Do as the Greeks do...
|Watching the sun rise over the Aegean.|
As soon as the sun creeps up from the horizon of the Aegean, the Greeks are alive. Dawn is the perfect time to set washed clothes out to dry, start heating water for a shower (this is particularly tricky if you're in a hurry), walk a dog, get a head-start on shopping at the local market, or to sit out on the balcony (since everyone has one) and watch the city wake up. Then, the Greeks venture off to the central point around which all Greek life revolves: the café. Here, at all hours of the day, clusters of two or three of all ages sit and drink coffee while talking and watching people walk by.
The other day I decided to get a feel for the environment, so I parked myself at a local café. The waiter approached me and I politely asked for a coffee. “What kind?” he asked. “Decaf?” I asked. He gave me the strangest look and began to explain the problem with Americans.
Little did I know, the Greeks have a coffee fetish. There are 5 basic kinds of coffee: nescafe—instant, but delicious; filtered French coffee; Greek coffee—freshly ground and brought to a boil until a thick foam develops; frappe—shaken nescafe and ice; and lastly, a cappuccino. For each one, you must ask for milk or sugar; yet, you have to specify how much. There are three different levels of sweetness. For the Greeks, coffee is art.
After spending a good three or four hours lounging at a café, all of Greece shuts down. From the hours of about 3:00-5:00 in the afternoon, the Greeks have something called a siesta. It’s nap-time for adults. After a long, rejuvenating slumber, the Greeks go to market to shop for the food they will need for dinner, or, of course, go to a café. Some go to a bar because drinking is acceptable at any time of day. Want a beer with breakfast? Go for it.
For dinner, Greeks never go out until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. One night, my roommates and I trekked to a local restaurant called “The Little Parliament.” Not knowing exactly what to expect, we were all taken aback when a tray of shots arrived at our table. “On the house,” our waiter said. We all looked at each other wondering if this was customary. My eyes crept over to the table of locals to our right—shot glasses. Welp. Opa! We grabbed our glasses, ready to say “cheers” until we heard our waiter shout at us to wait for him. He poured his own shot and yelled, “Yeiamas!” Your health. We took the shot and breathed a little fire—the starter drink is stronger than ouzo, yet is said to help form an appetite. The first part is definitely true.
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After recovering the ability to taste in my mouth, the fresh-baked bread arrived with carafes of white and red wine and a dish of tsadziki—a yogurt and cucumber dip. After dinner? Take another shot—on the house. Whoever said Greeks don’t drink a lot was severely wrong. After dinner, around 12:00 or 1:00 a.m., the Greeks go to another bar for socializing and live music. The Greeks will limit themselves to two drinks—and two packs of cigarettes—in an evening. The second-hand smoke here is enough to give clear lungs instant cancer.
Once the drinks are empty and the cigarette packs lie empty and crumbled, the Greeks retire for the evening—around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. No wonder they need a siesta. Eat. Laugh. Drink. Dance. Live. I think I can get used to this.