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Fira, Santorini Greece

Clung at the rim of the steep cliff, actually at the middle of the crater of the volcano, Fira, officially Thera, is the capital of the island with approximately 2100 permanent residents.

The town is not typically cycladic. The long period of Venetian domination has left its influence in the architecture of the town and cycladic and venetian architectural features are found side by side in a quite interesting blend. We find here too, the narrow pebble paved streets, the white houses with arches and vaults, small blue windows giving to the sea, the traditional cycladic churches with their light blue cupolas, along with the Catholic cathedral and the women Dominican Monastery.
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Fira is fully touristically developed. In summer, when the island "sinks" from the crowds of people, as the natives use to say, Fira is the spot of attraction of most visitors. Fully equipped with lodgings for all budgets, including a camping, with many taverns and restaurants of any taste, cafes, discos and bars, the town promises comfortable staying, good food and lots of amusement.

Bank facilities, tourist agencies, stores of any kind, a medical center and pharmacy, are also available.

Fira used to be one of the two ports of Santorini (the other was Oia) just a few decades ago. In fact it was not a real port; passengers disembarked in small boats, as the ship could not reach the coast, and arrived to the town on foot or on mules' back, following the zigzagged more or less 800 broad steps climbing the rock. Since the 80's a more comfortable way was founded: the cable car, more known as "teleferique"(the french name), has been installed, a gift of the ship owner Nomicos originated from Santorini (who actually holds some of the ships of the line) .

The cable car running from early morning to late evening in summer has facilitated the life of the people, mainly of the tourists, but the mules are still an attraction and an original experience.
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At the same period, the port has been transferred at the bay Athinios, some 12 km at the south of Fira in order to facilitate access to cars. Athinios is now the main port of Santorini; the ships of the line do not stop at Oia or Fira anymore. Today the old port of Fira is available for yachts, providing good facilities for them.

Three museums are located at Fira: The archaeological Museum lodges finds, mainly pottery from the excavations in ancient Thira, most of them of the Geometric period (800-700 b.C.).

In the Museum of prehistoric Thera one can see prehistoric pottery from all prehistoric periods (neolithic to late Cycladic) found at several parts of the island, cycladic statuettes of marble, and various copper items. There are also plaster reconstructions of wooden furniture coming from the excavations at Akrotiti, as well as samples of plants fossils.

The Folk Museum hosts representations of small manufactures of the past, such as wine press, wine stores etc; a reconstruction of traditional folk houses, furniture and other equipment, give to the visitor an idea of the everyday life of the residents, before the invasion of technology and mass tourism.

Several buildings are also worth seeing: The two Cathedrals, Orthodox and Catholic, are interesting enough, as well as the Dominican Monastery.
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The Ghisi Mansion, today hosting the Cultural center of the town, has an interesting architecture; besides it hosts various artistic exhibitions in summer (painting, sculpture, photography etc), some of them worth seeing.

The most interesting and unique place the visitor must visit is Nea Kammeni, where one can observe the volcanic activity. Totally dry, with a hot soil and the smells of sulphur all around, with sulphur vapors emerging from the soil, it gives the impression of how it is like when you are ...in a volcano. The island is accessible by boat, mainly in summer, when many excursions are organized by the tourist offices at Fira.

If you decide to visit Kammeni, don't forget to take water with you; it is more than necessary. Also, take care of your feet; do not wear sandals, snickers are fully recommended.

Various cultural activities are organized in summer. A local feast ("panighyri") in honor of Prophitis Ilias takes place on the saint's name day, 20th of July. Traditional musicians are coming to the island and play local folk songs; dance and amusement often last till the next morning.

The Municipality organizes cultural and athletic activities, the "Hefaisteia" during August, whereas in September there is a music festival.

Access to the Fira is possible by public bus from Athinios, taxis and private or rented cars. The village is also connected with public buses with all the villages and touristic resorts of the island
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