Crete - abandoned villages & lost worlds...


I have just returned from a two-week trip to Crete: a new island for me.. and vast..with huge mountains, villages hanging on to a forgotten way of life and a huge tick on my bucket list: Sfendili. The day I visited here was a hot and dusty one, starting very early in the morning with a hire car I packed all my gear and a rudimentary map of side roads and strange symbols. I knew Sfendili was very close to the village of Avdou - surprisingly 20 minutes from Hersonissos coast where I was based at the hotel yet seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I had a lot of 'fun' trying to find the abandoned and seasonally-flooded village, how could i miss a whole village on the edge of the lake eh?.. but I was so excited at the prospect of having this whole place to myself to photograph I drove right past the viewing lay-by opposite the village where you can get a fabulous view of it.. slowly sinking into the depths... The foundation of the village dates back to 1577. It is a medieval village with a long history and rich culture. Within the village, there is a Byzantine church from the 14th century with impressive fresco's, but the government hasn't ensured its protection.. and when I finally found the correct road which takes you countless dusty bends to reach it ( untold thanks to Assargiotakis olive factory in Avdou for the wonderful directions - and the oil! ) I discovered several attempts to block anyone from gaining access - from signs warning of surveillance to a hastily-erected barbed wire fence around the whole site.. but then... a gap in the fence and I wasn't going to travel over 1800 miles and miss this opportunity was I?.
So... negotiating thorns, twisted olive trees and the odd snake I ventured down into the village. Throughout my years taking photographs of eerie places I have always struggled to convey my feelings in enough words to do a location enough justice and here.. in this sad, abandoned and slowly sinking town I stopped for a few minutes and stared in wonder at the utter desolation... I felt as though I had stumbled onto the set of a science fiction film.. or onto the pages of a Ray Bradbury book... I was utterly stunned.. and completely alone. Behind me, down at the bottom of the hill was the vast expanse of water.. thanks to the building of the Aposelemis Dam.. and facing me... the main street - still remarkably intact with the beautiful tiles and stonework. Houses and workplaces were scattered over various small streets branching off the main road in various states.. one had suffered a complete roof collapse and I had to climb of this to walk to the water's edge. On arriving at the lake ( which - due to a severely-hot July was at a very low level and had exposed the houses at the bottom of the hill ) I noticed a single chair... placed looking out onto the water and the magnificent mountain range beyond... I had a bout of complete despair here... which smothered any excitement of the endless photographic opportunities and for a while I had completely forgotten why I came, such was the atmosphere. After all - the villagers were forced to leave.. with what ever they could take with them.. and leave behind their homes.. and for some.. the place of birth.
Long shadows cast weird and wonderful shapes in the early morning sun.. the temperature had already hit the high seventies and I wasn't going to stand around in the blistering heat so out came the camera... and for a few hours I recorded this fantastic place....

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