Coming up at the end of May visitors to Crete will have the chance to witness first hand the mysticism that makes this island in the Aegean so special. Each year at this time the ghosts of the brave Drosoulites (“dew shadows”) appear on the beachof one of the island’s most rugged regions as shadowy figures. These aparitions from the distant past are said to appear with the morning dew, at least this is the legend of the valiant defenders of Frangokastelo Fortress who fought the Turks.
The year was 1828, and 600 Greeks under the command of one Hatzimichalis Dalianis stood off an army of 8,000 Turks in a fight to the last man. In the style of the Texicans at the famous Alamo, these Drosoulites sacrificed their lives at the 14th-century Venetian fortification at the mountainous and sparsely populated Sfakiá region of the island. They resisted for more than one week but lost with 338 dead and most of the rest wounded including Dalianis. The Turk aggressors lost more than 800 according to the story.
At the end of the battle, it is said, the bodies of the Drosoulites remained un-buried until a strong wind shifted sand from the beach at Orthi Ammos and covered the bodies. Many visitors tot he spot have claimed that they have seen Drosoulites and, according to scientific explanation, these shadows are caused by mirage due to sun light diffraction in the morning dew. However, the locals believe that because the “ghosts” are harmless ghosts that have never hurt anyone. Still, a story of a squad of German soldiers opening fire on the ghosts during WW II adds credibility to the Cretan contention the apparitions are real.
The shadowy specters are visible from the valley from at least one kilometer, but while many have tried to explain their presence away as natural phenomenon, there is still no accepted explanation for these “dew shadows” as yet. It is interesting to note that back in 1890 a transient Turkish army mistook the images for more rebels and fled the scene. Even today the area of Sfakiá is notorious for the harshness of the environment and for the rugged and even pugilistic people who live there.
For those who would like to visit this part of Crete, Orthi Ammos is about 55 kilometers, or one hour and fifteen minutes southwest of Rethymno through some of the island’s most beautiful scenery. While Crete has a good bus system, travelers are much better off renting a car to travel to these more remote areas. Suggested accommodations include; Flisvos Hotel, Hotel Orthi Ammos, and Taverna Mylos, to name a few.