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”,
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.