LAVA AT FIRST SIGHT; Fraser Addecott Is Seduced by the Romantic Volcanic Greek Island of Santorini

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Byline: Fraser Addecott

FIRST, a quick history lesson. It's the year 1650BC and on the island of Strongili, 120 miles off the Greek mainland in the Aegean Sea, the town of Akrotiri is one of the most advanced in the world.

This bustling metropolis is one of the Crete-based Minoan civilisation's most important outposts - a centre for trade from around the world.

Suddenly, there are ominous rumblings from deep underground and a plume of dark smoke rises skywards.

Being part of the most advanced civilisation in the world, the inhabitants aren't daft. They pack up, jump into their ships and get as far away as possible.

What followed was one of the most cataclysmic events in human history.

A huge super-volcanic eruption blew the island apart. As the central part of Strongili collapsed into the ocean, seawater rushed into the newly formed "caldera" creating a huge tsunami, which overwhelmed Crete and destroyed the Minoan civilisation.

What remains of Strongili is now known as the island of Santorini.

It is actually the horseshoe-shaped eastern rim of the crater of the ancient volcano and overlooks the sea-filled caldera to the west. It is known as the island of romance - perfect for me and my wife Esther.

We spent the first half of our visit to this ancient island on the east coast at the small town of Kamari.

Here you'll find a pebble beach overlooked by a long boulevard of shops and many excellent restaurants.

Our accommodation was at La Mer, a relatively new hotel located a short walk from the beach.

It's a small, chic establishment with rooms centred around two swimming pools, a restaurant and a bar. The place retains the feel of traditional Greek architecture, with white-painted walls and domed roofs.

Akrotiri, on the south-west tip, of the island, is the site of what was the main city 4,000 years ago.

It was discovered only in the late 1970s, hidden beneath many feet of volcanic rock. The remains give a very good idea of how advanced life was here, with two and threestorey houses, narrow streets - much like today - shops and even a sewer system.

Homes were decorated with fantastic wall frescoes, such as the now famous two boys boxing and fishermen carrying their catch.

The people of Akrotiri had time to gather up all their belongings - save for a single solid gold bull, discovered in a small trunk and clearly forgotten in the rush to escape. Sadly, if the people of Akrotiri fled to Crete, which is likely, they were all doomed anyway, as life on that island was devastated by the resulting tsunami. …