Typical Cycladic towns comprised of small cubist homes, tightly packed against each other as they blanket the irregular contours of the landscape are the images many people identify with Greece.
But in Santorini, the cycladic cubist homes take a whole new meaning as they cling precariously to the edge of the largest volcanic caldera in the world, which is filled with the azure blue waters of the Aegean sea. The acute drop of the cliff traverses down from the town's edge all the way to the sea level, abruptly exposing hundreds of thousands of years worth of earth strata while the inhabitants of the towns are treated to unparalleled views of the Aegean.
What makes Santorini unique is the coexistence of grand geologic time as it contrasts with the perpetual ephemeral human activity. The geologic history of the volcano dwarfs the considerable human presence on the island that reaches back to prehistory, and which in other places would have acquired center stage.
Santorini is an island of extremes. The volcanic explosion that some say destroyed the Minoan civilization, was one of the largest in human history and the views it left behind are some of the most spectacular on earth. Tight clusters of bright, geometric human dwellings flow atop organic, dark igneous rock formations in a peculiar balancing act against the blue horizon of the Aegean.
The eyes can rest on many landscapes; geologic, cultural, spiritual, or architectural, but they always return to the same point of reference prehistoric man gazed upon: the infinite horizon of the azure-blue sea as it appears a bit more distant and mysterious from the edge of the volcano.
Santorini is a constant reminder of man's existence in perspective with nature's longevity, and the ability of culture to flourish despite the harshness and dangers of life on the volcano.
Every square centimeter of Thera speaks of time. Time eternal, in the form of rock formations and dramatic terra-forming, and Time ephemeral in the form of little cubist clusters of homes hanging precariously at the edge of the sleeping volcano.
Even human civilization that reaches back 3500 years to prehistory is exposed as ephemeral in Santorini!
On Thera one anticipates the tremendous forces of nature that tend to emphasize our mortal fragility a bit more than usual. A reminder that makes the present moment even more meaningful, its enjoyment even more imperative, and its existence a bit more exhilarating.