The Knife District of Chania
Where else are you going to find a street that has shops selling traditionally made knives with thousands to choose from? It would be true to say that this street is probably one for the boys! Kids, especially boys, will find this street really awesome as they see all the knives on display ready to be sold. You really must go and see the ‘mahairakida’ (knife craftsmen) when you are doing your walk around the harbour.
The knife has been a symbol of bravery since the Minoan era and is also an integral part of the Cretan traditional costume used not only as a useful tool, but also as an honoured weapon. Knife making boomed in Chania during the Ottoman era from the mid 17th century when the fine artisans were Turks, but Cretans soon learned the craft and were known as ‘maherades’.
They settled in the part of the harbour which is known as Sifakas Street or ‘Knife Street’ and today there are still a few younger craftsmen who make handmade traditional Cretan knife using authentic traditional techniques and tools.
The Cretan knife was famous not only in Crete itself, but also in the rest of Greece and in distant foreign countries. It is made of a blade of steel with a handle of animal horn of some sort. The sheath was usually of wood which was sometimes covered in leather. For formal occasions these were made of silver (foukaria) and ornated with flowers, birds, dragons and the like.
Typically the handle of a Greek knife ends in a V and the top of the sheath carries a cross on it, a distinguishing feature from the Turkish ones. In many cases the blade was inscribed with a ‘mantinada’ – a verse.
Families should know
You can buy an almost-traditional Cretan knife in any tourist shop but if you want to get something special and really original, go to Sifakas Street were you’ll be able to see thousands of different knives made by local craftsman who has been making knives for years
Best season to visit