The sandy beaches of Frangokastello

Directly in front of Frangokastello Castle is a shallow, very toddler-friendly sandy beach.

For swimming, however, it is better to walk 600 m east to Orthi Ammos (Vertical Sand) Beach with its 20 m high dune-like sand drift. You can discover a rare natural phenomenon here: if you dig in the sand just a few centimetres, with a bit of luck you might come across a vein of water, about 30 to 70 depending on the season, flowing under the sand towards the sea.

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Somehow in 'Frankenburg' (the translation of the place name) you can't shake the feeling of being very close to the deserts of Africa and the Near East. Between mountains over 1000 m high and the Libyan Sea, a flat coastal plain stretches far inland, resembling a brown steppe from the end of June at the latest.

Two small villages lie secluded at the foot of these mountains; only a tiny, strikingly rectangular castle protrudes from the plain itself. It stands almost directly on the seashore above a very wide, shallowly sloping fine sand beach. A few small hotels, guesthouses and tavernas are loosely scattered in the landscape around it, but you don't get the impression of a real settlement. Somehow, one feels almost at the end of the world - especially when Arabic sounds of Libyan or Egyptian stations can still be heard on the car radio.

It is best to park directly at the castle. The Venetians built it in 1371 and modernised it again in 1593; it has been decaying since the 17th century. The outer walls and battlements are well preserved, the interior is empty. There is a beautiful legend about the castle: In some years, around 17 May, huge shadows of the dead are said to use the castle walls as a canvas just after sunrise. We even know who they come from: From 386 Greek insurgents killed here by Ottoman troops on 17 May 1828. Of course, there are no photos of this mirage.

Very close to Orthi Ammos Beach is the ruin of the abandoned monastery of Agios Charalambos. The freely visible remains of the mosaic floor of an early Christian basilica 60 m to the left of the road from the castle towards the east testify to much earlier settlement in this region. They lie in front of the newer chapel of St. Nikitas, which stands very photogenically next to an ancient carob tree.


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