Thursday, October 8, 2009

TO CHANIA IN SEARCH OF A KNIFE

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.




8 comments:

adiktion said...

Wow, a nice knife! Dying to know, how much!?!?!?

That was your chance to do the day trip to Balos Lagoon... finest water around crete. I hope you can get there.

Bob (Bobby) said...

Dear Jim,

Well, to be honest with you, I am a little embarrassed to say how much I spent for the knife, but remember, it has a silver sheath, and it is also the longer version of the traditional Cretan knife: I paid 280 Euros for it - that translates into roughly $420.00!

Your (broke) Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob

mac said...

Bob.Need me to send you a plane ticket after you paid for the knife??LOL

Bob (Bobby) said...

Dear Mac,

Ha. Ha. No, fortunately, I purchased a round-trip ticket before leaving the USA. It is a good thing that I did, because I don't think that I can swim from Crete all the way back to the USA!!! Ha. Ha.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob

adiktion said...

That's fine Bob. You will treasure it forever. I want one too.. I will wait for a stronger dollar!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I bought two knives from that very same shop on Crete. My company was performing a job at Souda Bay Naval base and I went over to kick off the project. The day I bought my knives we toured the island on enduro motorcycles that I rented for the entire crew. What a wondeful place in the world. i stayed at the old harbor right in front of the red light district. My knives are works of art.

Bob said...

Hi Bob

I've not long returned from a 2 week stay on Crete. Along with a great many fond memories, photos and a few bottles of honey raki, my absolute prize posession I brought back is a beautiful and very very sharp 'hunting' knife, hand made in Hania. The handle is not the V shape found on the traditional dagger but is comprised of discs of leather and 'ergonomic' in shape. I just did a web searth for 'cretan knives' to find out a bit more, and this blog came up. Imagine my surprise when I got the the name and address of the knifemaker (and his photo) - yes, I bought my knife from the same man! Rather it was his wife who did the transaction, as after chatting to him for a bit he returned to his busy work. He made the knife so sharp after I chose it. Did you know that the workshop has beein in the family for 100 years - his great grandfather started in 1912 - and his son is also working there too?

Mine was 35 euros! a real bargain!

Bob (also)