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Santorini

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Santorini Through Nelly’s Lens

Nelly Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari (1899-1998), was an amazing Greek photographic talent better known as Nelly’s. Her unique attempts to capture the distinctive light of the Cyclades and other Greek locations are legendary. Her extraordinary work is reflected in the “Nelly’s Santorini, 1925-1930” album, which was published in 1987 and republished in 2001 by the Archive of Santorinian Studies. Famous for having traversed every goat’s path and cliff precipice on Santorini to capture this special harsh light, the view from Nelly’s lens still captivates people from every walk of life even today.
The volume published by the Archive of Santorinian Studies includes comments from the photographer about her perceptions at the time. Back in those days, travel to the island was exclusively by boat from the mainland or from Crete, and in Nelly’s recollections, this travel log of her journey’s plays a major role in the compositions of the photographs. One paragraph from the book reproduced by Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini puts things into perspective:

“I could hardly wait to set off with my equipment. In those days, one travelled by sea. The boat to Santorini arrived at dawn. It was, I recall, summertime. At 5.30 a.m. I was on deck. I wanted to enjoy my first view of the island from a distance, before entering the harbor, and to take a few photographs from there. I shall never forget that magical spectacle upon beholding the island. It seemed as if I were looking at an enormous chocolate cake, topped with whipped cream. And when the sun rose and shed its golden rays upon it, I gazed as if I would never get my fill. Never before had I seen such a vista, and I tried to make the most of those unforgettable moments, to immortalize them in the few photographs I took.”

The adventurous photographer took special note of the way the island looked from the sea as her boat approached, and the first photos of the island are from before entering the harbor. During her adventure on the island, Nelly managed to capture stunning imagery from Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Kamari, Exo Gonia and Perissa, with famous Oia proving too difficult to navigate for more than a few images.
Nelly’s work on Santorini brought the island to life in images for the first time, making the nature the focal point, adorned with unbelievably lifelike people, stunning village-scapes, and conveying the unmatched beauty of Santorini.
Even 90 years after Nelly processed these images, the vibrant captures of volcanic Santorini have left an indelible mark. Pictures from Nelly’s trip to the island in the mid-1920s now grace the collection of the Benakis’ Museum.

Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is crowned as the “Best Resort Spa” in Greece and Europe

Santorini’s newly-built all-suite hotel, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa was honored in the esteemed “World Spa Awards” institution, by being awarded for a second consecutive year as the “Greece’s Best Resort Spa” and also receiving the “Europe’s Best Resort Spa” award.

Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa in its only third year of operation responds to the demanding standards of a world-class award institution, which stands as a flagship for the wellness tourism, continuing this way to be acknowledged among the leading hotels and resorts in Greece and Europe. Having at the core of its philosophy a combination of high-quality services and personalized hospitality, the special designed facilities of the Santo Maris Oia Luxury SPA, focus on the balance of human body, mind and soul offering an experience of holistic relaxation and rejuvenation. Moreover, its well-rounded wellness programs are inspired by Greek elements and products.

The 4th Annual World Spa Awards Ceremony took place on a glamorous celebration on Friday, October 26th in the Maldives, at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.

The CEO and Group General Manager of Metaxas Group of Companies, Mr. Andreas Metaxas, stated after the reception of the awards:

“This double-winning makes us feel both proud and honored. I wish to heartfeltly thank our guests. The trust and preference they have shown on us during our three-year presence on the magnificent island of Santorini, motivate us to constantly enhance the quality of the services we offer. The excellence of the Santo Maris Oia Luxury SPA constitutes the best promotion for the wellness tourism in Santorini and Greece.”

Coming Up in a Few Days: “Santorini Experience”, the Ultimate Sports Event in the island

October 5 to 7, Santorini will host one of the most celebrated sports events of the year, the Santorini Experience event for swimmers and runners. The event is organized by the Santorini Municipality, the Municipal Sports Cultural & Environmental Organization in Santorini (DAPPOS) and the Active Media Group under the auspices of the Greek National Tourism Organization and the Hellenic Swimming Federation (KOE). Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa has the ultimate joy to be one of the main official sponsors of the event for the second consecutive year.
Sports enthusiasts and athletes will compete in open water swimming and running races. Olympic and open water world champion Nikos Gemelos selected the swimming route this year. The race starts at the harbor of the volcano and ends at the pier of the old port of Fira. Swimmers will arrive at the starting line by boat and compete on water 2.4 kilometers. This year, the competition has joined the Global Swim Series, which encourages participation in open water swimming all over the world. This year’s event will feature many big names of the Greek National Open Water Swimming Team such as world champions Kelly Araouzou and Antonis Fokaidis, European champion George Arniakos, and Greek champions Dimitris Negris, Stellina Aplanti, Dejan Jovanovic, and Dimitris Manios.


Nikos Polias, former marathon runner, holder of national best performance on the classical route, running coach, manager of All About Running, and technical director of the running section of the event, selected the paths for the joggers. There are three routes: 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers, and 15 kilometers, all with different levels of difficulty, and all following the caldera in the south part of the island, on the usual hike path from Oia to Fira with amazing views.
Competitors will receive their racing kits at the Alafouzos Sports store in Fira. All running races start at the desalination plant in Oia, in Perivolas, next to the Saint Vasileios Church. The location offers beautiful views of the village of Oia – it will make an excellent starting point for the three running races that take place on Saturday, October 6, 2018. There will also be a separate, 1-kilometer children’s race.
The winners will be celebrated in the evening with an artistic program featuring the International Dancing Group of Santorini “Stamatina Xiarchou” & Association of Pontians Eptamyloi Serres “Akrites.” A public concert performed by C: Real in the surrounding area of the Indoor Hall DAPPOS will take place the same evening at eight.
The Santorini Experience is an international, public event that puts world-class athletes alongside amateurs competing in a friendly contest that demonstrates stamina and skill, but also builds community and friendships with like-minded people from around the world.
Registration is open to all, free of charge. You can join Santorini Experience to compete, you can race for fun, or you can attend as a spectator. Anything goes. The purpose of the competition is to encourage fitness while its participants enjoy the beauty of Santorini.

Traditions and Customs of Santorini

Tradition has it that mothers on Thira would lull their little ones to sleep each night with sweet verses from eons of time past. Today, the tradition lives on when Santorini ladies put their kids to bed for the night.

“Sleep star, sleep dawn, sleep new moon
your cradle was brought by a pearl
To set to sleep sugar, to awake honey
to give you water that angels drink”

Such is the way for every town or region in Greece. Local traditions are uniform in their richness and unique according to the history and nature of each individual place. From the foundations of towns and villages to wedding rituals and religious holidays, Santorini maintains the fabric of its cultural heritage. Here are some of the most interesting and time-honored ones.

The Name Day

Since anybody can remember, a child’s birthday has only been celebrated once. When a child reached one-year of age, relatives were (and still are) invited to celebrate his or her birth. On this day, according to tradition, parents put the child in front of a big sifter in which a variety of objects were placed. For boys, the objects might be a trowel, a carpenter’s tool, a paper boat, and so forth. For girls, the objects might include more feminine objects. In the ritual, if the boy selected the paper boat from the objects, then the superstition had it he would become a sailor, and so on. In this way, it is believed, the profession of a child could be predicted. Such traditions are considered meaningful in order to set young people on the right past very early on. After this “birthday” ritual, children and adults only celebrate their “name day,” or the day associated with the saint the person is named after.

Santorini Weddings

Weddings in Santorini take place on Sundays. By tradition, girls of the village gather in front of the bride’s house on the Thursday before, in order to break almonds and to make sugar plums. Then, on Friday, they make the bride’s bed and throw rice on it so that the wedding is solid, like the rice, and sweet, like the sugar plums.
Another part of the Santorini wedding tradition involves the father of the groom climbing on a roof at noon on the day of the wedding to shout the beginning of the ceremony to the village and the world. After this, violinists accompany the bride door to door to invite people to her ceremony saying “come to the wedding.” The total ceremony is complex and replete with many ancient traditions. At the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds put the wedding garlands they wore on their heads into a box near the religious icons they prayed before. By ancient tradition, the garlands are kept until the last survivor of the pair finally dies, and the garlands are placed in this person’s grave.

This New House

When workers first dig the trenches for the foundation of a new house on Santorini, a priest is called to slaughter a rooster on the street. After this, the parents of the owner give a blessing to the house at every corner of the structure by throwing coins into the foundation. This tradition is carried out even today, including installing a cross at every corner of the foundation. To this day, the lady of the house prepares a plate of sesame honey and raki to treat the workers and the guests.

Traditional Wear of Thira

According to ancient custom, Thirean women wear scarfs inside and outside of their homes. By the custom, the scarves are worn in a particular fashion, tightly bound and slightly upwards to reveal the forehead. Also, by custom, the married woman may welcome her visitors not wearing a scarf if her hair was done “just so” either washed or unwashed and set into a design of thick braids, and so forth. Until only recently, women of Santorini wore a hairstyle that was relative to their age and social class.
This same tradition carried through to the Thirean woman’s dress, and especially the ornate festive ones worn in past decades. Many square meters of fabric were used in the making of petticoats in previous times, and fancy corsets and bodices were also the style and tradition before the mid-20th-century.
These time-honored traditions keep the spirit of the island intact. Like all Greeks, the residents of Santorini have great respect for their ancestors and the values passed down from generation to generation.

A Tour of the Volcano in Santorini

The active (but dormant) Nea Kameni volcano of the Santorini caldera is one of the most fascinating attractions in the world. There’s something exciting about touring a potentially hazardous place, although the site is safe, according to volcanologists and geologists from the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano (ISMOSAV) who monitor the island.

Now, touring the volcano is safe and it is a favorite pastime for many island visitors. Nea Kameni itself is small and uninhabited. Vegetation is scarce if you don’t consider the red grassy succulents that give its rolling slopes a unique, surreal aspect reminiscent of Mars.

Nea Kameni in the spring.
Nea Kameni in the spring.

The Nea Kameni National Geological Park is a popular attraction. Boat trips to the island leave Santorini every day, carrying curious tourists to the small harbor of the island, where they will begin the ascent to the top of the volcano to hike around the crater. For those who want to admire the Caldera view and the volcano without taking part in the hiking experience, there is an alternative. Sailing cruises on the Caldera are organized every day and people have the opportunity to see the impressive view and sail near the volcano.

The main points of interest at Nea Kameni are:

  • Point A – the “Mikri Kameni” (in English “small burnt island”) dome, which was formed in 1570-1573 due to Surtseyan activity, ash-fall, and block fall-out;
  • Point B – the South Rim of the Daphne crater;
  • Point C – the twin craters, which are active and have fumaroles – so watch your step;
  • Point D – the Georgios dome peak, which formed in 1866;
  • Point E – and the Liatsika Lava, from the last eruption in 1950.

The visit to the Nea Kameni National Geological Park is not free of charge. The symbolic entrance fee charged (2 €) is intended for the upkeep of the area. Because this is a protected natural reserve, visitors are not allowed to take away any “souvenirs.” The warning reads in scarlet letters: “DO NOT MOVE BREAK OFF OR REMOVE ROCKS.” You will notice many cairns along your path, but these man-made stacks are intended to mark the route and to serve as landmarks to guide travelers.

The hike is demanding but the views from the top are rewarding enough to make the effort worth it.  Wear proper hiking shoes and bring a bottle of water with you for making the experience more comfortable: the sun and heat are strong in this part of the world. Plus, Nea Kameni has a typical sulfur odor emanated by the active fumaroles.

The INGV-type station temporarily installed on the summit crater tests the levels of CO2 coming from the soil every ten minutes, reporting whether the air is safe to breathe or not.  Scientific reports found that Nea Kameni is generally safe.

Santorini: A Prehistoric Land

Seven thousand years ago the Santorini as travelers know it today was a vastly different human habitat. What must have begun as a collection of Stone Age fishing and farming villages, soon became a trading center between Minoan Crete and Cyprus sometime after 3000 BC.

Scholars think that ancient Santorini became significant because of its strategic location first, and later because of critical trading with goods like copper. For these and other reasons, Santorini and its most famous ancient settlement of Akrotiri must have been a shining example of culture and civilization. Today visitors can still see remnants of paved streets, a cutting edge (for the time) drainage system, multistoried buildings, and artifacts of indescribable beauty and innovation. As part of the Minoan Civilization, Akrotiri and ancient Santorini flourished for more than 500 years, until the catastrophic eruption of Thera sometime between 1642–1540 BC.

Archaeologists estimate the first settlements on the island date back to the Post Neolithic Period. Akrotiri today is a kind of time capsule, not so different from the Roman city of Pompei, where the volcanic matter that covered the city and the whole island ended up protecting and preserving the buildings. Some historians contend that Santorini was the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis, as mentioned in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias.

When visiting the island, travelers should be aware there are actually two settlement sites from ancient antiquity. Akrotiri is the oldest known settlement, but Ancient Thera (Αρχαία Θήρα) on top of Messavouno dates to the time of the Spartan settlers who came to the island during the 8th century BC. It is from this high dwelling place that Santorini tourists will capture the most stunning views anywhere on the island.

We also recommend visiting Fira, where you will find several museums that are worth seeing. First, the Prehistoric Museum holds many exhibits from Akrotiri and other archaeological sites on Santorini. There’s also the Archaeological Museum, that presents findings and artifacts from Ancient Thera. Also, a must-see is the Gyzi Megaron and the Museum of Local History, situated in the Kontochori Quarter.

Finally, there is indeed something magical about Santorini, and something more than the visual of a vanishing sun in the West. Certainly, the dramatic landscape of jagged hills plunging into the blue Aegean is stunning, and the picturesque whitewashed houses with blue roofs create a living postcard for visitors. Great people and remarkable cuisine make the island special too. However, one cannot help but sense there is something more here. Something magnetic that compelled those adventurous settlers to make the journey into what would become the new world.

Maybe an ancient Greek myth serves to explain the island’s distinctive character. According to old Greek stories, Santorini was formed out of a miracle connected to the famous Argonaut expedition. According to the legend, Jason and his shipmates were on their way home, when they landed on Anaphe, a small island of the Aegean Sea.

It was here that Euphemus had a vision of making love to a nymph, a siren who was the daughter of the messenger of sea god Triton. After their union, the woman told him she had become pregnant with his child and chided him over how her father would be angered. She begged for a place to hide so that she might escape the wrath of the god, to which Euphemus responded by throwing a clod of dirt into the sea. This speck miraculously re-emerged from the vacant sea and turned into an island. Euphemus named it Calliste, which means the most beautiful, but the name “Thera” is from his son of the same name, who was born there. And so, it seems clear that Santorini has been beloved by the gods from the dawn of times.