Sometimes when we are are lost in the present the past reveals treasures that show us a new way for the future . It is not every day that a whole city gets frozen in time, unavailing stories and traditions of long ago.
Stretched out on the red sand I watch small waves crash into the shore. Whoooooo puuuusssshhhhh. Poseidon sends row after row of the rippling Aegean Sea out to meet the wet sand. The cliffs and sand were infused with red from volcanic eruptions. This is how the nearby city of Akrotiri, a greek city preserved and buried under volcanic ash gained its fame.
The excavations are deep, as if they are digging to the middle of the Earth. This is the alleged lost city of Atlantis, a mythical city where a perfect society existed. People here were perfect human beings who lived in an ideal society until nature destroyed them. Some stories say the city was swallowed by the sea. Others claim that the Santorini eruption buried the city in ash. I didn’t climb the volcano, but I know it’s deadly.
The island of Santorini was once a complete circle. Today the island looks like a crescent moon. Looking at satellite images of the island you can see the huge void in the middle of the island where land once existed. The blast that occurred thousands of years ago destroyed the island, leaving it a remanent of what it used to be. I also had a friend who slashed his leg open on the jagged rock when he was hiking it. He got carried down on an ass and ended up getting over 40 stitches in his leg. This volcano shouldn't be messed with.
That ancient city, Atlantis, Akrotiri, or whatever else you want to call it, is where we started earlier today, walking through the ruins of a culture that lived and died with the God’s of Olympia, but that is not where we’ll end. We walked from Akrotiri across a rocky, black, goat track onto this red beach. This rocky beach is only a starting point, a great page to begin reading.
In late spring there are no suffocating crowds. The weather isn’t hot yet, and tourist season hasn’t started. But it’s warm enough for me, and I can do without the people. Their books are no fun to read. Their lives are only cookie cutter experiences. They think they are in the ocean, but are actually swimming in a kiddy pool. I want more than that. I want to actively participate in my own story.
What is a story, after all, but a way to get a point across. For thousands of years before people could write language, they drew stories on cave walls. After that they passed down stories, and in their oral traditions they explained life. The world is large and complex, even on this red beach I can see the intricacies, but stories expedite the learning process. The world would never progress without first standing on top of the giants that came before us. If we had to start anew each generation, we’d still be living in hovels, or the caves carved into the red rock cliffs behind me. We’d wake in the morning and fish for breakfast instead of going to Starbucks. We’d wear strips of animal leather instead of power ties.
Yesterday, we explored the streets of Santorini, walking through the narrow corridors and between the whitewashed buildings. We walked past ruins and into and out of shops filled with artwork. Santorini is an island full of wonders, from the beaches to the vineyards spread through the countryside. The vines of the vineyards are old, thick trunks wrapped around in a circle close to the ground. The berries grow inside the trunk circles, insulated from inclement weather.
We stayed in Firostefani, with a porch on a cliff overlooking the sea and the infamous volcano. It was here that I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The sun dropped down behind an island, covering the whole island in a mystical haze, and there was a perfect world called Atlantis with perfect people. Sunshine is in the heart of those who live here. One night, at dinner, with our faces brown from the sun, our server offered up free raki. His family owns a vineyard and have lots of raki as a byproduct. “Why would I charge?” he says, “I got it for free so I’ll pass it on for free.” Now that’s a story to pass on.