Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Dear Friends,

When I first created this site, I had intended that all posts would have a direct correlation to Crete, the 6931st Security Group, Iraklion Air Station, or “Charlie Flight”.  However, last year after devastating floods had resulted in 2.3 billion dollars worth of damage, as well as 32 deaths in the middle Tennessee area, I decided to post a commentary with photos that reflected some of the damage to my hometown.

I have now decided to post another commentary with photos which has absolutely nothing to do with those aforementioned parameters outlined in the preceding paragraph.

Immediately after I retired from the U.S. Postal Service in January of 2004, I decided that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it was imperative that I begin a workout routine at the gym.  Although I had been a member of the YMCA for several years, I had seldom used their facilities.  Now that I was retired, I had absolutely no excuse for not spending time at the gym and attempting to develop and maintain a healthy mind, spirit and body.  One of the very first individuals whom I met at the YMCA was a lovely blond-haired lady, named Melanie.  She was friendly, personable, witty and intelligent…a rare combination of qualities not often found in any one person.  Within just a short period of time, Melanie and I became good friends and would often spend time talking to each other while on the arc trainers at the YMCA.

Recently, Melanie experienced an illness and complications that the “average” person would have had difficulty enduring and ultimately overcoming.  However, my friend, Melanie, can hardly be called “average”.  I strongly suspect that beneath her clothing, she wears a bright blue t-shirt which bears a very large red “S” in the middle of that shirt.  Yes, I am now convinced that Superman is really a lady named Melanie!

From the first week of November until the middle of December, Melanie spent most of her time in the intensive care units of two different hospitals, battling not only septic shock, but also cardiac arrest, viral pneumonia in both lungs, being placed on a respirator, undergoing a tracheotomy, experiencing intestinal bleeding, and requiring transfusions.  She also spent time in a specialty hospital whose purpose it was to help patients become independent of respirators.

Finally, on December 13th, after 43 consecutive days of hospitalization and medical care, Melanie was released from a hospital in Nashville and allowed to return to her home.  While I have to give much credit to the medical community, I must also recognize that Melanie was the object of countless prayers which were heard by a loving and caring God.

On Friday, December 23rd Melanie returned to the YMCA for the first time since her illness.  When she entered the YMCA facility, she was met by a large “WELCOME BACK MELANIE” banner and was immediately besieged by well-wishers and friends who had missed her lovely smile, her bubbling personality and her positive attitude!  I have documented that visit to the YMCA below with photographs and captions.

Before closing, I would like to thank the YMCA for allowing me to collect signatures and well-wishes on Melanie’s “Welcome Back” banner and then permitting me to hang that banner at the YMCA facility just prior to Melanie’s visit.  I would also like to thank Brent Parchman and his crew at Ledbetter Signs in Clarksville, Tennessee, for designing and printing a banner that was perfect for the occasion.  I might also add that after having placed my order for the banner, Brent saw to it that the banner was ready the following morning – now, that’s service!!!  And, lastly, I would like to thank all of those who signed Melanie’s banner and prayed for her recovery.   Thank you all.  And, in keeping with the Christmas Season and in the words of Tiny Tim…”God Bless Us…Everyone!”

Your Friend,

Bobby Armistead


ABOVE PHOTO:  Melanies's
"Welcome Back" sign hangs in
the lobby of the YMCA.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Well-wishers
gather around Melanie upon her
return to the YMCA on Dec. 23,

ABOVE PHOTO:  George Ketch
(orange shirt) directs Melanie to
smile at the camera in the YMCA.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Melanie is greeted
by Bobby Armistead at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.

Melanie shares a moment
with Bobby Armistead at
the YMCA on Dec. 23, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:   Melanie chats
with Mr. Nanny, Director of
Maintenance, at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.

Melanie poses under her
"Welcome Back" sign
at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.
Melanie poses with
Bobby Armistead under
her "Welcome Back sign
at the YMCA.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Well-wishers gather
around Melanie beneath her "Welcome
Back" sign at the YMCA on Dec. 23, 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Dear Friends,

I have come to believe that those compliments which are the most treasured are those which are totally unsolicited and completely unexpected.  On my first return trip to Crete in 2008, I received what I consider to be certainly one of the nicest and most sincere compliments of my entire life.  That year, during my three month stay on Crete, one of the first people whom I met and became friends with was George Stamatakis, the owner of the MariRena Hotel.  George was a short Cretan man with thinning dark brown hair, olive-colored skin, dancing dark eyes, a jovial disposition and a pleasant smile which seldom departed his face.  George’s English, which was far superior to my Greek, was articulated with a heavy accent and most often spoken almost like prose or poetry.  It is my opinion that many Greeks in general and Cretans more specifically, possess that natural ability to speak in such a smooth, flowing manner that it more closely resembles literary honey than a spoken language.

At that time I frequently ate at the Dionysus Taverna which adjoined, and was part of the MariRena Hotel.  George Stamatakis would often spend the evening hours at the Dionysus Taverna, moving from table to table and spending time with his customers, almost like a culinary ambassador.  One particular evening I had enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Dionysus Taverna and sipped a carafe of chilled white wine which was a perfect accent to my meal.  Upon seeing that my carafe was empty, George directed that an additional carafe of white wine be sent to my table along with his compliments.  Even though the meal had satisfied my hunger and I was quite full, there was not even the remotest possibility that I would turn down the wine and risk hurting my friend’s feelings.  Therefore, I slowly sipped the second carafe of wine and as I did so, could feel that warm glow which had gathered in my stomach, begin to make its way upward to my face and most notably, my cheeks.  By the time that I had finished the second carafe of wine, most of my cares had disappeared just as surely as the contents of that carafe had also vanished.  In most tavernas on Crete, it is customary that upon completion of the meal, a plate of fruit consisting of watermelon pieces, cantaloupe slices, or an assortment of grapes, be brought to the table, along with a small flask of  raki (tsikoudia), and the Dionysus Taverna was not an exception to that unspoken tenet.  Shortly after the fruit and raki were placed before me, George joined me  at my table, asked me how my meal was, and then encouraged me to enjoy the fruit and raki…which I  did….slowly….very slowly.  As I partook of the fruit and raki, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my speech was becoming slurred and everything at or near my table had been duplicated, including George.  When he spoke, his speech resonated and echoed as if he were either speaking from inside a deep barrel, or else I was hearing from deep inside a barrel.  As we continued to talk, I began to relate to George of my love for Crete, its people, history, heritage, culture, language, and food.  When we had concluded our conversation, I rose to my feet, and holding to the edge of the table to steady myself, turned to George and said, “Sometimes I think that I should have been born a Cretan.”  These were neither idle words, nor were they words which were alcohol-induced.  George smiled and then spoke, saying, “But, there is no need…for you are already a Cretan…right here.”  And with that, George reached forward and tapped on my chest directly over my heart.  I was at a complete loss for words and perhaps that was best, for even if I had been able to find the appropriate words, I’m not sure that I could have found the necessary composure to have spoken them!

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

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

HARLEY: The Cutest Kid On Crete!

Dear Friends,

I think that most of you will agree  with  me that virtually ALL kids are cute.  But some kids just seeem to possess a "cuteness" that is on a scale above which most kids are considered cute.  I had the privledge  of  meeting just such a child during  my  recent stay on Crete.  He was visiting Crete with his grandparents, David and Helen from Northern Ireland, and his name is  Harley.  Harley is an energetic, typical three year old boy with bright blue eyes and an equally bright smile, and  a head full of curls, all of which exude enough natural charm  to capture any heart!

I had the  opportunity to photograph Harley at a recent dinner outing at the Tzagkaris  Taverna in the little mountain village of Drosia on the Greek island of Crete.  I hope you enjoy the  following photos and that they brighten your day!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

NOTE:  Please click on any photo to  view a larger image.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Harley beams
with  enthusiasm in the late afternoon
sun at the Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia
on September 25, 2011.
ABOVE  PHOTO:  Harley eats a
piece of  bread while  watching me
intently as I photograph him.
September 25, 2011.

Harley smiles in the late
afternoon sun in Drosia
on Crete.
September 25, 2011.
watches as I photograph
him in the village of
Drosia on Crete.
September 25, 2011.

Harley cuts his  eyes
back as something
catches  his attention.
Drosia - Sept. 25, 2011.  
Harley smiles at others
in the Tzagkaris Taverna
in Drosia on Crete.
September 25, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Harley casts a
pensive  look as  I  photograph him in
Drosia on Crete.  September  25, 2011.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Harely's curls
seem almost ablaze in the late
afternoon sun  in Drosia on Crete.
September 25, 2011.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Dear Friends,

Since I have been here on Crete, I have come to recognize the difference between simply eating a good meal and having a genuine dining experience.  Fortunately, there is no shortage of little cafes or tavernas on Crete where one can enjoy a very nice meal.  But, to have an authentic Cretan dining experience, sometimes one must look away from his comfortable surroundings and be willing to venture out and away from where he has been accustomed to eating.  I am fortunate enough to have good friends on Crete who have a vast knowledge of places where one is able to enjoy the full scope of a traditional Cretan dining experience.  One such place is the Tzagkaris Taverna to be found in the small mountain village of Drosia.  Drosia is located about 17.47 miles (28.11 kilometers) south and west from the front of the La Stella Apartments in Amoudara (based on GoogleEarth), and takes a good 45 minutes to travel there by auto over narrow mountain roads that twist and turn more than a cobra trying to dodge a mongoose!  But, those winding mountain roads also provide some spectacular views of fertile olive groves, valleys and beautiful vistas looking out over Heraklion and Amoudara.

The Tzagkaris Taverna is not new, but it did move from an older location in Drosia to its new site which can be found just down the block and on the same street.  The new building is spacious and accented with lots of stone and wooden beams which help give it a warm, relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.  There are numerous tables and chairs out on the veranda for outdoor dining, or you can eat inside the completely enclosed dining room if desired.  To the right of the outdoor dining area there is a small, glass-enclosed room which houses a large bed of coals.  Over these coals are constantly rotating spits on which lamb, goat, pig, rabbit and chicken are roasted.  Above the rotating spits hang sheep entrails that are smoked and roasted.  The owner, Michalis Petousis, used to do all the roasting of the meat himself; however, he now entrusts that all important task to his wife.  Michalis spends much of his time now going from table to table, visiting briefly with the patrons and insuring that all has been cooked to perfection and served promptly.  His white hair and mustache and his broad smile convey a genuine warmth that says in ANY language, “Welcome.  I am truly glad you are here!”  As often as she can, his wife will slip out of the “roasting room” for a few minutes and also visit with customers.  She not only shares her smile, but also freely gives hugs and kisses to her customers just like they are family.

The dining experience at the Tzagkaris Taverna is not like eating at a typical tourist taverna.  Fortunately, Bryan, my good friend from Scotland, speaks Greek well enough to order for us all.  But, he doesn’t place an order  for  each  individual, rather  he  orders platters of  food which are brought out and  placed on the table.  Each person then simply dishes food from the several platters onto his own plate.  On the numerous occasions that I have traveled to the Tzagkaris Taverna with my friends, we have eaten such dishes as pork roasted on a spit (ofto gourounopono), lamb roasted on a spit (ofto arni), smoked pork (apaki), sheep intestines (kokopetsi), tzatziki sauce, oven roasted potatoes (potato alfono), wild greens salad (agriosalata), traditional Cretan salad (salata Kriti), zucchini flower or courgette flower (kolokianthi), sheep’s liver (sikoti), squid (calimaris), beans (fava), stuffed vine leaves (dolmathakia), sour cream cheese (amthogalo), freshly baked bread, and, of course, village wine.  For dessert we have enjoyed crepes stuffed with cheese (sfakiani pita), ice cream and yogurt drenched with caramel, fresh grapes, apples, watermelon and cantelope pieces.  I have enjoyed sampling all of these dishes and more!!!  I must confess that I never once hesitated to try any of the dishes cooked at the Tzagkaris Taverna – it didn’t matter if it was a dish that was completely alien to me or if it was a dish that I was uncertain that it might not appeal to me - I tried it and I enjoyed it all!!!  And…upon my return to the USA, the first time that I stepped on the scales, I discovered that I had gained almost 8 pounds!  Now, I have to shed those unwanted pounds so that I can put them back on when I return to Crete again next year!

I have to say at this point that while the food served at the Tzagkaris Taverna is some of the best that I have eaten on Crete, what makes it an outstanding dining experience are those friends who have been gathered around the table with me.  Dining with close friends makes  a good  meal great, and a great meal outstanding!  At various times, I have had the distinct pleasure to sit and dine with friends from Germany, Northern Ireland, Greece, Holland, England, Scotland, and the USA.

  *NOTE:  There is a possibility that I might have misspelled some of the Greek terms used to describe the Greek dishes above.  But….just blame it on the raki!

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

NOTE: “Click” on any photo below to view a larger image.

ABOVE PHOTO: The open veranda
outside the Tzagkaris Taverna in the
mountain village of  Drosia.
ABOVE PHOTO: Sign outside the
Tzagkaris Taverna in the small
mountain village of Drosia.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Mutton and pork
are roasted above the glowing embers
at the Tzagkaris Taverna in the little
mountain village of Drosia.
ABOVE PHOTO: The owner's wife
carefully tends to pork and mutton
 roasting over the hot coals at the
 Tzagkaris Taverna. Notice the sheep
entrails hanging at the top of the photo
as they are smoked and roasted.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Michalis Petousis,
 owner of the Tzagkaris Taverna in
Drosia, tends to the every needs of
 his customers. (July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  The  inside  dining
room at the Tzagkaris Taverna in

ABOVE PHOTO:  Rainer gives his
lovely wife, Petra, a kiss as Bryan and
Peter look on approvingly.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  Clockwise left:
  Coby, Theo, Rainer, Petra, Bryan and
 Peter at the Tzagkaris Taverna in
 Drosia. (July 31, 2011)

ABOVE PHOTO:  A table full of happy
customers at the Tzagkaris  Taverna in
Drosia. (July 31,2011)
ABOVE  PHOTO:  Michalis Petousis
eagerly shares his warm and genuine
 smile with his patrons at the
 Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Rainer and Petra
share a tender moment at the
Tzagkaris Tavrna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO: Paul and Karen
also share a tender moment at the
Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)

ABOVE  PHOTO:  Theo (standing)
and Coby (seated) smile like two
teenage lovers at the Tzagkaris
 Taverna in Drosia. (July 31,2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  Coby (seated) and
Theo (standing) share a loving moment
with each other at the Tzagkaris
Taverna  in Drosia. (July 31, 2011)

ABOVE  PHOTO:  Left to right:
Coby, Karen and Bobby share a laugh
at the Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  My friends from
Holland, Greece, Germany, Northern
Ireland, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
 in Drosia on September 25, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Friends from
Greece, Holland, Northern Ireland,
Germany, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
in Drosia on Septmber 25, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Friends from
Greece, Holland, Northern Ireland,
Germany, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
in  Drosia on September 25, 2011.


Dear Friends,

This is just to wish all of you a  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

ABOVE PHOTO:  Dracula (Bob Armistead) enjoys  a nice warm cup of
blood...type O+ at this favorite haunt!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Dear Friends,

Some of you have expressed concern over my lack of postings here on my site. To be quite honest with you, I have had numerous problems relating to my posts here. More specifically, I have had a really difficult time posting and arranging my photos here since I first arrived on Crete in July. These problems persisted throughout my entire three month stay on Crete. I had hoped that once I returned to the USA, the problem might resolve itself, but, alas, that just has not happened.

Not only have I had difficulty posting my photos here, but I have also had a problem arranging them in the order that I wished. Perhaps some of you have noticed how many of the photos that I have posted are no longer symmetrical; that is, not arranged in a balanced order.  Some of  the photos I have posted look as if I have posted them in a rather haphazard order.  I don't know what the answer to my posting problems are...or even if there is an answer. But, I will continue attempting to resolve the issue in the hope that I can post many of the commentaries that I have already written, along with photos to accompany them.

Thank you in advance for your patience and your tolerant understanding in this matter.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SANTORINI: The Volcanic Island

Dear Friends,

On August 17, 2011, I traveled by high-speed ferry from Crete to the Greek island of Santorini…the volcanic island.  I arrived in the Iraklion harbor early that Wednesday morning by bus and was deposited alongside a large ship that sat moored in the port.  The ship was sleek and even looked fast as she sat floating in the water, waiting for all the passengers to embark on their journey to Santorini.  After all were onboard she eased out of the Iraklion harbor and headed for open water.  Once she was on the high seas she unleashed the power of her engines and the waters of the Aegean Sea parted smoothly before her as we traveled north.  She was able to cover the 68 miles from Crete to the port at Santorini in about two hours, fifteen minutes.  Even though the sea was fairly calm with gentle swells, the ship would softly rock from port to starboard (left to right, or from side to side).  I’m sure the rocking motion contributed to the many passengers who were fast asleep in their seats.  There was what I would refer to as “theater seating” in the very large forward and aft salons.  But on the upper deck there were plush accommodations for those whose tastes demanded more and whose pocketbooks could afford it.  On our deck there was a small snack bar where one could get a sandwich, a slice of pizza, a sweet roll, and soft drinks or coffee.  While our accommodations were anything but luxurious, they were quite comfortable and provided everything this boy from Tennessee needed.  I was just content to sit back and enjoy the blue waters of the Aegean Sea flowing past as we headed toward Santorini.

About 9:30 A.M., I noticed the ship’s engine noise became subdued and our speed was noticeably slower.   I moved forward and tried to see what lay ahead…and there…out of the Aegean Sea, rose Santorini – the volcanic island!  Our ferry was piloted with the skill of true professionals as she was guided into the Athinios Port, eased alongside the dock and came to a gentle stop.  Once the ship was secured, we all disembarked and made our way to our pre-designated busses.  Our tour guide was a Greek lady who spoke several languages.  She told us that in much earlier times, Santorini was known as “Santa Irini” (Saint Irene), but gradually, that name morphed into Santorini.  Today, the official name is Thera (or Thira), but most still refer to it as Santorini.  We headed up from the port on a narrow winding road that made numerous switchbacks, and then we made our way through the capital city of Fira before traveling on to the most photographed village on the island…Oia.  On our way to Oia our guide informed us that about 3600 years ago - sometime between 1645 BC and 1600 BC, the volcano, which had been located in what was then the center of Santorini, became violently active.  The volcano literally exploded and then collapsed in on itself.  That left a gigantic caldera or crater about 7.5 miles long by 4.3 miles wide.  Immediately, the sea water rushed in, filling the caldera and resulting in the formation of a giant lagoon.  Many geologists and archaeologists believe that when the volcano erupted, it unleashed a massive tsunami which struck Crete, destroying the Minoan civilization there.  Today, beneath that lagoon, sleeps the volcano…who knows when it might awaken again and unleash its fury!

After arriving in Oia, we were given two hours to explore the narrow winding footpaths that led up and down and through the village.  I ate a quick lunch, grabbed my camera and then took off, wandering through a virtual photographer’s paradise.  I tried to focus my attention on the architecture of the buildings and the way in which the houses were built into the sides of the volcanic cliffs overlooking the caldera.  But, two hours really weren’t a sufficient amount of time to even begin to capture the photographic potential of Oia.  Oh, well…perhaps next year.

We left Oia and headed to the capital city of Fira.  There we were once again given time to travel the city on our own.  There were museums…churches…shops…tavernas…so much to see…so little time!  After assembling at the bus at the appointed time, we left for the trip back to the port and then set sail for Crete.  I arrived back at my apartment on Crete later that evening.  While I am glad that I made the trip to Santorini, I think that it has over-capitalized on its appeal to tourists.  The result is an island that is overcrowded and overrun with tourists, and the real beauty of the island has been consumed by over-commercialism.  I think I would love to visit Santorini during the winter or very early spring, when it is less crowded, the pace is much slower and the natural and rugged beauty of the island can be viewed, appreciated and absorbed at a much more leisurely tempo.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

*Please "click" on  any photo to view  a much larger image.

ABOVE  PHOTO:  The caldera of

ABOVE PHOTO: The caldera of

ABOVE PHOTO: A house built into
the  side of the  volcanic cliffs in the
village  of  Oia on Santorini.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Greek Orthodox
bell tower and dome in the village of
Oia on the island of  Santorini.

ABOVE PHOTO:  The village of Oia
sits on the volcanic cliffs above  the
caldera on Santorini.
ABOVE  PHOTO:  Arch shaped
home bordered by flowers in the
 village of  Oia with the caldera in
center-right background on Santorini.

ABOVE PHOTO: A Greek  Orthodox
bell tower  in the village of  Oia on the
island of  Santorini.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Two of the most
photographed Greek  Orthodox Church
domes in the village of Oia on Santorini.

ABOVE PHOTO: The "door" to

ABOVE PHOTO: Two of  the most
photographed Greek Orthodox
Church domes in  the  village  of
Oia on  Santorini.

ABOVE PHOTO:  The capital city of
Fira perches atop the volcanic cliffs of
 Santorini overlooking the caldera.

ABOVE  PHOTO:  Bell and clock
tower  and dome of a  Greek Orthodox
Church in Fira on Santorini.
study in shape, shadow
and color.  Capital  city
of Fira on the island of
ABOVE PHOTO:  Don't jump!
A statute sits atop a building
housing an art gallery in Fira on
the island of  Santorini.