held together with blu-tack and string, dodgy plumbing and only very basic facilities but this was more than compensated for by the magnificent view from the balcony which overlooked the crescent bay, shaped like a Saracen’s sword, pine fringed with limestone layer cake rocks, boats lolling in the languid water and the White House ‘set like a dice on a rock already venerable with the scars of wind and water’ of Lawrence Durrell.
Back in the land of ancient gods I felt immediately home and opened a bottle of Mythos to reassure myself that they hadn’t changed the brewing recipe and then we all wandered down to the seafront to our favourite beach side taverna, Thomas’ Place, where we plundered the menu for Greek specialities and began the holiday as we meant to continue before climbing back to our rooms and taking a last look at the night time vista before retiring to bed and looking forward to the next day.
During the night we experienced the downside of having a cheap and rustic studio apartment – it was incredibly loud! The air conditioning chattered like a cicada, the fridge kept switching on and off with an ancient motor mechanism that sounded like a battering ram and every so often the shower head in the bathroom filled with water and discharged with a splash into the tray. This was bad enough but worst of all were the beds, Kim’s croaked like a frog every time she turned over and mine quacked like a duck every time I moved and eventually after a disturbed night we were very glad that it was morning and we could start the holiday.
“And then the cliffs… where has one ever seen such colours, seen rock twisted up like barley sugar, convoluted and coloured so fancifully? They remind me of the oil marbling on the endpapers of Victorian ledgers. Mauve, green, putty, grey, yellow, scarlet, cobalt… every shade of the heat from that of pure molten rock to the tones of metamorphic limestone cooling back into white ash…. Sunset and sunrise here put poets out of work.” Lawrence Durrell
“AII I want to do is join the happy crowd behind the green door Wish they’d let me in so I could find out what’s behind the green door.” Bob Davie and Marvin Moore – ‘Green Door’
Rather unusual for the Greek Cyclades Islands – a green rather than a blue door. This one is from the island of Santorini.
Oia is even more picturesque than Thira but fortunately not nearly so crowded and we walked along the top of the cliff, along narrow roads and down twisting footpaths, around whitewashed churches, creaking windmills and an abandoned castle and it was so much more leisurely and enjoyable than the capital. It was now extremely hot and as the sun blazed and the rays bounced around the whitewashed streets and houses it made us think of mythos and shade so we found a taverna in a back street and enjoyed a meal at about half of the prices in Thira.
Greek Taverna with a Mythos Beer:
I like Greece and I like Greek tavernas, they are almost always friendly inviting places and the food is inexpensive and good value and it rarely disappoints.
I like the carefree ambiance and the complete lack of formality, outside wooden tables and rattan chairs, check tablecloths, extensive menus and unhurried waiters. I like the cheap paper table covers so you can spill food and drink without worrying about disapproving looks or the laundry bill, I like the certain company of scrounging cats and I especially like those with live bouzouki players running through the familiar catalogue of traditional Greek music and always starting and finishing with the obligatory ‘Zorba’.