米诺斯人的古老家园 The ancient home of the Minoans
Officially known as Thira, Santorini is perhaps the most famous of all the Greek Islands. Located at the southern end of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is part of the Cyclades group of islands and receives about 2 million visitors a year. That's a lot of adoring attention for a small island (only 28 square miles) of 15,000 residents, and it's no wonder why. The whitewashed, clifftop villages of Santorini, like Oia featured in this image, are postcard perfect. And so are the unlimited panoramic views of the azure Mediterranean Sea.
Its tranquil beauty belies the cataclysmic eruption that formed the island as we know it today. The Minoan eruption, about 3,600 years ago, was one of the world's largest known volcanic eruptions. It destroyed what was a thriving Minoan city and created a giant caldera that sank below the sea, leaving behind the picturesque lagoon seen here. Volcanic activity has continued since then. At the center of the lagoon is the uninhabited volcanic island of Nea Kameni, which emerged from the sea in 19 CE, according to Pliny the Elder. It's had several major eruptions over the past 300 years.
With millennia of experience, people have learned to live with the volcanic activity of these islands. Tourism is now the main activity on Santorini, along with a small winemaking industry. Throw in abundant sunshine, constant sea breezes, and meandering steps through storybook villages and you'll never run out of reasons to visit.
On the rebirth of the Olympic Games
Today marks the 125th anniversary of the first modern Olympic games, held in Athens in 1896—1,500 years after they were banned by the Roman Emperor. (The original games were held at least as far back as 776 BCE and probably earlier.) The 1896 games were held in the Panathenaic Stadium, in the shadow of the Acropolis of Athens, shown here. Those newly revived games of 1896 included athletes from 14 countries, with the largest delegations from Greece, Germany, France, and Great Britain. The 43 events included a marathon, tennis, cycling, fencing, shooting, Greco-Roman wrestling, and swimming. And while some things haven't changed over the years, some were pretty different back then. Swimmers were taken out to sea by boat for the longer races and had to swim back to shore. Winners were given a silver medal (copper for second place), as well as an olive branch and a diploma.
This is a unique time for the Olympics. We can look forward to the postponed 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo (now scheduled to start in July 2021) as well as the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022. The Beijing games will feature a mascot panda named Bing Dwen Dwen. 'Bing' means ice and symbolizes purity and strength, and 'Dwen Dwen' represents children. After the postponement of 2020, we can't wait to hear, 'Let the games begin!'
Santorini through the clouds
With its romantic sunsets, dazzling ocean views, and whitewashed buildings clinging to rocky clifftops, the Greek island of Santorini (aka Thera) is the very picture of an idyll in the Aegean. But this tranquil scene belies the island's explosive geologic history, for this is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The Minoan eruption, about 3,600 years ago, caused the center of the Thera Volcano to collapse into the ocean, leaving Santorini a jagged, crescent-shaped moon atop the sea.
The impact of the eruption was more than just geologic—when the volcano blew its top, Santorini was home to a thriving outpost of the Minoan civilization. A farming and fishing community had been established at Akrotiri on the island around 7,000 years ago, and by the time of the eruption had developed into a prosperous city built largely on trade with other cultures of the Aegean. Akrotiri had paved streets, delicate pottery, a drainage system, and multistory buildings decorated in elaborate frescoes. Akrotiri's fortunes ended abruptly, however, with the Minoan eruption, which completely buried the city in pumice and ash. Extensive archaeological excavations began in 1967, revealing artifacts that were remarkably well preserved by the volcanic material; particularly notable were the elegant, colorful frescoes. It seems Santorini has always been a site for the beautiful things in life.