TO STEAL FROM...
They are Europe's heaviest smokers (66% of the adult population smokes), they put on tracksuits just to watch sport on television, they have a reputation of agreeing to but ignoring EU regulations. We have already stolen democracy, the Olympics, and most of our words from them, but we still think there are a couple of things left that we'd like to get our hands on...
Time. In Greece, GMT stands for Greek Maybe Time. Nothing is too urgent to require immediate attention. The siesta, which takes place between about 2pm and 5pm, is built into the day, and in many villages, the Sunday volta - or promenade in the French sense of the word - is still the highlight of the week, when villagers have a walk to pass the time of day and boys watch girls go by. The common sight of unfinished houses in Greece, with girders sticking out of the top floor, is a testament to the Greeks' relationship with the future; enough of the house is made ready for the family's present needs; when they need more room, they just build more.
Cinemas. In summer, most cinemas in Greece are outdoors, and have bars selling whisky, cognac, ouzo and snacks There is also an intermission halfway through the film so you can replenish your drinks and decide whether you are enjoying the movie. And the projectionist won't have to wait until the intermission for his cigarette - smoking is allowed throughout the show in Greek cinemas. Unlike other European countries, Greece does not dub foreign films into Greek but uses subtitles instead.
|Coffee. Known as Turkish coffee until 1974, when Turkey invaded Northern Cyprus, the coffee you get in Greece is not for the faint-hearted. The young in Greece prefer frappe, instant coffee with milk. In villages, the kafenion or local cafe is the local gossip point, where Greek men go to play Tavli - Backgammon.|
Until the early '80s, there were always at least two kafenions in every village, no matter how small it was. Each one was decorated with different colours, signalling the political leanings of the kafenion owner. This way you avoided political quarrels. In larger towns and cities, local coffee bars still deliver trays of coffee on foot to local businesses.
Eating habits. Cross-generational dining, with grandma and small children of the same table, is always more entertaining even if' it does take longer. But the Greeks aren't in a hurry where food is concerned, late night dining means sitting down to the evening meal no earlier than 9pm. Even on Sunday nights taverns are packed until late. Eating alone is unheard of, so the solo diner will find it hard to get served. Meals in restaurants are paid for in cash, not credit cards or cheques, and Greeks always have enough money on them to pay for others.
Island hopping. Greece has 227 inhabitable islands divided up into seven island groups: the lonian Islands, the Dodecanese, Crete, the Cyclades, the Saronic, the North Eastern Aegean Islands and the Sporades. An impressively efficient ferry system operates between the island groups, and Greeks island-hop for weekends away. In fact, the islands may be the reason Greeks are so reluctant to holiday abroad, and who can blame them? August is best avoided by those who hate crowds. Aegina is the second closest island to Athens / Piraeus, 40 min away with flying Dolphin or 60 min away with a Ferry .
Attempts at traffic solutions. Instead of an administration-heavy congestion charge, Athens instituted a system of driving days a few years ago, whereby motorists can only use their cars every other day, as dictated by the last digit of their number plate. This was aimed at combating both congestion and pollution. Unfortunately, the canny Athenians got round the restriction by buying a second car (often second-hand and therefore more likely to pollute) with the opposite number plate. Nice try though. The Athens metro, another traffic solution, could be seen as the eighth wonder of the world, and not only because it's a wonder they ever finished it at all. Finally opened in January 2000, the new subway system looks like a museum. Check out the station under Syntagma Square for the highest concentration of ancient exhibits.
The luck of being born female. Most Greek parents build a house for each daughter, but not for their sons as they are supposed to marry a girl who will get a house from her parents. Often it is also the daughter that inherits her parents' or grandparents' house when they die. Do expectant Greek parents pray for sons?
Plate Smashing. The Greeks love to throw things. They throw carnations to singers and smash glasses and dishes when beautiful girls dance the zeibekiko or the hasapiko on the dance floor. Back in the '30s they used to throw knives - a sign of respect and manhood -- at dancers' feet. Due to injuries, that tradition gradually changed to the present-day plate-throwing tradition, which has stuck. Luckily the Greeks take their recycling seriously, so it's not a complete waste!
Wacky beliefs. Superstitions and strong religious beliefs always make life more interesting. When Greeks move into a new house, the local priest comes over to exorcise and bless it. They do the same even when the buy a new car, maybe because statically Greece is first in Europe in deadly car accidents. In Greece, Tuesday the l3th is the unlucky day (not Friday) because it is the day on which Constantinople fell to the 'Ottoman' Turks.
Periptera. Incredibly useful street Kiosks that's open late and sell everything from tobacco to cold drinks, maps, newspapers, key rings, ice creams, worry beads, and hundreds of other things. It's always worth asking if they have something as they probably will! There are around 46, 000 of these kiosks in Greece.
The kafenion, the men's coffeehouse, is an alto together Greek institution. You used to see them everywhere, in the main square of every village, in every part of town and at every major city crossroads. Although they may have lost some of their importance in modern times, they still exist in the more rural areas, in small towns and on the islands. This is where the man meet up to talk about the harvest, complain about a bad crop, or grumble about the failure of Brussels' agricultural policy. Family tragedies and personal crises are discussed alongside politics. Anything and everything can be a potential topic of conversation. They argue, discuss, shout and make jokes. Anyone preferring quiet and contemplation can let his thoughts quiet and contemplation can let his thoughts wander in rhythm with the komboloi beads running through his fingers. They sit over a cup of mocha coffee, a glass of water, or even a glass of wine or ouzo. There is no food available here, except perhaps for a bowl of peanuts to accompany the ouzo. Hours can slip by in this way before the men have finally seen, talked, played and drunk enough. Happy and content, they leave this exclusively male world in the knowledge that the kafenion will still be waiting for them in the same place tomorrow.
The kafenion is likely to be fairly sparsely furnished with simple chairs and tables, yet there is something enduring and timeless about it which has remained unchanged despite the great social changes within Greece. The classic kafenion has managed to maintain its role in Greek life in the face of the dynamic developments of the modern age. While cafes in the big towns have moved on to become meeting places for young people of both sexes, everything here has stayed pleasantly the same. Women do not feel they are missing out on anything in this male domain and they uphold it as part of the traditional role allocation.
KOMPOLOI - STRING OF BEADS
The kompoloi, or string of beads, a familiar sight in the hands of many Greek men, originally came from the Orient. Once it arrived in Greece, it became a form of plaything, always with an uneven number of beads. The word komboloi incorporates the word kombos, meaning the "knot". The fascination and magic derived from these "knots" running through your fingers must come from the thoughts conjured up from playing with these beads. The kompoloi is certainly more than just a mean of passing time. Once is almost tempted to say that is reflects a way of life. There is the sound of the beads clocking together, the feel of the smooth beads between your fingers, the hours that slip away while playing with the beads, including an almost trance - like state. There is one important, yet very basic lesson to be learned from playing with the kompoloi beads and that is that the circular string of beads symbolizes the belief that everything returns, nothing really ends: in other words, the belief in infinity.
PERIPTERON - KIOSK
If there is one person in Greece who has found his heart's content, it is surely the man in the peripteron. Whether situated on the loud, hectic main road or in a sleepy suburb, all is still right with the world in a peripteron. Periptera are the smallest supermarkets imaginable. They consist of a hut with a roof, measuring one square yard inside, providing just enough room for one chair and stuffed to the ceiling with goods. There are just a few crates stacked on the floor waiting to be unpacked. No town or village would be complete without this institution. They include candies, drinks, ice creams, savory snacks, toys for the little ones and beads for the grown -ups, batteries, cigarettes, newspapers, tissues...napkins, knives, scissors, toilet articles and somehow, as if by magic, you always seem to find the very thing you forgot to buy elsewhere.
TAVLI - BACKGAMMON
Tavli is the favorite game of Greek men in the kafenion. The Greek word tavli is derived from word tavla, meaning board. The game is played on a board divided into two sections, each marked out with 12 narrow wedges or points in other words 24 wedges in all. Each player has 15 counters. Even through the moves are determined by a throw of the dice, tavli is certainly no game of chance, but a game of strategy based on a skill, intuition and a good deal of psychology. Three main versions are played in Greece. Portes (doors) is played more or less according to the familiar rules of backgammon. The second version is called plakoto (from the Greek word plakono, meaning to cover up). The third version is known as fevga (run or quick, get away). In all three games, the idea is to be the first one to get his counters from the starting position to the winning post.
TEN TOP GIFTS TO BUY FROM THE GREEKS. Taking gifts back for loved ones is an important part of your holiday. This is a suggestion of gifts you could take back home. these gifts can suit any budget.
Grecian urns - ceramic, decorated or plain, replicas of helmets or swords.
Pure Olive Oil Soap in decorative sack wrapping and Virgin Olive Oil in traditional bottles.
Komboloi - Greek worry beads (Can be from amber, silver, gold ...etc) , Key rings of Greek symbols.
Jewelry - Hellenic Gold inspired by the art and architecture of prehistoric classical Greece, up to the Byzantine era.
Bottle openers, paper clips in bronze with various Greek motifs.
Greek honey, sweets, chocolates, pistachio Nuts from Aegina (the most well known Pistachio)
Traditional style table cloths, cushion covers and rugs.
Natural Sea Sponge from the Aegean Sea.
A CD of traditional Greek music or a DVD with Greek sites, a Poster or Postcards of Greece, with stamps.
Leather jackets or T-shirts with Greek Scenes.
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