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Santorini and the Bollocks of Hercules

Chez Sophie Mrs Tina

The indomitable Mrs Tina in front of the disputed swimming pool

Last night, I was sipping homemade limoncello by the poolside at my hotel at the resort of Kamari, on Santorini, with the landlady, the indomitable Mrs Tina. She was telling me how she built  the designer hotel complex Chez Sophie in nine months from scratch.  ‘My Fourth Child’, she called it. (Of course, we reached this subject after I heard about her other three children.)

I pointed out how the pool fits in architecturally, providing a natural focus for the residents and not a swift last minute add-on.

“It should have been on the opposite side”, she said. “But the Archaeological Institute of Santorini wouldn’t allow it. The hotel stands above an ancient wall, so we couldn’t dig deep enough for the swimming pool.”

Huh?

So Mrs Tina told me the story of Hercules And His Bollocks.

Before anything can be built in Greece, it must get the go-ahead from the Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture. This go-ahead  has oscillated between neglect (until the 1960s), to the compulsory purchase of your land if just an ancient vase was found on it (1970s and 1980s). Today, excavations are made and any ancient objects are removed.  However,  unless you find a new Acropolis, you can build on your land, but not destroy any structures underneath it.

The 1970s and 1980s legislation was particularly galling because dig anywhere in Greece and you will find something. Mrs Tina’s land was below Ancient Thira, so they found something.

Chez Sophie, Santorini

Chez Sophie, Kamari, Santorini

Mrs Tina had decided to pay for the excavations herself because the waiting list for the Ministry to start digging is five years. So she paid the wages for the Ministry’s employees out of her own pocket. The initial estimate was for ten  days. The final toll was forty days and a wage bill of 13,000 euros.

First, they found an ancient Byzantine wall. So far, so good – no new Acropolis. Still, the swimming pool had to be moved because they couldn’t dig deep enough and destroy the wall.

On went the excavations and the wage bill. After  a few weeks, the workers found a statue badly eroded. You could make out it was a man trying to kill something.

“Is it Hercules or Perseus?” pondered the archaeologist, ordering a stop to the excavations.

“Take it to the museum and decide there”, said Mrs Tina, who was thinking of his daily rate.

“No, no this is significant. Is it Hercules or Perseus? There is a cape here which could be Hercules. But what he’s hitting looks like Medusa which means Perseus”.

Tina shut up and walked around like a caged lioness. Everyone’s wage bill was going KER-Ching! in her mind.

“Now, now let me think”, the archaeologist insisted. “Is it Hercules or Perseus?”

After about 45 minutes of this, Mrs Tina exploded.

“It’s Hercules”, she pronounced.

“How did you guess?” asked the archaeologist.

“FROM HIS FRIGGING BOLLOCKS!” came the reply. “Now everyone back to work!”

 

 

 

 

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