You are too kind!
We were traveling Crete on a motorcycle and just kept seeing these men in the mountains. Sometimes they were old men, sitting and smoking pipes, sometimes younger ones just walking alongside their herds of sheep.
I asked a friend, a Chania university professor Daphne Manoussaki, who these people were and she told me they were nomadic shepherds. In Crete, they are held in very high regard because they know the land so well and so intimately; one of the shepherds who is now 86 years old can still out-climb the young and fit members of the Heraklion Mountaineering Club. But they are mostly respected so much because of their guerrilla stance against the Nazis during WW2 - a lot of Cretan shepherds fought the invading Germans with whatever they had, including their staffs. As a result, a few villages were razed to the ground but the shepherds never surrendered. So in a way, it's like they represent the very soul of Crete.
They also often rescue lost mountaineers, climbers and hikers as they are always there, in the mountains. "Anyone who is a friend of nature is our friend", - Manolis told me.
No Cretan will tell you that he or she is Greek; they are always Cretan first, Greek second, and this spirit of defiance and independence is still very much alive there, especially among the nomad shepherds. Some of them still wear the black tasseled caps, called sariki, and each black spur represents a tear for the fallen Constantinople (they still refuse to call the city Istanbul). Others say that each sariki spur represents the years of the Otoman rule over Crete, or the tragedy of the Arkadi Monastery where the local abbot gathered the monks and the remaining civilians, some one thousand Cretans, in the gunpowder room and where they blew themselves up in the last desperate attempt to stop the invading Turks.
It was Daphne who introduced us to Pavlos and the others, and translated all that happened that night in the little kafenio.