Friday, February 18, 2011

Wonder World - Santorini Island, Greece

Santorini (Greek: Σαντορίνη, pronounced [sadoˈrini]), officially Thera(alternative spelling Thira, Greek Θήρα [ˈθira]) is a volcanic island located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name. It forms the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands, with an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and a 2001 census population of 13,670.

Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island, and leading to the creation of the current geological caldera.

The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: theMinoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of feet deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through the creation of a gigantic tsunami. This theory is not, however, supported by chronology, in that the collapse of the Minoan civilization did not occur concurrently with the date of the Tsunami; that happened some 90 years later. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.

The island remains the home of a small, but flourishing, wine industry, based on the indigenous grape variety, Assyrtiko, with auxiliary cultivations of two other Aegean varietals, Athiri and Aidani

The viticultural pride of the island is the sweet and strong Vinsanto (Italian: "holy wine"), a dessert wine made from the best sun-dried AssyrtikoAthiri, and Aidani grapes and undergoing long barrel aging (up to twenty or twenty-five years for the top cuvées). It matures to a sweet, dark amber-orange, unctuous dessert wine that has achieved worldwide fame, possessing the standard Assyrtiko aromas of citrus and minerals, layered with overtones of nuts, raisins, figs, honey and tea.
White wines from the island are extremely dry with a strong, citrus scent and mineral and iodide salt aromas contributed by the ashy volcanic soil, whereas barrel aging gives to some of the white wines a slight frankincense aroma, much like Vinsanto. It is not easy to be a winegrower in Santorini; the hot and dry conditions give the soil a very low productivity. The yield per acre is only 10 to 20% of the yields that are common in France or California. The island's wines are standardised and protected by the "Vinsanto" and "Santorini" OPAP designations of origin.

In 1707 an undersea volcano breached the sea surface, forming the current centre of activity at Nea Kameni in the centre of the lagoon, and eruptions centred on it continue — the twentieth century saw three such, the last in 1950. Santorini was also struck by a devastating earthquake in 1956. Although the volcano is quiescent at the present time, at the current active crater (there are several former craters on Nea Kameni), steam and sulphur dioxide are given off.
Nea Kameni Crater
Santorini has erupted many times, with varying degrees of explosivity. There have been at least twelve large explosive eruptions, of which at least four were caldera-forming. The most famous eruption is the Minoan eruption, detailed below. Eruptive products range from basalt all the way torhyolite, and the rhyolitic products are associated with the most explosive eruptions.

How to Reach Santorini:

By plane

Santorini can be reached from most international airports via Athens. The flying time from Athens to Santorini is approximately 40 minutes.
Nearly all international scheduled flights arriving in Athens allow adequate time for making the connecting flight to Santorini. Numerous charter flights from different European Cities fly directly to the island during the summer period. During the same period Santorini is also connected with flights to and from Thessaloniki.

By ferry boat

Another way to reach the island is by a regular ferry boat service from the port of Piraeus, Thessaloniki or Crete and almost all the Cycladic islands. The boat trip takes approximately 5 - 9 hours depending on the ferry and the ports of call.
Daily high speed boats are also available only during the summer period leaving from the port of Piraeus and from numerous other Cycladic islands and Crete. The trip lasts about 4 - 5 hours.

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