|THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNSET OIA, SANTORINI, GREECE|
by Willard Manus
It's an earthly spectacle, a nocturnal rite of passage.
It begins about 6.30
PM in this famed Cycladic village of Oia (pronounced Eeyah) perched atop
a thousand-foot-high slab of red volcanic rock
Once settled, they
break out their photographic arsenal-- cameras, big and small; movie and
video recorders; digital camcorders; lithium batteries;
Now, however, the sun has gone from scourge to blessing, a force no longer to be deflected and decried but welcomed. Once upon a time the Greeks made obeisance to Helios, the sun-god; today it's the tourists who worship him, in pagan fashion of course. Slurping from plastic bottles of water and soda pop, wiping the sweat from their eyes, the tourists gaze transfixed at the sun as it begins its slow descent into the sea, turning from yellow to red behind a veil of mist.
Cameras are aimed and repositioned, shutters click and whir. And when the sun finally disappears from view, leaving behind only a huge crimson smear of sky, the tourists, as if on cue, break into applause and cheers. "Aaaah," they cry, like ecstatic lovers, "aaaahhhh!"
"What is it that makes them act like this?" wanted to know Triantaphyllos Pitsikalis, owner of the Chelidonia Hotel, where we were staying. "Haven't they ever seen a damned sunset before?"
Santorini is a starkly
dramatic island, though, and that possibly accounts for the over-reaction
to its sunsets. It was the home, four thousand years ago, of
Over the centuries, the island began to be repopulated. Historical accounts of Thira (Santorini's old name) mixed fact with legend; there are some, for example, who believe the island is Plato's lost continent of Atlantis; while others have found in it the source for the biblical parting of the Red Sea.
Today the ruins of
Santorini, especially those located along Akrotiri, once the site of a
prosperous and sophisticated city, draw visitors from around the
Akrotiri and its archaeological
treasures, the mountaintop monastery of Profitis Elias and the bustling
city of Thira are the main attractions. But