When I was 15, I was lucky enough to visit Santorini for the day on a school cruise; it was one of many places we visited. The ship was a steamship called the SS Uganda, an educational cruise ship that had not long returned from service as a hospital ship during the Falklands war. As well as Santorini, we visited Turkey, where I haggled for the first time to buy presents to bring home, and Egypt where I remember seeing camels walking in the road. In Egypt everything was so dusty and noisy, the pyramids were incredible and the sphinx was simply awesome – although all very different, I loved Greece (Santorini), Turkey and Egypt. They all seemed to fire a spark in me. The last place we visited was Malta, which I remember thinking was very western after all the noise, bustle, colour and excitement of Egypt, Greece and Turkey.
I’m sure we visited other countries as well but those are the ones that stick in my memory…
My mum had saved up for months to give me the opportunity to go on this adventure and looking back now I am so very grateful to her, and the sacrifices she must have made, as I am sure it was on this trip that I caught the ‘travel bug’. As a child, I remember money was always tight, our holidays were always to Bognor Regis at my great Aunt’s caravan (which I loved and have so many fond memories of) so to see ‘the world’ at an impressionable age was such an incredible opportunity for me. Thanks, Mum!
Back to Santorini… I was looking forward to visiting again for a couple of reasons; a nostalgic adventure of retracing the steps I had taken some 40 years ago and, I have since heard so much about Santorini being the location of the lost city of Atlantis. I couldn’t wait to feel the vibes and relive a very happy time.
We arrived at the port of Santorini on a high-speed Jet-Ferry, very different to how I remember arriving on my first visit all those years ago. I was super excited to be returning, what memories would come flooding back? Ah, sadly none. I felt a little twinge of disappointment that I didn’t remember any of this.
Part of the reason for coming here was to relive a little of that special time I had had so many years ago. It was only a small disappointment, though, as we were on this amazing island and a new adventure was just beginning; there was plenty to enjoy. We drove to the Airbnb we had booked in Oia in the north of the island. We have stayed in so many Airbnbs over the years and they had nearly always been amazing so we weren’t anticipating any problems but, on arriving, for the first time, we knew we couldn’t stay in the apartment we had booked. I won’t bore you with the details, but, needless to say, it was a little on the dirty side… We negotiated a full refund with the owner but we were now homeless and needed to quickly find a place to stay.
Our friends, who happened to be in Santorini at the same time as us, were staying at a luxury hotel in Fira (about 5 miles away) and when we told them of our predicament they contacted the reception at their hotel and negotiated a great rate for us to stay there as well, so we treated ourselves to the same 5-star luxury and added an extra night for good measure! In the evening we decided to walk into town with our friends for dinner and I found myself magically transported back in time. What I hadn’t realised is that this is where the old port is, where I had arrived on my first visit! When we went out for dinner we found the 588 steps that I had walked up all those years ago. All of the memories came flooding back and I was so excited to be standing exactly where I had as a young girl forty years ago. I was reliving the magical time I had had. I remembered the narrow alleyways, the shops and the shopkeepers all with a warm welcome hoping to part you from a little of your money, (still selling the same donkey souvenirs), and the bustle. Now had fate intervened to guide us here? We have a saying of ‘follow the breadcrumbs’ and in this case, I think the breadcrumbs led us here!
On our last morning, I wanted to go down to see the port that I had visited all those years ago, so we set off early and walked down the steps, dodging all the donkey poo (the smell was horrendous - I didn’t remember that bit!)
It was rather smelly at the port so we didn’t stay long. The plan had been that we might walk back up but, because of the smell and all the donkey poo on the steps, we chose the cable car (the reality was probably that 588 steps was an awfully long walk down and walking back up them was probably ‘a step too far’!). The cable car was a new addition from the time I first visited when we went up on a donkey! Of course, they do still have donkeys to take you up but it now seems so cruel - they have to stand out in the midday sun carrying tourists on their backs up the full 588 steps to the top. The cable car is not too expensive at 6 euros so if you ever visit please either do what I couldn’t and walk up (not recommended) or take the cable car, I don’t think the donkeys should even be an option (sorry rant over!).
Now on to Atlantis. I had not done much research on Atlantis before so we took ourselves to the museum - ‘The Lost Kingdom of Atlantis’ which explains how Atlantis came about. It also has a 9D experience, which was great fun! (If you ever visit here don’t sit in the middle seat on the front row as you get very wet, no one else did and I found this out the hard way - haha!)
Here is a very brief history: Santorini, as it is today, was created by three volcanic explosions around the 17th century BCE (before current era) (Bronze Age). Before this time, living on the Island called Thera were the Minoans/Therans. They were an advanced civilisation, and these explosions led their Island to sink into the sea and to be lost forever.
In 1967, archaeologists found a buried village from this time including houses, paintings, food containers like vases, incense holders, seeds, seals, ornaments, weighing scales, fish hooks and even a beautiful golden Ibis ornament. There was a sewage system and we saw a bath as well (so they must have had a water system too). It was absolutely incredible that this was all around 4000 years ago. You can see the dig site at Akrotiri and the pieces they have found at the Prehistoric Museum of Thera.
Unlike Pompeii, they haven't found any bodies, so they think that there were warnings of the volcanic eruptions over a period of time which gave the inhabitants time to flee.
So where does Atlantis come into it? Atlantis was first spoken and written about by Plato who was born 428/427 and died 348/347 BCE. He was a philosopher and his mentor was Socrates. When Socrates died, Plato started travelling and it was on one of his visits to Egypt that he overheard a conversation about a civilised lost city being destroyed by three volcanic eruptions. This is where the myth of Atlantis started. Plato called this lost city ‘Atlantis’ and went on to describe how advanced the people of Atlantis were. Plato also had the idea of a perfect civilisation called ‘The Republic’ where people lived in a community led by philosophers. They had no family, no property, no personal life, and no separation with everyone working for the common good.
There is definitely proof that there was an advanced civilisation living on the Island of Santorini but whether it was Atlantis or not we will never know for sure – I found it thought-provoking that there was an ornament in the museum that looked half-alien, half-human; was this a sign of an alien visit? Well, it made me think!
We will never know for sure about the myth of Atlantis; some say Plato used Atlantis as an example to describe his perfect society. Other places around the world are also claiming to be where Atlantis was… my opinion is if you want to believe in Atlantis go for it. Do I believe in it? I’m not sure, but I do know that all those years ago there lived a civilisation that was pretty cool and very advanced!
Having explored the myth of Atlantis, we went to a traditional village of Santorini called Pyrgos Kallistis – if you visit Santorini this village it’s a must to visit; it’s beautiful and steeped in history…at the top of this village is a little church called ‘Mary Church, 1400’. It had the sign of the Knights Templar on the outside of the Church and a picture of a knight inside this tiny church… In short, the Knights Templar were created in 1119 AD. They were an order of unmarried men who swore an oath to protect the Christian Pilgrims during their crusades all over Europe. They were a wealthy, powerful order shrouded in mystery and have been written about many times; they are said to be protectors of the Holy Grail. They started with nothing but grew into a powerful force until their demise in 1312, following their unjustified persecution by King Philip IV of France as the order, who had become spectacularly wealthy, had denied him additional loans. I am fascinated by the Knights Templar and there has been so much written about them, together with all the conspiracy theories around them. It felt very magical in this tiny church with a Greek lady using frankincense to purify the church and then kiss the pictures that were hanging on the walls. I loved reflecting on what the church must have seen since it was built in 1400, the people that have visited, the conversations and of course the prayers.
Wherever we travel we always find some good coffee shops and in this village, we found a great one called Franco’s, right at the top overlooking the whole of Santorini Island and set within the walls of the 12th-century Venetian castle. Santorini is steeped in history, busy, and magical - it’s fascinating how the land was raised out of the sea and how everything has been built, there are caves high up which have become homes, shops and the like. Its twinkling lights, round church tops and white buildings make this Island one to put on your travel bucket list and one that is special to me and that I will remember forever.
Love, Carolina (The Soul Coach) x