|Image: an 18th century engraving of the cave of Antiparos.|
Like Greece's archaeological treasures, its caves were first explored by foreign visitors. At this time, during the nineteenth century, the locals had no idea about exploring or researching, the country was poor and rural. The industrial nations, like England and Germany soon had several rich families, which became rich as an result of the industrial revolution. Some of their members started to fill their free time with cultural and scientific work. A very good example is Heinrich Schliemann, who was a merchant and spent his money by searching for the places mentioned in the books of Homer. He discovered Mykene, Tirene, Troja and others.
Probably the first known speleologic exploration was done by the German traveller and geologist Fiedler, who visited Katafiki Cave on Kythnos in 1841. Later, cave visits were made by organized walking clubs and mountaineers followed.
This changed, when in 1950 the Ελληνικηζ Σπηλαιολογικη Εταιριαζ (Hellenic Speleologic Society) was founded by Ioannis Petrocheilos and Anna Petrocheilou. Both were extraordinary speleologists and scientists. Anna Petrocheilou was Greek's first female mountaineer. She was the first woman to climb several mountains in Greece, the Alps and all over the world. They dominated the Greek speleology for many decades.
The objective of the Hellenic Speleologic Society is the systematic exploration and study of caves. Today the Greek cave catastre contains more than 10,000 caves.
Anna Petrocheilou mentions in her book about Greek caves about 100 show caves. But she includes all caves which are open to the public, even if they are not developed. A more recent guess would be about 30 tourist caves, with one third being real show caves and two thirds being rather wild caves, often without electric light and without safe path.
Greece is an interesting country, but I had some troubles when travelling there. So I tried to collect some typical sides of the country, not to embarrass the locals, but in the hope it might help other travellers. However, it is just a small explanatory text, as this site is primarly dedicated to caves, not to travelling.
There were three things I had many problems with:
Text by Jochen Duckeck (2002). With kind permission.
After all this a last word on the written Greek. The Greeks use their own alphabet, which is similar, or better the grandfather of the kyrillic alphabet. A Greek monk used this alphabet when he developed the written Russian. If you ever learned some maths you may already know the φ, ρ or σ.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to read for foreigners, you feel almost illiterate, even if you know the characters, you are not able to read fluent. The Greek know about this problem and most signs are written in both, Greek and Latin letters. Good maps also give always both versions.
We tried to do the same on our site. So all cave names are given first in the greek alphabet. Then they are written in Latin letters and then they are translated. The navigation uses the greek names written in Latin letters. This is unfortunately a bit problematic: there are often several ways to write greek words in Latin letters. The greek letters have different phonetic equivalents so there may be different ways to "translate" them. We tried to use the most common one and only one version on the whole site.