July 6, 2014

1128 GREECE (South Aegean) - The traditional architecture of Oia, in Santorini


Located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200km southeast of Greece's mainland, Santorini, classically Thera, and officially Thira, is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name. It is essentially what remained after an enormous volcanic eruption (which occurred some 3600 years ago) that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110km to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7km, is surrounded by 300m high, steep cliffs on three sides.

The traditional architecture of Santorini is similar to that of the other Cyclades islands, with low-lying cubical houses, made of local stone and whitewashed or limewashed with various volcanic ashes used as colours. The unique characteristic is the common utilisation of the hypóskapha: extensions of houses dug sideways or downwards into the surrounding pumice. These rooms are prized because of the high insulation provided by the air-filled pumice, and are used as living quarters of unique coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. These are premium storage space for produce, especially for wine cellaring: the Kánava wineries of Santorini. When strong earthquakes struck the island in 1956, half the buildings were completely destroyed and a large number suffered repairable damage. Most of the population of Santorini had to emigrate to Piraeus and Athens.

An example of whitewashed houses in complete harmony with its volcanic scenery is the beautiful Oia (previously Apano Meria), which is known for its neoclassical mansions, small churches and the narrow cobbled paths and colourful houses. It is built on the steep slope of the caldera and the houses and restaurants are built into niches carved into the candelabra on the seaward side. There are narrow passageways and a central square. The idyllic surroundings of the town have a complex of white washed blue domed churches and charming, traditional Cycladic houses and cave houses that are carved into the rock face on top of the cliff. An explanation of the white and blue buildings is that during the Ottoman rule of Greece, which lasted for over 400 years, Greeks were not allowed to fly their white flag, so the locals used this method to defy authorities.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series The 100th Anniversary of the First Ascent of Mount Olympus, about which I wrote here.

References
Santorini - Wikipedia
Oia, Greece - Wikipedia
About the architecture of Santorini, Greece - greeka.com

Senders: Miruna Haidu and Tiberiu Ion
sent from Oia (Soth Aegean / Greece), on 11.06.2014 

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