Reise durch alle Teile des königreiches Griechenland in Auftrag der königl. griechischen Regierung in den Jahren 1834 bis 1837

K.G. Fiedler

2 vols., Leipzig 1841

It was evening and we went to Sillaka, which is not far from here. The local democheront took me in kindly and wanted me to rest from the arduous day, but I hurried to finish the most important investigations in the unsettled weather, refreshed myself with food and drink and visited the Kalafidg cave there today, which can just as well be done at night, since neither the sun nor the moon shines into it. My good landlord warned me very much about this cave, for no one knows its end and whoever reaches it will never return; he did not let himself be stopped from escorting me with a large lantern to the cave, which is located near the village of Sillaka itself.

The cave of Kalafidg on Thermia.

It lies about 1300 p, feet above the surface of the sea, thus in the higher part of the island. At the entrance to the cave, grey, crystalline-grained limestone is exposed in thick beds; it strikes h. 11 and falls 70° to the west and is covered with mica schist in uniform bedding. In this limestone a red-ironstone entrance is exposed, it cuts through the limestone beds towards the south in their strike and dips quite steeply. To the side of the entrance, a small votive niche has been carved out of the rock, in which the protective deity of the cave probably once stood. This passage was hewn out by the ancients with a stolin a few lr. wide, then it breaks up and a large cave opens up, which becomes even larger further on, and extends in its main direction like the passage to the south. This passage, after it has crumbled a few eights from the entrance, continues as a broad passage, the limestone being cut in the direction of the passage by a number of more or less ropey cords. These are as strong as double paper, up to £ inch thick, contain red ironstone, brown ironstone, and iron ochre, which sharply separate from the limestone, or coat the fissure surfaces.

Parallel to its bedding, the limestone is intergrown with layers of yellow iron ochre lying close together, giving it a striped appearance on its weathered outer surfaces, which is most noticeable in the shadows cast by firelight.

The formation of this cave is much more interesting than that of all the caves with which I am acquainted in Greece. From the larger room, which stretches long to the south, a myriad of narrow gorges descend at right angles on both sides, especially on the western side. If one penetrates such a ravine, it soon becomes so narrow that one cannot go any further; it is then only J Lr. (10 inches) wide, but is over 3 Lr. high, and continues with this width so far that one cannot see its end by torchlight. All these ravines open into the great cave, which, as I have said, extends, according to its main length, towards the south; they usually widen a little before they reach the main cave. The limestone looks as if it has been washed away by floods.

On reaching the main cave, one comes to opposing limestone walls; to the southwest, the side gorges lead to somewhat larger spaces as in the previous western foreground part of the cave. A little dripping water collects in a small depression here.

There are no stalactites anywhere in the cave, which proves that the upper limestone beds are well covered and that the cave is therefore only formed in a certain part of the limestone, which, by the way, is regularly layered and otherwise does not show any caves or domes. The temperature in the most distant part of the cave was R. On the eastern side of the main cave there are some large side caves, from which narrow high gorges also lead off at right angles, but not as excellently as in the western part.

The floor of the main cave and the side caves is covered with fine yellowish-brown powdery earth. I dug down in 3 places, in side caves which I considered favourable, to see if bones of Antediluvian animals could be found; in 2 places we got as far as the rock, but found nothing; in the 3rd place, at a depth of 1 Lr. At the third place we could not reach the ground at a depth of 1 lr. and the work was too arduous in the dusty soil.

Not far from the entrance, a quantity of human skulls have been thrown from the churchyard into one of the pre-eastern side caves; I shall speak of this use of the New Greeks in the sequel.

In the report of the Expedit, scientif. de Moree, it is said with regard to the formation of this strange cave: It may well have been the outflow of an underground stream. But it is just in its background that it is most closed and then the water would have to have flowed in from the side gorges opening at right angles into the main cave, the side walls of which admittedly seem to have been washed away as if by violently moving water.

The report goes on to say that these fissures were probably formed by subterranean upheavals in which acidic or sulphuric gas often escaped and thus changed the rock over time. But in the case of uplift, the thickness of limestone that is no longer thick enough to reach the overlying shale would also have burst, but it is very uniformly and coherently overlaid. To give a third hypothesis, the cave would first have to be examined in detail in all its parts, perhaps then it would be possible to come up with a result that is closer to the truth.

It was midnight when I left the cave, and if the fatigue of the day had not returned to me and my people, I would not yet have been able to part with the wonderful cave.

The good Democheronte was very worried about us and had sent a messenger to wait for us wisely at the exit, for it was quiet and dark in the cave and no lively activity could be heard until dull gleams and muffled voices announced our return to him and he was at least able to light our way home with the great lantern.