"IT WAS JULY, 1954. My brother and I had
been in Athens just a few days on our first visit to Greece
when we boarded a ship in Piraeus, bound for Santorini. After
the long voyage that was typical of that era, our ship finally
entered the caldera. Immediately we noticed that the villages
along the edges of the caldera were ablaze with flashes of
brilliant light. The townspeople were greeting the ship with
reflections of the sun in small mirrors. I wondered whether
this was normal for arriving steamers. It was not. This was
a special welcome for one of our fellow passengers, Markos
Nomikos, who was representative of Cyclades in the Greek Parliament,
and the father of our host, Petros.
When we got up to Fira - mule or foot were the only alternatives
then - we realized that we were the only visitors on the island,
and that there were only two passenger vehicles in working
order, a jeep and a bus. Fortunately we had access to the
jeep and thus were able to see much of the island. We visited
Ancient There, on the winding road that had recently been
built to accommodate the visit of Konrad Adenauer, whose grandfather
excavated the site.
On another day, oblivious to the treasure beneath us, we
walked over to the site of Acrotiri to go for a swim. We visited
Oia, Kamari, Perissa, the monastery of Profitis Ilias, Emborio,
Imerovigli, Firostephani and the volcano. The dramatic beauty
of the island and its extraordinary geologic history had come
as a complete surprise. But very quickly the island became
a favorite and special place for us.
I returned to Santorini the following summer. It was still
largely undisturbed by tourism, although the Atlantis Hotel
was under construction. Then in 1956, the devastating earthquake
struck destroying 85% of the structures on the island.
I returned next in 1961, once more with my brother, our family
doctor and some friends from France. Signs of the destruction
were everywhere, yet the hospitality and the generosity of
the people was unforgettable. There were still few tourists,
but the discovery of the extraordinary character and qualities
of the island was beginning. For those of us who had the privilege
to visit in that era, the changes are sometimes difficult
to accept. The old ways of living and working have all but
disappeared. Yet still, each time we make landfall, we are
overcome with awe at this unique place and its unique people".