• A vanished village

Karydaki, the vanished village

Karydaki’ used to be a village in the area that is nowadays known as the commune of Vlatos. This village no longer exists in the map and it is now a rural location. The area of the commune of Vlatos, is one of the most productive of ‘enia choria’ or else ‘nine villages’. It captures a considerably large area of land, rich in olive trees, inside which the neighborhoods of the village are sparsely spread. The present story does not refer to the village of Vlatos as a whole, but to the forgotten village, ‘Karydaki’, which in English means ‘a small walnut’.

What the village was named after, I have not heard of. There are no walnut trees in the area, neither have older people told us that there used to be. ‘Karydaki’ is located towards the North. It is an area surrounded by hills and low mountains. Its overall shape, at a glance, looks like a walnut shell. Perhaps it is this distinctive shape that gave the village its name. The surrounding low mountains are rich in vegetation, full of dense arbutus forests. Its low-lying area ( the flat part) is full of olive trees that are considered to be of the best quality in Vlatos in a very convenient location, being protected by all kinds of weather.

Karydaki’ used to be a small beautiful village with three neighborhoods. Its residents used to make ends meet with income coming from the olive oil and livestock farming. Now, ‘Karydaki, as a village, does not exist. It is an area that belongs to the people of Vlatos.

This is how this wonderful little village was destroyed:

During the revolution of 1821*, Crete rebelled as well and many armed people from the ‘nine villages’, including residents of Vlatos and ‘Karydaki’, went to Kasteli to help its residents fight the Turkish people. Indeed, the Greeks entered Kasteli and conquered the fortress, which was full of Turkish soldiers. At that time, an epidemic of plague had appeared and the vast majority of the Turkish of the fortress had died of it. The locals started the loot without knowing that the Turks suffered from the plague. Thus, when the Turkish conquered Kasteli and the fortress again, the residents of Vlatos and ‘Karydaki’, had to leave, taking the plague with them to their houses, together with the loot. ‘Karydaki’ was the place where this terrible disease literally nested and managed to completely destroy it. It was then, that many neighbourhoods of Vlatos were also ruined: ‘Saint Konstantinos’, ‘Vathyrima’, ‘Tsikalospito’ and ‘Tsikniarospito’.

I am citing here what my long gone grandmother was telling us about the last days of the residents of ‘Karydaki’.

‘In the end, there were only four people left alive. Every day, they buried one or two. Nobody who lived in Vlatos dared to go close to ‘Karydaki’. Every day, one resident was going until ‘Lakoudia’ neighbourhood, calling the people from ‘Karydaki’. Someone answered: ‘three of us are still alive!’ or ‘Michalis died yesterday’. 2 days later, someone from the south part of the village went back and called them. The voice of the last one left alive, Antonis, was barely heard: ‘I’m the only one left, I buried all of them, me, the ill-fated! Only when you call my name and not hear me speak, will you know that I am dead as well. None of you should come here, though. Don’t you dare bury me. The plague will devastate you all.’ The next day, two relatives of his, went close to ‘Karydaki’. They called and called but they received no response. Then, they realized Antonis was dead as well.

They returned to the village with the bad news. Antonis, the last resident of Karydaki died as well as the others. They had some meetings to discuss what they should do and the majority believed that nobody should go back there. However, despite the danger, four residents of the south part of the village decided to go to ‘Karydaki’ and bury the unfortunate man. They digged a hole in the ground near the church of Saint George and then they cut some wood in the shape of hooks. They used the hooks to pull the man on some wooden board and then, by pulling the board with the hooks, they drew him close to the hole and buried him, without touching him. They prayed and quickly ran away without telling anything to anybody, to avoid creating further fears.

They kept this secret for 2 years

They kept this secret for 2 years, and then one day during a memorial service that the people of the south part of the village had organized to honour the residents of ‘Karydaki’, they decided to reveal it. Meanwhile, the disease had left. Since then and for many years that followed, nobody approached ‘Karydaki’. They did not collect the olives and they did not even pass by the dead village. Fear was prevailing in the area and ghosts were wandering in the ruins. Such terrible superstitions were rooted in the hearts of the residents of Vlatos. However, as years went by, a calm man bought the area of ‘Karydaki’ from its heirs and became a large landowner.

Nowadays ‘Karydaki’ in its largest part belongs to three brothers, Stratis, Michalis and Thanasis Michelakis. They have utilized the area and have also renovated the church of Saint George. In this church, a nice feast takes place every year, the ‘karydakiano feast’, where the memory of the residents of ‘Karydaki’ is also honoured.

*The siege of the fortress of Kasteli ended in May,1823, with the surrender of the Turkish soldiers. According to the story written by Michalis Anastasakis, the only unfortunate event that happened to the Cretans during the surrendering of Kasteli, was that they caught the plague from the Turks, which was spread and killed many of the former. It is an infectious disease, which was called ‘a black pan’ by the elderly of that time.

The information about ‘Karydaki’ was sent by Giannis Papadimitrakis to the local blog ”sadentrepese” and was published in the magazine ‘ΠΑΛΜΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΥΠΑΙΘΡΟΥ’ which was published by the cultural association of Vlatos in the years 1972-1975. It was translated in English by inkissamos.gr.

Vlatos is a typical, small & beautiful, Cretan village. You will probably drive through on your way to Elafonissi beach.