During this time this picturesque piece of earth (one cannot but wonder what the sunsets looked like back then) was the home of a flourishing colony of the Minoans – a mysterious people whose civilisation was born on the neighbouring island of Crete. The volcano never failed to remind the people of its existence. That is why, when a series of powerful earthquakes began to shake the island, its residents lost no time leaving it.
The volcano erupted with a long-pent-up ferocity. Its throat spewed 100 cubic metres of stone and ash, which buried the central town of Akrotiri with its three-storied houses, fine frescoes and the first-ever lavatories fitted with running water. The island and everything in a 50- to 60-kilometre radius was destroyed. A tsunami rose across the eastern Mediterranean. The effect of the eruption was monumental: Chinese chroniclers noted that around 1618 BC the change of the ruling dynasties went on amid unheard-of phenomena: a yellow fog, a muddy sun, July frost, famine; five crops of rice dried out.
The eruption left indelible traces not only in geology but also in the collective memory of the Mediterranean peoples. It is perhaps this story that underlies the Ancient Greek myth of the war between the Olympian gods and the giants, as well as that of the sinking of Atlantis.
Five hundred years were necessary for the people to decide to return back on the island. They haven't left since. What's more, they have been using the fruitful volcanic soil on the island to grow cotton, fruits and grapes, which they used as material for an excellent wine.
The island got its current name, Santorini, in the 13th Century, when it was conquered by the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade. The name means St Irina.
During the Franks' rule Oia appeared, perched on the steep cliffs of the northern "horn" of the crescent-like island. In the first centuries of its existence it received protection from pirate attacks by means of mighty fortress walls. They hid the usual labyrinth, common for the Cyclades, of flat-roofed houses and blue-domed churches.
There are dozens such settlements in across the archipelago. And Oia can hardly claim any authenticity – in the 1950s a powerful earthquake destroyed half the place. Nevertheless, it is the most known and loved townlet of the entire archipelago. And sunsets are not the only reason.
Oia was carefully restored and became a symbol of all things one can associate with the name "Cycladеs" and ideas such as "cosiness" and "desire to stay here for ever." It is so photogenic that one must be a really lousy photograph to make a bad picture; but despite its popularity it keeps sustaining its atmosphere of a quiet provincial place in which you know the given names of the grandchildren of all your neighbours and can exchange with them salt and dried marjoram on a regular basis.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers