Yineka-mou and I were intending to have a very quiet day, and an especially quiet night, after yesterday’s Birthday Party with the Mad Brothers. So, up relatively early, we went for our usual morning walk around the island followed by a compulsory swim at Italida beach ( no problems with wet bathers at Italida, nobody wears them, that’s why Mad Petros calls it ‘Dangly Bay)
On our way back home, walking up to our Villa at Pambelos, we stop and talk to the friendly and inquisitive horse that lives in a field halfway up the hill. The horse, I don’t know it’s name, ( a horse with no name?) as usual, trots over to us and YM leans over the fence to stroke the horse’s face and neck, which he seemed to like ( who wouldn’t?). He also seemed to like the beach towel hanging around YM’s neck, because he suddenly grabbed it between his teeth and tried to run off with it. What ensued next was a strange tug-of-war between YM and THWNN, which eventually YM won….. I was in stitches by all this going on.
Beach Towel back in our possession we arrive back to find that the slightly crazy cook/housekeeper Renata, she’s from the Dominican Republic, has prepared a delicious breakfast for us on the terrace ( is 12:30 pm still considered breakfast? ) which took up another hour and a half of the day. Renata can hardly speak a word of English, but can speak Greek quite well, but usually mixed up with her native tongue, Spanish, so we converse with each other in a hybrid language I call Spangrelish. In the mornings she normally greets us with a shouted ‘Buenos Dias’ to which we reply in Greek, Kalimera, and sometimes she also calls back in Greek, Kalimera, then bursts out laughing….. she is always laughing and Renata’s laugh is so infectious it seems to make everyone happy too. Feels kinda weird though, speaking Spanish on a small Agean island…..eh, no importa!
After finishing our late desayuno/πρωινό/brekkie we returned down the hill to spend another lazy afternoon at Italida Beach again…. the wind has now dropped, and the water in the bay is both invitingly warm and absolutely crystal clear, which is also a mystery to me. How come, with all the rubbish and garbage and shit, that is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, that the water is so very clear in most of the Greek islands, not that I’ve been to them all!
On the way back home, as always, you can’t really avoid stopping for a quick drink at Finikas Taverna, and why would you not want too…..if Finikas was any closer to the sea it would be underwater, and according to those expert climatologists it already should be! The waves lap right up against the steps from the beach almost, and it’s such a simple little taverna, but one that serves really good meals. The staff are mostly the same year to year, and we have got to know them quite well, and find we are treated more like friends than customers. Whenever we can’t be bothered to walk the 20 minutes into the Chora (the village) we always eat dinner at Finikas. But not tonight, tonight we are walking to the Chora to have a quiet meal at Melissa’s Taverna, then straight home again afterwards. ……Ahh, the best laid plans of blah blah blah….
Back in the Xora, we make our way to Melissa’s, which may not serve the best food on the island, and ‘haute cuisine’ it certainly ain’t, but it clearly does what it does best, home cooked simple Greek food, where you can still wander into the kitchen to see what’s cooking….. or more likely, what has been cooked previously that day and is now sitting in the Bain-Marie cooling off. As you probably know, Greeks prefer to eat their food at a somewhat less than hot temperature, as they believe that hot’ food is harder to digest. To avoid this, I always ask for my choice of dish to be ‘poli zesti’ (very hot) which sometimes works , sometimes not….. depends on the efficiency of the microwave I guess! Anyway, the atmosphere at Mellisa’s is good, the staff are friendly and it’s inexpensive. After dinner, around nine-thirty, YM and I discuss whether we should head straight home, or have a ‘nightcap’ at Scholio’, a tiny little bar on the outskirts of the Chora, but in the opposite direction of where we live, run by a couple of former hippy’s, Nina and Mimis. At Scholio, ( it used to be the old ‘school-room’ in days gone by, hence ‘Scholio’) the music is all full-on 60’s and 70’s genre…. a bit like the clientele….and the drinks are full strength too. I’m not sure what Mimis uses as a measure, but if his G&T’s are anything to go by, it’s a wine glass! I really have to persuade YM that just one quick drink at Scholio, just to say hi to Nina and Mimis, no more than 10 minutes, what a nice gesture that would be, and promised that after that, sustained by our nightcap, we could begin the long walk back home to Pambelos.
Unfortunately for our plan, when we arrived at Scholio who should also be there but Mad Petros and his lovely partner Ana, along with rest of the crew from the birthday party.
A couple of hours , and a few more drinks later, we finally managed to leave Scholio, and made our way along the Main Street through the Chora….. actually, it’s far from being called a street, just a narrow lane really…. accompanied by Petros and Ana, who were also heading back to their hotel for the night, the Keros Art Hotel.
The problem is, or was, that just before this Main Street/Laneway/alleyway turns the corner to go downhill towards the harbour, it slightly narrows even more, and on either side of the street are two small bars, Koufohorio and Astrolouloudo, both with their tables and chairs spread out along the lane, always busy and buzzy with people , even dogs on occasion.
My old mate Billy ( Bee-lee) named this part of the laneway ‘The Fish Trap’, as it’s sometimes (often?) quite difficult to pass by without being lured in for a drink by other bar patrons, often locals you know, who happen to be sitting there. When I’m more quick-witted than I was this particular evening, and when I really do want to get home, I’ve sometimes taken the long route along the dirt road that skirts around the village, just to avoid being caught in the trap!
As we warily approach the Fish Trap, like four stunned mullets caught in a net, we suddenly find ourselves seated outside the bar on the right called Koufohorio, for what Petros promises will be just one quick ouzaki nightcap….. how the fek did that happen? Ouzo, like Raki and Retsina, is an acquired taste, but we all seem to have acquired it….. is it the company…..and one ouzaki leads to two ouzakia until someone, maybe Ana, ( certainly not the barman, the place is still buzzing) points out that it’s two-am and maybe time we should all go home. Good idea Ana, why didn’t I think of that? Leaving the Fish Trap, we started making our way down the hill to the beach road that would take us on our long walk home to Pambelos. YM and I anyway….Petros and Ana’s hotel, the Keros, is less than 200 metres away. Suddenly, we heard some shouting from the terrace of a new bar that had only just opened earlier this year…. “Ela Mallakas, pou piyenette?” (hey, where are you all going?). Pete, Ana and I ignored the shouts and carried on walking down the hill, but not YM, who had by now turned on her heel and headed back to investigate who was doing the shouting. “I think you’d better go back as well mate” says Petros, “ and make sure she’s OK, but we’re off to bed….goodnight!”
Back up the hill I went, and looked into the terrace in front of the bar, to find about a dozen locals, males and females, having a great time, shouting and swearing at each other as is the custom in Greece. I see YM, already with a drink in hand, sitting next to the source of the shouting, none other than our landlord Giorgos….. I should have known.
“Ela Mallaka, have a beer and sit down” says Giorgo, thrusting a 500ml bottle of FIX beer into my hand. Just what I needed, not, but best not upset the man yet, I may need him to drive us home. Strangely enough, that was exactly the thought that Giorgos had had , and was the reason he had called out to us when he saw us walking past the bar on our way home….. rather than see us walk stagger all the way back to Pambelos at that hour of the morning, he wanted to offer us a lift in his jeep. Good old Giorgos, or rather good old ‘young’ Giorgos’. However, in Koufonisia, nothing is quite as simple as that, and before he’d leave the party to drive us home, a few more drinks all round were in order. OK, if that’s the price to pay, I’ll pay it. Except I couldn’t pay for anything…. ‘Tipota’ as they say here. When I ordered a round of drinks, and pulled out a 50 euro note to pay, I was told by the owner that the bar was closed. However, that didn’t stop her from actually serving the drinks I had ordered. Seems that the bar was only closed in a general sense, it was still open for her friends, you just weren’t allowed to pay.
Around about 3am, the group became even more raucous, with one individual in particular, young enough to be Ym’s son, showing more than a passing interest in her. …. an Oedipus complex maybe, we are in Greece! Fortunately, his skill at seduction was even less than his English language skill…. Let’s be kind and call him a ‘beginner’ shall we.
It was now time to ask Giorgos to take us home, because he was certainly showing no sign of wanting to leave anytime soon. He didn’t need that much persuading though, and after ‘one for the road’….. an expression that I’m not proud to say that I taught him…. The three of us set off to walk to his old ‘Jeep’, conveniently parked in the lane at the side of the bar.
OK, call me stupid and irresponsible, and I wouldn’t usually get into a car with a driver who had been drinking, but let’s weigh up the odds here.
PRO’s. We are in Koufonisia. There are only two short roads on the island. Only locals have access to cars. It’s 3 am in the morning, all sensible people are asleep, so there is no other car on the road ( most likely?). The road to Pambelos is a bumpy dirt track for most of it’s length, so it’s impossible to speed. There are no trees to hit. Giorgos does this drive every night, and dozens of time a day. We REALLY don’t want to walk home.
Cons: I couldn’t think of any at the time!
Giorgos is a great guy, no really he is, and he could see that YM was a little concerned about his sobriety, and on the drive back he said to her “ Koritsi, you not worry, I automatic driver, drive this road many many times every day, can drive this with no eyes….no hands even” and with that he took his hands off the steering wheel, turned to look at YM in the back seat and closed his eyes. “See, is automatic” ( which he pronounced as ‘afto-matik’ “No problem” and continued to drive about 30 metres more ‘afto-matikly’ before bursting out in peels of laughter……Mallaka!