Sunday, December 20, 2009


Dear Friends,
Below is a list of hotels and apartments for those of you who are interested in attending the Crete Reunion to be held in the little village of Amoudara (six kilometers to the west of Irakion) beginning on August 22, 2010 and lasting through August 28, 2010. Some of the hotels and apartments have web sites, some have only E-Mail addresses, and others only have telephone numbers or street addresses.

(1) Capsis-Astoria Hotel: Four star hotel located in downtown Iraklion (Heraklion) Web site:

(2) Moevenpick Hotel: This is a five star, Swiss-owned hotel located at the eastern end in the village of Amoudara. Web site:

(3) Creta Beach Hotel & Bungalows: This is a four star hotel located at the eastern end of Amoudara. Web site:

(4) Agapi Beach: Four star hotel located at the eastern end of Amoudara. Web site:

(5) Santa Marina Resort Hotel: This is either a four or five star hotel. Located near the eastern end of Amoudara. Web site:

(6) Marilena Hotel: This is a three star hotel located slightly toward the eastern end of Amoudara. E-Mail address: Unknown. Web site address, unknown. Telephone numbers: 2810 254312 and 2810 250672.

(7) Sun Hotel: Stars, unknown. Located in Amoudara.

(8) EMI Apartments: Stars, unknown. Located in Amoudara.

(9) Gorgona Hotel: Three stars. Located in Amoudara.

(11) La Stella Apartments: Stars, unknown. Located in the middle of Amoudara. Website: Unknown. E-Mail address:

(12) Uncle George Hotel: Stars, unknown. Located in the middle of Amoudara. E-Mail address: Web site, unknown.

(13) Petousis Apartments: Stars, unknown. Located in middle of Amoudara.

(14) Roxani Hotel: One star. Located in the middle of Amoudara. E-Mail: Web address: (was unable to go to this web site). Alternate web site:

(15) Castro Hotel: Stars, unknown. Located toward the western end of Amoudara.

(16) Hotel Eleni Palace: Stars, unknown. Located toward the western end of Amoudara. E-Mail address:

(17) Saloustros Hotel: Stars, unknown. Located at the west end of Amoudara. E-Mail address: Unknown. Web site: Unknown. Telephone: 2810 822653. Fax: 0810 822262. (This is the apartment complex that my friends from Holland stayed at).

(18) Arhodiko Hotel: Stars, unknown. Located at the west end of Amoudara. Web site:

(19) Dolphin Bay Holiday Resort: Four stars. Located at the west end of Amoudara. Web site:

(20) Lambi Hotel: Three stars. Located at the west end of Amoudara. E-Mail address: Unknown. Web site: Unknown. Telephone numbers: (081) 821124, 821915, 821916, 821917.

Check out “Trip Advisor” for reviews on the above hotels at or or

Also, be advised that even though most of the above hotels offer air-conditioning, there is often a daily surcharge for its usage; usually about 4 to 6 Euros per day! Also, the listing of the above hotels/apartments should in NO way be interpreted as an endorsement by me. I have simply attempted to provide a varied choice of hotels/apartments in the vicinity of Amoudara for the Iraklion Air Station reunion in 2010. Caveat emptor!
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",
Bob Armistead

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Dear Friends,

For those of you who are interested in attending the reunion on Crete, scheduled from August 22, 2010 through August 28, 2010, as mentioned in an earlier post, I would suggest that you immediately submit the necessary paperwork to obtain a current U.S. Passport. If you already have a valid U.S. Passport, or have already submitted the necessary paperwork to obtain a U.S. Passport, then I would suggest that you began your search for airline reservations. Usually, a good rule of thumb to follow is: The earlier you purchase your airline tickets, the less expensive they usually are. I purchased my airline tickets for next summer's Crete Reunion just last month.

I am going to provide a few sources that you might use to search for inexpensive airline tickets:

I am sure there are other sources on the internet to search for discount airline tickets. Just be careful and make sure that you follow all directions Also, when looking at the various connecting flights between cities, make sure there is a sufficient time between flights to allow for delays, to pass through passport control, and go through customs. You might also want to consider purchasing flight insurance to protect yourself against losses due to cancellations, loss of baggage, illness, political strife, etc.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Dear Friends,

Late last year when Gary McPherson and I were exchanging E-Mails on Cretestock Yahoo Group, we both expressed a desire to meet on Crete during the summer of 2010. Since then, several others have also expressed an interest in joining Gary and me on Crete next summer for a little mini-reunion. In order to really get the ball rolling, Gary and I have selected a date during which the reunion will be held. Any of you who would like to join us are invited to join Gary and me for a little impromptu, spontaneous reunion on Crete beginning on Sunday, August 22, 2010 and ending Saturday evening, August 28, 2010. As it stands now, we will probably all meet in the little village of Amoudara which is just six kilometers west of Iraklion. Naturally, we will gather for lunches and dinners, and at least one trip back to the old base for a tour and perhaps even a picnic and an opportunity for a swim at the base beach, a trip into downtown Iraklion, and probably a trip back to Knossos. We may also plan some little side trips to St. Nikolaos, Chania, or Matala.

This reunion is not about the flight to which you were assigned, whether you were a career airman or a one-termer, if you were a dependent or not, what rank you held, or what job you performed while stationed on Iraklion Air Station. But, it IS all about a common love for Crete, Iraklion Air Station, wonderful memories of times past, and those with whom we were all so privileged to have served. Even though the changes to Crete have been monumental since we have all left, we must also face the reality that all of us have changed as well...not that we have just grown older, but hopefully we have grown wiser and much more appreciative of our collective past!

I recently returned from Crete on October 31, 2009 after a three month vacation there. While there I collected quite a bit of information relating to hotels and small apartment buildings in anticipation of the 2010 reunion. As I receive responses to this post, I will share the web site addresses, E-mail addresses, and other information pertaining to hotels, apartments, and airline booking information with you on Cretestock Yahoo Group and here on my blog, BOB'S THREE MONTH CRETAN ADVENTURE. However, I must emphasize that it will be the responsibility of each attendee to make his/her airplane reservations, and hotel or apartment reservations. I should also point out that the information I provide regarding hotels or apartments, should in NO way be construed or interpreted as an endorsement of any hotel or apartment.

If you are interested in joining Gary and me on Crete during August of 2010, please respond accordingly by posting a comment at the bottom of this entry. As I receive responses to this post, I will release additional information on this blog and on Cretestock Yahoo Group, regarding the reunion in 2010.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead
Charlie Flight
6931st. Security Group
Dec. 1968 – Aug. 1971

Friday, October 30, 2009


Dear Friends,

Well, my time here on Crete is once again winding down. Just as I did last year, I am already starting to feel a little melancholy about leaving. I posted a comment on one of the eariler entries on my blog in which I stated that my time here has been much like an affair, with Crete as my mistress!

This year I have visited Iraklion numerous times, dropped by the American base to photograph the AFRTS building, traveled to Chania to buy a traditional Cretan knife, journeyed to the little mountain village of Anogia, hiked the distance of the Samaria Gorge where I broke my toe, trekked to Matala where I photographed the caves (Roman tombs), and just kicked back and relaxed down at Popi's beachside taverna in the little village of Amoudara. I haven’t traveled as far or done as much as I had hoped; I think being laid up for the two weeks with my broken toe had a lot to do with that. is the question: Was it all worth it? To sum it up in just one word, the answer would have to be a resounding, “Yes!”

The friendships that were established last year with my Cretan friends have been reinforced by this year’s visit. And, I have made new friends from Germany, England, Holland and Belgium. I have also had the pleasure of crossing paths momentarily with people whom I have met on a bus or in a taverna - people whom I probably will never see again, but during those few moments that our lives have intersected, I have come away feeling a little richer for having met them, even if but for a brief period of time. Sometimes I feel that our lives are much more affected by the people we meet, than the places we visit along the way, and perhaps that’s the way it should be. People leave impressions on our hearts, while the places we visit leave only shadows!

I will leave my apartment and Amoudara this evening at about 10:00 P.M. and head for the Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport at the eastern edge of Iraklion. Even though my flight from Crete to Athens doesn’t depart until 8:00 A.M. tomorrow morning, I will need to be at the airport at about 6:00 A.M., which would require that I get up no later than 4:30 A.M., leave my apartment and catch a taxi to the airport (the bus system doesn’t run that early). And, if I were to oversleep (which I have been known to do), then I would be up a $#i! creek!!! So, it’s just easier to take the bus to the airport tonight, and doze on one of the benches inside the airport, until time to board my plane tomorrow morning.

And, lastly, I have enjoyed sharing my adventures on OUR island of Crete once again with the commentaries and my photographs on my blog. My goal has been to both inform and entertain you – if I have done either, than I shall consider my blog to have been a success!

Thanks for reading my blog and for you comments! And, as always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

Bob Armistead enjoys one final Mythos beer at Popi's Taverna.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Dear Friends,

What follows is a collection of miscellaneous photographs taken in downtown Iraklion as well as in the little seaside village of Amoudara. Because I am making preparations to leave Crete, I don’t have time to place captions beneath the photographs, but as soon as I have returned to my home in Tennessee and recovered from “jet lag”, you can be assured that I will post captions beneath all of the photos. Thanks for your patience.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
Bob Armistead

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Market street as it looks today. Notice how the street is paved with either marble or granite slabs. In in 60's and 70's it was a dirt & gravel path.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Loggia on 25th of August Street in downtown Iraklion. Built in 1628-1630 by the Venetians.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Morosini Fountain (Lions Square) at night in downtown Iraklion.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Church of Saint Minas at night in downtown Iraklion.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The village of Rogdia as seen at night across the bay from Amoudara.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Full moon over Amoudara.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Full moon over Amoudara.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Full moon over Amoudara.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: A red flower just outside my apartment on Naxou Street in Amoudara.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: A bed of flowers adjacent to the La Stella Apartments on Naxou Street in Amoudara.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: A flower (unknown type) adjacent to the La Stella Apartments on Naxou Street in Amoudara.
uPPER RIGHT PHOTO: A flower (unknown type) adjacent to the La Stella Apartments on Naxou Street in Amoudara.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The west end of Popi's Taverna at the end of Naxou Street in Amoudara.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Popi's Taverna: The Crossroads of the World!!!

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Popi Mavraki relaxes during a brief break in business at her little taverna at the end of Naxou Street.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Bob Armistead enjoys a cold Mythos Beer at Popi's Taverna just a few days before his departure back to the USA.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: A rainbow over the Aegean Sea as seen from Popi's Taverna in Amoudara.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: A rainbow over the Aegean Sea as seen from Popi's Taverna in Amoudara.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Dear Friends,

Do you remember back in the 1960’s when Life Magazine ran an article about hippies living in the caves at the little seaside village of Matala on the south coast of Crete? Of course, the caves weren’t actually caves at all; they were catacombs or graves for Romans who had died on Crete. I’m not sure if they were Roman soldiers or simply Roman citizens, but, at any rate, they were entombed in these catacombs above the beach at Matala, and in the 1960’s hippies had moved into these “caves” to live their idyllic lives! I’m sure that many of you not only remember the article that documented the hippies who lived there, but also probably ventured there to witness firsthand those who lived in the caves.

Well, on Sunday, October 18, 2009, I decided to travel to Matala to visit the village and photograph the caves or the catacombs. It was a beautiful day when I pulled out of Bus Station B which is located on the west side of Iraklion just before passing through the Venetian walls. I bought my round trip ticket from Iraklion to Matala and back for 14.40 Euros ($21.41 based on today’s exchange rate). I left Iraklion at 11:30 A.M. and at about 1:00 P.M., the bus pulled into Matala. I was expecting throngs of people, but I suppose this being October, the tourist season had begun to wind down. I wandered through the narrow streets of the little village of Matala, ate lunch at a small taverna, and then ventured toward the beach and the “caves” (catacombs). I was a little amazed at the color of the water – it was a much lighter shade of blue and appeared much clearer than the water at the little village of Amoudara on the north coast of Crete where I have been staying since the first of August. Children played at the water’s edge, letting the waves chase them up onto the sand as the watchful eyes of parents kept a close vigil on them. Others lay on the sand seeking to obtain that last little bit of suntan before fall chased them from their solar pursuit. And, others were just content to lie on the beach watching others...lying on the beach! There was a narrow boardwalk that led across the sand toward the caves, and situated along either side of the boardwalk were small tables set up where young people in their twenties with long hair, beards, sandals, and a somewhat unkempt appearance were selling beaded necklaces, bracelets, and other assorted bodily ornaments made from leather, shells, polished stones and anything else they could string together. I got the impression they were attempting to pass themselves off as hippies. But, alas, they were about forty years too late!!!

I photographed the caves from varying distances as I approached them. As I got nearer, I noticed a sign which read, “Roman Cemetery”, and pointed toward the caves. I began to scale and climb the rocks toward those caves (catacombs) located at the lowest level of the rock walls. I poked my head inside and looked. I was impressed! I had never before seen anything like that! I began to take photographs, almost as if I were afraid the caves might suddenly disappear! Then I ventured inside of one, then another and yet still another. I began to imagine that the grave in which Jesus Christ was placed after his crucifixion might have looked similar to these. The stone “bed” carved out of the rock where the person would lie, even had a stone “pillow” where his head would rest, slightly elevated. I wanted to climb even higher, but my broken toe protested vehemently! I relented and began my decent to the very bottom of the rock wall. I was amazed there appeared to be some caves which had not yet been opened. I couldn’t imagine archaeologists not wanting to satisfy their curiosity and leaving several of the tombs unopened. But, then I thought that perhaps some would look upon the act of opening a sealed tomb as an act of desecration. Anyway, even I began to wonder what lay just inside the walls of those which were unopened!

After taking numerous photos of the caves, the village, the little harbor and beach, I decided to head toward “Red Beach”. I had seen a sign earlier with an arrow pointing upward toward a little narrow concrete path that read, “Red Beach”. I didn’t know what “Red Beach” was, but I wanted to find out. After all, I was in Matala and didn’t know when, or if, I would ever return. If I wanted to find out what and where “Red Beach” was, now was my opportunity. I began my ascent...up, up, up. The concrete path gave way to a stone path and the ascent continued. Eventually, the stone path disintegrated into loose rocks. After about twenty minutes, I found myself well above Matala. I retrieved my Nikon D200 and took several photographs of the village, the beach, and, of course, the caves. As I continued making my way up, my broken toe began to object to the repeated abuse to which it was being subjected. I looked off in the distance and saw others far ahead who were still climbing and realized that “Red Beach” was perhaps a little too distant for me to visit in my current physical condition. I relented and began my descent. If a toe can possibly smile, I think mine was grinning like a pig in slop! Once back down in the village of Matala, I sat down on a bench – I was hot and tired. I was also just a little disappointed that I was unable to satisfy my natural curiosity by venturing on up and over the mountain to visit “Red Beach”. “Maybe next time”, I thought to myself. Of course, I realize there may never be a “next time”.

I caught the last bus out of Matala bound for Iraklion at 5:30 P.M., and at a little past 7:00 P.M. the bus rolled back into Bus Station B. In a short time, Bus #6 to Amoudara pulled up and I boarded it for the trip back to my apartment. In twenty minutes I was back in my apartment and on my computer searching Google for “Red Beach in Matala”...and I found it! seems that Red Beach is a “clothing optional” beach. I think that is a fancy way of saying it is a nudist beach. In other words, everybody runs around nekked!!! Maybe it was a good thing that I was unsuccessful in my attempt to go there. Those on the beach may not have appreciated a guy suddenly appearing with a camera! So now, I know what Red Beach is...and so do you! If you ever return to Matala and you are up for a little adventure...well, I’ll just leave it at that!

As alway, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead


UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Looking north at the caves (Roman catacombs) in Matala on Crete from the balcony of a local taverna.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Bob Armistead stands on the beach at Matala on Crete with the caves (Roman catacombs) in the background.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The caves (Roman catacombs) at Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The caves (Roman catacombs) looking northwest at Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The caves (Roman catacombs) nearest the waters edge in the little bay at Matala, Crete, Greece.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The caves (Roman catacombs) looking north, in the seaside village of Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The entrance to two of the caves (Roman catacombs) in the little seaside village of Matala, Crete, Greece.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Bob Armistead stands before the entrance to one of the caves (Roman catacombs) in Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The interior of one of the Roman catacombs in the village of Matala, Crete, Greece. The body of the deceased would be laid out with the head resting, slightly elevated, on the far right side of the tomb.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This Roman catacomb had a place for bodies to be laid out on the far left, the far right, the far background, and two graves just in front of the background. It almost made me wonder if this might have been the final resting place for an entire family. Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Entranceway into one of the Roman catacombs at Matala, Crete, Greece. Notice the second chamber beyond the first doorway.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Looking from inside one of the Roman catacombs toward the beach outside and below. Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Looking slightly northeast across the little bay of Matala, Crete, Greece, toward the caves (Roman catacombs).

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Self portrait of Bob Armistead at Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Waves crashing at the northern tip of the little bay at Matala, Crete, Greece.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Looking north toward the caves (Roman catacombs) from atop the rocky path that leads to "Red Beach". Matala, Crete, Greece.

ABOVE PHOTO: Apparently, this young damsel thought the main beach at Matala was the "Red Beach". Funny, I didn't hear anyone complaining though!

NOTE: The following four photographs are from the 1960's when the caves at Matala were inhabited by the hippies. These four photos were borrowed from

NOTE: The following photograph was borrowed from Matala - Hippies & Real Fun on Facebook.

LEFT PHOTO: Scotty, the last of the original hippies in Matala.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Dear Friends,
Below is an article including a brief history, description and photographs of the traditional Cretan dagger or knife, borrowed from I hope you enjoy reading it.
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",
Bob Armistead

The Cretan Dagger, the knife of Crete:

This work was realized in an effort to honour and preserve in the memory of modern generations an art that flourished in the island of Crete throughout the 19th and in the early 20th century and which is slowly and imperceptibly disappearing today, undermined by the pressure of modern technology and the shrinkage of the demand in handy products used by people in their everyday lives in earlier times.

It is the art of manufacturing the hand - made Cretan dagger, which has been so much loved by the Cretans, but in a few years will cease to be manufactured in the traditional manner, since faceless technology is gradually replacing the art, skill, mastery and creative enthusiasm of the last Cretan dagger - manufacturers.

The Cretan dagger, inseparable companion of every Cretan in the old times, accompanied the Cretans wherever they went, either as travelers or as immigrants, when in hard times some of them where forced to abandon their beautiful island. Thus, the Cretan dagger can be found not only in Crete and in the other regions of Greece, but also at the ends of the earth ; from Egypt to Russia and from the U.S.A. and Canada to Australia, either in the houses of Cretans as a valuable heirloom, or in second - hand and antique shops, dusted and without identity, among a heap of disparate objects, waiting for the person that will recognize and obtain it, paying a certain amount in consideration. Each of them hides its own story, humble or glorious, connected with the island of Crete and Cretan gallantry.

Since, then, tradition and historical documents are of cultural value and credibility, the hand - made Cretan dagger deserves to be studied and honoured, before its traditional manufacturing technique perishes in the boundless course of time. For, above all, whenever a traditional art perishes, human culture is impoverished.

The Cretan Dagger, History:

One of the first tools manufactured by man, which helped him survive in the long and difficult era of the dawn of civilization, is the dagger, the first edged weapon. In manufacturing it, man imitated the shape of the nails of wild animals, with which they catch and kill their prey. One of the most ancient specimens of daggers in the form we know them today was found in Gebel El Arak , Egypt . It is made of processed obsidian stone and it has an ivory hilt, decorated with embossed portrayals of scenes inspired by war. This dagger was manufactured circa 3.400 BC and is kept today in the Louvre Museum . However, daggers approaching the age of 5.000 years have also been found in China , Mesopotamia and Iran 's Luristan. Exquisite double - edged bronze and copper daggers were manufactured in Mycenaean Greece from 1.500 BC onwards, which were brought by merchants motivated by profit to many other distant regions in Europe , since the export trade of weapons thrived during the Mycenaean age. However, in classical Greece too, there was a flourish in the fabrication of numerous edged weapons, mainly daggers, which were used in the innumerable wars that ravaged Greece during the classical age. At the heyday of Mycenaean civilization, daggers of notable quality were manufactured in Minoan Crete, which bequeathed to us many brilliant works of an advanced and, at the same time, singular civilization. However, few specimens have survived to our days. Among the exhibits of the Heraklion Museum there is a Minoan age statuette of a warrior from Sitia, armed with a dagger presenting certain similarities to modern Cretan daggers. It should be mentioned that, according to ancient Greek mythology, edged weapons and war helmets were first fabricated in Crete , since it was the Couretes, Zeus's retinue, who were considered to be their inventors.

The defence needs of the biggest Greek island resulted in the development of metallurgy and, by extension, the manufacturing of weapons in Crete during the classical age, when the island's archers enjoyed high renown throughout Greece and Asia Minor for their skill in using their weapons. During the Roman era, the Romans had a bitter experience of the Cretan's battle skills and the accuracy of their archers during their efforts to occupy the island.

In the Middle Ages, and specifically in the 9th century, Crete was occupied by the Saracenes, who came from Spain . Using the island as base of their operations, they plagued the entire eastern Mediterranean with their raids. The Saracenes of Crete manufactured various types of weapons on the island and used them to arm their ships and crews during their naval raids.
After the victorious campaign of Nicephorus Phocas and the vanquishment of the Saracenes of Crete, the island was restored to Byzantine rule, under which it remained until the early 13th century, when it was vested in the Venetians as their valuable booty from the share - out of the Byzantine Empire 's lands, after the latter had been dismantled by the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade.

The Venetians kept Crete under their domination for more than 450 years. This was made possible by the excellent organization of their administrative machine and by the defense system they had deployed on the island, whereby, in addition to the powerful regular military forces, defense was reinforced by a local militia of Cretan archers, renowned throughout the East, and by the forces of the Greek and Italian landowners of the island. The latter forces were certainly armed with weapons manufactured on the island by Cretan craftsmen. Written sources referring to the revolution of the Psaromilingos, which was a noble Cretan family, against the Venetians in the mid- 14th century testify to the use of daggers for military purposes in the Middle Ages. During that revolution, the Cretan rebels were armed with arches, spears, bludgeons, large knives and axes'. According to the oral tradition, during the Venetian occupation there were dagger manufacturing workshops in Heraklion of Crete, established at exactly the same site as they are today.

After the conquest of the island by the Turks, the island's metallurgists continued to fabricate exquisite metallurgical products, including daggers, which acquired special value during the 19th century repeated revolutions of the Cretans, who thirsted for freedom.

The sentimental and, at the same time, practical value of the Cretan dagger in battle did not perish in our century, since the Cretan dagger was the necessary complement of every gallant Cretan youth's armament in the struggle over Macedonia, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor Campaign and even during the Second World War, when the weapons of Cretan partisans included the traditional Cretan dagger, symbol of Cretan gallantry and the spirit of Crete's resistance against any conqueror.

- the yataghan of Daskaloyannis, the leader of the Cretan revolt against the Turks in 1770 -

The Cretan Dagger, Characteristics and Manufacturing:

The typical Cretan dagger with the form it preserved todate was born in the late 18th century and has a shape reminding of a dart. Its distinct shape was adopted by the Cretans with enthusiasm and resisted the course of time. Fire, anvil, steel, hammer, long-handled pliers and the dagger -manufacturer's dexterity are the necessary elements for manufacturing the Cretan dagger. Its steel blade is sturdy and has only one edge, while the side opposite to the edge, the dagger's "back", is flat, reinforced in its base and it grows gradually thinner on approaching the tip, ending at a very sharp point. The blade's shape is straight; the side of the edge, a little before the end of the blade, curves sharply and ends at the point, which has a slight upward gradient. The blade's length varies. In the mid -19th century Cretan dagger manufacturers fabricated oversized daggers, the length of which could reach 80 cm. These huge daggers could be used as sabres too. The manufacturing singularity of the Cretan dagger's point endows it with great penetrability. The part of the dagger opposite to its pointed part is called "root" and this is where the hilt was fixed, earlier with six pins (pertsinia), today with only three.

The Cretan dagger's hilt is called "manika". Its shape varies. However, three are the dominant types. In the first the hilt's end resembles a bird's beak, in the second the shape of the hilt's end is the same as in the 18th and 19th century cutlasses and in the third, which is the classical Cretan type, the hilt's end is V -shaped. The V- shaped hilt is the most common and appears only in Cretan daggers, endowing them with a singularity of type, since in no other place in the world are daggers with a hilt of similar shape manufactured.

This peculiar hilt is always made of animal matter, horn or bone, while in the most lavishly manufactured daggers it is made of ivory. Hilts which are not made of this precious material are made of white bone, derived mainly from ox feet, which the dagger manufacturers, even today, boil in a mixture of water, ash and lime for about five hours, exactly as they used to do two centuries ago, so that it will acquire a bright white colour, and then they grind it before using it. More rarely, however, daggers had deep- coloured hilts made of horn. The numerous flocks of sheep and goats of Crete and the stout horns of its buffaloes still provide today ample raw material for the horn-made hilts of daggers, while, more rarely, hilts are made from the island's wild goats' horns, known as kri - kri. The stoutest and most durable horns for making hilts are the ram's and the billy-goat's. Among ram horns they prefer the "gold - coloured ones, with undulations", while buffalo horns are more glossy and lustrous, but they wear out faster than ram horns. Dagger - manufacturers leave nothing to chance. They choose carefully the animal horns that they will use for making the manikes (hilts). They mainly prefer those of male animals, which thus offer their horn weapons for the manufacturing and embellishment of human weapons. Daggers with dark - coloured hilts are called mavromanika. Each bone or horn suffices for only one hilt.

Great aesthetic value lies in the silver "foukaria" (scabbards) of the silver-sheathed daggers. The distinct perfection of the Cretan silversmiths' art is concentrated in these objects. The same holds good for their singular artistic expression, manifested in a vivid and expressive manner on the cylindrical surfaces of the daggers' silver scabbards.

The Cretan Dagger in Manners. Customs and Popular Beliefs of Crete:

The importance of the Cretan dagger's symbolic value in the social life of Crete survived even until recently. One of the nuptial customs in Crete required from the future bride - groom to offer his fiancee, in addition to the other gifts, a small silver dagger, the argyrobounialaki. This small dagger, which was part of the Cretan women's costume, was thereafter worn by the Cretan girl on her waist, tucked inside her long blue - red silk sash, exactly as men wore their own, in all balls and celebrations.

From a semiological point of view, the dagger indicated to other men that the girl was betrothed or married and that she belonged to one and only man. As a symbolism, it reminded the girl herself that she ought to be devoted to her husband and that the price she would pay for any infidelity would be her own life. However, in addition to its symbolic significance, the dagger also had practical value, because the young Cretan woman would be able to defend herself and her dignity when in danger. For the success of the wedding ritual and the stable foundation of the new family, Cretan customs prescribed earlier that a small black - hilted dagger be placed on the bride's shoe before and during the wedding ceremony, so that the "spells" of those envying her fortune would not work. Earlier, they used to believe in Crete that if the couple held a black - hilted dagger during the wedding ceremony, it would be able to counteract any "spells" that might have been cast on them aiming at the solution of the marriage. Finally, after the wedding ceremony the newly - wed couple had to etch a cross on the threshold of their house with a black - hilted dagger, so that evil spirits would be prevented from entering and haunting it. The symbolic significance of the dagger and its great metaphysical value in protecting humans against the fiendish powers of the invisible world and "ill - fated moments" was deeply rooted in Crete . Tiny black - hilted daggers were used in manufacturing talismans for young children and talismans for protecting epileptics from the bad influence of the moon and the possessed from the pernicious influence of demons. Furthermore, when a woman lost one of her children, she used to hang small black - hilted daggers with crosses etched on their hilts around her other children's necks as talismans, so that the Grim Reaper would not take them too.

The Cretan Dagger and Magical Ceremonies:

Daggers, always black - hilted, since black - hilted daggers were feared by the demons, played a leading part in the practice of magic in the sublunar world of sorcerers. The sorcerer, master of love and hatred, in proceeding with his work of magic according to his wishes or those of the man or woman who had requested his assistance, used a black - hilted dagger in his spells and rituals of any nature. In their effort to dominate over the powers of nature, to transgress against its known laws and to control the lives of humans with the help of demons, sorcerers used black - hilted daggers, with which they traced a circle on the ground and then poked it in its centre. Then they entered the circle and uttered some cryptic words and secret names. In this way they summoned the demons and ordered them, according to their wishes, protected from their malicious power inside the circle they had traced with their dagger. The dagger should not have been used in any other work before this procedure. The tracing of the circle and the invocation of demons that followed constituted, according to tradition, the consummation of the sorcerer's magic skills. The tracing of the magic circle with black - hilted daggers was exercised by the island's sorcerers mainly during their meetings with demons, called "davetia". The most typical description of the tracing of a magic circle with a black -hilted dagger in Crete for obtaining a magic purpose is provided by Nikos Politis in his description of the instruction of the lyra - player by the Fairies, so that he would be able to play the lyra with great virtuosity:

"Whoever wants to become a good lyra - player should go to an isolated crossroads at midnight. First he should trace a circle on the ground with a black - hilted dagger, then enter it, stay there and start playing the lyra. A little later the Fairies will come and start hanging around him. Their purpose is not good, they want to do him harm, but since they cannot enter the circle, which has been traced with a black - hilted dagger, they try to lure him out in every possible way. They use blarney, they sing him nice songs, they wheedle him in a thousand and one different ways, but if he is wise, he must remain calm and continue to play the lyra without leaving the circle. If they fail, they invite him out of the circle in order to teach him how to play the lyra better. He must refuse. Then they will ask him to give them the lyra. The lyra - player should give it, cautious to let his arm or other part of his body out of the circle, because it will be amputated or he will go insane. Then a Fairy starts playing the lyra with great virtuosity and afterwards they return the lyra to him, hoping that he will be persuaded to leave the circle and they will be able to harm him". According to the description of Nikos Politis, the continuous interchange of the instrument between the Fairies and the lyra - player, without anyone of them passing the limits of the circle traced with the black - hilted dagger, continues all night long until the first cock crows. Then they ask him to give them something of his own and they promise to teach him how to play the lyra like them in return. The lyra - player usually gives them one of his nails and they in turn teach him how to play the lyra with great virtuosity and then disappear at daybreak. For this reason, in earlier times, if a lyra player played his instrument with outstanding virtuosity, he used to say: "What do you think? I learnt to play the lyra at the crossroads".

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Dear Friends,

Last year, after having learned that the best traditional Cretan knives were made in Chania, I traveled there for the express purpose of purchasing one of these knives for my son. After examining what seemed like a multitude of knives in one particular shop, I bought a specific one, because I liked the “saying” that was engraved on the blade. It read, “I give this present to you, a proud and strong man of good character. Carry it on your belt and remember me forever.” I presented it to my son at Christmas. I think that it meant something really special to him – it also meant something very special to me as well! This knife had a stainless steel blade, and bone handle, with a wooden sheath. There were other traditional Cretan knives that also had the stainless steel blades but that had ornately engraved silver sheaths. These knives were substantially more expensive! I was a little hesitant to purchase one of these knives with the silver sheathes, because I was afraid it might be pilfered (stolen) from my one piece of checked luggage when it went through customs. When the knife that I had purchased for my son last year successfully made it through customs, and had not been removed from my luggage, I decided that I might take a chance and purchase one of the traditional Cretan knives with the silver sheath this year. So, this morning, October 8, 2009, I traveled from the little seaside village of Amoudara into downtown Iraklion. Once in Iraklion, I purchased a round trip ticket from Iraklion to Chania and back to Iraklion. My bus pulled away from the station at just after 7:30 A.M. By 10:30 A.M. I was in Chania. I had the addresses of several makers and sellers of traditional Greek knives. Some of these addresses I had procured from the T.V. series which aired on the Travel Channel starring Samantha Brown. After my arrival in Chania, I pulled out my map and began looking for Sifaka Street. I found it without much difficulty. Sifaka Street is known for its knife makers and its knife sellers. I looked at several shops for the traditional Greek knife with the silver sheath, before returning to the very first one that I had visited. It was O Armenis located at 14 Sifaka Street. I reexamined several of the knives I had briefly looked at my first trip and decided on the largest traditional Cretan knife that he had. It was a splendid display of polished steel, white bone and ornate silver! The stainless steel blade brightly reflected the rays of the morning sun; the white bone handle, made from the hoof of a cow, was smooth and felt like it belonged in my hand; and, the silver sheath had a soft patina acquired from sitting on the shelf. I asked him where the knife had been made, and he proudly stuck out his chest, smiled, and said, “I am the maker of that knife.” Then I asked if he had also made the silver sheath, knowing that it was highly unlikely the knife maker was also a silversmith. “No, I did not work the silver sheath. It was made by silver workers here in Chania”, he said in his heavy Greek accent. I believed him to be an honest man. On the silver sheath was stamped, “.925”. I knew what this meant. The sheath was made from 92.5% pure silver. Some lower grades of silver are fashioned from .825, which is 82.5% pure silver. This sheath was made from a higher grade of silver, used mostly in fine jewelry. It had a “poem” inscribed on the blade. I asked him for the interpretation, but I wasn’t able to fully understand what he said. Then, I asked him the price...and I reeled! Was I willing to take the chance of packing it in my luggage and possibly having it stolen? I couldn’t possibly take it on board the airplane with me for the trip back to the USA. O.K., life is nothing but chances, nothing but a gamble...nothing ventured – nothing gained. I bought the knife. The owner, who was also the knife maker, and I shook hands to seal the deal as gentlemen, and I paid him his price. I think the knife is a beautiful example of Cretan workmanship. After leaving his shop, I spent but a short while at the little harbor of Chania, took some photos, and then made my way back to the bus station for the trip back to Iraklion. I had completed what I had set out to do; there was little reason for me to spend more time in Chania. Besides, the big toe on my right foot, which I had injured just two weeks before, hiking the Samaria Gorge, was telling me to get off my feet! Ha. Ha. I returned to Amoudara at about 4:00 P.M., checked my E-mail and then proceeded down to Popi’s Taverna on the beach for a couple of Mythos beers. Ahhhhhh, life is good!!!

I have attached some photos from my trip to Chania today. I hope you enoy them.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: This is the knife-maker at O Armenis in Chania who made the traditional Cretan knife which I bought for my son.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This is the traditional Cretan knife with the silver sheath which I bought at the O Armenis knife shop in Chania. It is 40cm in length (15.75 inches).

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: This is the view of the harbor in Chania, looking north.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This is the view of the harbor in Chania, looking northesast.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The lighthouse in the harbor in Chania.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: One of the horses that pulls carriages around the harbor area.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The fountain near the harbor in Chania.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: I just liked the splash of color at the front of this shop near the harbor in Chania.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: I couldn't resist photographing this sign out front of a little bar on the harbor in Chania.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This is the entrance to the Catholic Church in Chania. Click on the photo to get a larger view of the Crucifix through the doorway.

UPPER LEFT PHOTO: One of the many narrow streets in Chania crowded with small shops.

UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This narrow street had almost nothing but small shops selling leather good.