Crossing Uneven Ground

The Brides of Beautiful Santorini

Greek Flag

The Greek flag whips in the wind in the Santorini town of Oia. Joanne captured this dramatic scene with an iPhone.

They come from all corners of the planet and when you see Santorini you can understand why. Of all of the Greek Islands, Santorini is often claimed to be the most awe inspiring. The population, for the most part, resides high up on the crest of this crescent shaped island. The views of the volcanic caldera below are magnificent. It is no wonder that beautiful Santorini is one of the top wedding destinations of the world.

Bride and Groom

This bride happily posed for me when I asked if I could photograph her. The groom, sporting a white bowtie and shorts, is not the main attraction.

Greek Tour Boat

More often than not the wind blew up high seas but when it died we hopped on a Greek tour boat for a trip around the caldera. From these small vessels you can visit nearby islands, swim and get a good look at the island’s geographical features.

Wood Carver

A Santorini artisan carves wooden religious statues and other souvenirs.

This nuptial hot spot has been a long time in the making. Santorini became volcanically active around 3 million years ago but it is the eruption of 1600 BCE that was historically significant. This massive explosion blew away much of the island leaving the crescent of land we see today. Some scientists think that the Crete-based Minoan civilization was destroyed by the tsunami that ensued. Some more romantically oriented suggest that this is where the legend of Atlantis came from. Indeed there are the remains of a great civilization here.

Santorini Cliffs

On this blustery September day a view from the top of the cliffs lets you take in the sweep of the crescent shape of the island and the caldera below.

The Akrotiri Archeological Site on the island’s southern tip is probably the Aegean’s most intact ancient settlement. Just prior to the big eruption the residents of Akrotiri fled. They were probably warned by a series of earlier earthquakes that something very bad was going down. Soon after they left, the island blew up covering Akrotiri with a thick layer of ash and rock. It stayed covered until 1845 when digging started to reveal the site but the big dig started in 1967. Archeologists found the town very well-preserved, much as the population had left it.

Akrotiri Site

The Akrotiri Archeological Site is completely protected under a roof.

Jars Akrotiri

Well preserved pithoi or large jars for storing food. The site provides a unique insight into the lives of bronze-age Greeks.

Broken Stairs

The force of the volcanic eruption and earthquakes snapped these stairs in ancient Akrotiri.

Perhaps most remarkable are the frescoes depicting the daily life of the inhabitants. There are images of well-dressed women preparing for rituals. In one, a fisherman proudly shows off stringers of mahi-mahi. Other paintings show the environment with swallows swooping above hills bursting with crocus flowers. The frescos are displayed in the main town of Thira (also called Fira) at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira.

Boy with Fish

A fresco of a boy with a catch of MahiMahi.

Fresco of Woman

A woman in a bright dress gazes out from under a sea of stars. Frescos at Akrotiri are well preserved. Was she one of the earliest brides of Santorini?

As busy as Santorini was in the late Bronze Age, it is nothing compared to the crowds that cover this narrow band of real estate now. As with Mykonos, this is one of the most touristed of the islands. As aggravating as battling the crowds is, it is understandable why they’re here. White-washed, cubist buildings, tastefully accented with pale azure trim, are precariously perched on cliffs. The cliffs overlook the vast bowl of the caldera.

Cubist Building

Sunset on the streets of Oia provide patchwork scenes of cubist buildings and billowing clouds.

Whitewashed house.

Wandering the tiny back streets and alleys gives you the chance to discover patterns of light falling on stuccoed houses.

All day long buses full of gawkers unload at every town and shutters start to click. In the evening thousands line the narrow cobblestone streets for the big show. Sunsets here are a spectator sport and every chair at every restaurant on the cliff looks out on the blue and red show out to the west.

Photographers

You need teamwork to get a great sunset photo. Here a woman acts as a human tripod.

The whole island of Santorini is like a giant photographers backdrop here and many of the subjects are brides. Some are European but for the most part they are Chinese. One innkeeper told us, “in October, it is all Oriental brides here.” A starter wedding can cost as little as $800 with more elaborate shindigs reaching easily $12,000. Adding Greek dancers and Orthodox clergy runs up the bill.

Bride with Roses

Blue water and white churches set off this bride’s dramatic pose.

Bride with Veil

Look up and there’s a bride on the balcony affecting the famous “Winds of Santorini” pose with her veil.

Bride and Cliffs

A lovely woman poses against the cliffs high above the sea.

Photographers’ studios are plentiful but a lot of couples haul around their own gear, and they are very high-end Nikons and Canons! You can’t turn a corner without seeing a bride whip off her trench coat to reveal a white gown and go into a dramatic posing session. I asked a few times if I could take a photo and they were always flattered. They’d thank me, turn away from their photographer and start posing for me. I found it pretty hilarious but why not, the weather was great, the scenery was beautiful and the brides, of course, were beautiful too.

Boat at Sunset

A cruise boat sets sail as the sun goes down.

Woman

Photograph or just sit and enjoy the setting sun as warm sea breezes waft up the cliffs.

Joanne and Tom

Even though winds sometimes pelted in from the Aegean, Joanne and I joined the sunset-veiwing crowd every evening. Thankfully my hair didn’t blow around as much as Joanne’s.

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