The Sfentoni Cave in Zoniana in central Crete - Part 2
Life Inside the Cave
Contrary to what you might think at first, caves are not empty of
life. Here, life is in harmony with the special conditions that hold
in the interior: eternal darkness, humidity and very little food.
The creatures that live inside the cave are transparent or colourless,
blind and often microscopic and very delicate.
Also, there are lots of bats living there, a fact which is confirmed
by all the blackened areas at the top of the cave. The black colour
comes from bats' excrements as they hang upside down from the cave's
ceiling. Since a bat consumes its weight in insects on a daily basis,
it creates a huge amount of excrement, which is used as food by the
rest of the creatures that co-exist in the cave.
Other food sources include the remnants of mice food, like acorn
shells; the excrements of mice, and the carcasses of mice or other
small animals that had entered the cave and died before being able
to find the way out.
How Stalactites and Stalagmites Form
Deep inside the cave, only the sound of falling drops relieves the
monotony of the dark and silent caverns. The carbon calcium dissolved
in water, flowing through the cracks of the chalky rocks, is crystallized
around a water drop. This causes a small, fragile "pipe" to
gradually form. When the pipe clogs up, water begins to flow on the
external surface and a larger amount of carbon calcium piles up on
the pipe. This is how the stalactites are formed.
Directly underneath the stalactites, where the drops fall onto the
ground of the cave, the stalagmites are formed, and there are innumerable
ones of various sizes and shapes.
If the water drops contain dissolved metal oxides, both the stalactites
and stalagmites are formed in colour.
Sfentoni's Hole, the Popular Name of the Cave in Zoniana
The cave had been used, since olden times, as a hideout. Once, there
was a guerilla ( hainis ) from Sfakia who had found refuge
there. His name was Sfentonis. One day, as he was sitting by the
entrance cooking a piece of meat, a young man saw him and came close
to ask for some meat.
Sfentonis, in a fit of anger or for fear the man might give him
away, kicked him with his stivani (traditional Cretan boot)
so hard, that he killed him.
Legends of the Cave in Zoniana
There was once a beautiful fairy who used to hide in the cave and
come out at a specific time of the day for a drink of water at a
neighbouring spring. A shepherd had seen her many times, but as soon
as he tried to come close to her, she ran and hid inside the cave.
Driven by lust and curiosity, the shepherd laid in wait for her
outside the cave. When the fairy showed up, he hurled a stone at
her using his fabric sling. The fairy, although injured, managed
to run away and hide in the cave, leaving her bloody handkerchief
by its mouth.
According to another version, the shepherd approached the injured
fairy, and bewitched by her beauty, attempted to kiss her. The fairy
pushed him away and promised to give him a special reel of silk if
he wouldn't harm her. His whole family would be able to spin the
silk, which would never come to an end. The shepherd, however, couldn't
resist kissing her, despite her objections. The fairy then put "the
curse of trembling hands" on him and all his family.
The Little Child's Skeleton
was a tragic incident that took place in the cave, but nobody knows
exactly when. A few decades ago, a little child's skeleton was found
just outside the last hall of the cave. The skeleton was fully covered
with chalky material, indicating that it had been in the cave for
No information concerning the child's death is available. It is
possible he might have entered the cave, became trapped in its labyrinthine
forks, and never managed to find the way out.
Then again, it might well be the skeleton of the adolescent, who
was killed by Sfentonis !
NOTE . This article was based on the book "Sfentonis
Hole" written by Caloust Paragamian, and was published by the Cultural
Club of Zoniana. You can buy this marvelous book at the reception
stand in Zoniana. The pictures included also belong to Caloust Paragamian,
except for those which are Copyright of www.explorecrete.com website.
ExploreCrete has the author's and the publisher's permission to use
printed and photographic material.