Friday, August 08, 2014

That's the way the world goes round

I had been swimming in a bit of culture shock from moving from Belgrade to Athens.

While Belgrade felt cosmopolitan, Athens feels a bit more staid and gritty.  Belgrade felt like a Balkan Paris or Balkan Vienna with its semi-MitttelEurope charm; Athens feels far more Mediterranean like Tel Aviv or Alexandria with that more Levant feel.  

While Athens has significantly more diversity, as I saw Filipinos, Pakistanis and Africans from a variety of countries, many just seem glumly ambling about like Athens was some way station they were stuck in.

And while the Serbs had an initial warmth when they caught my smile, the Greeks looked a bit more Gorgon (stone-faced) and suspicious as if I could be a sichameni Turki (blood-thirsty Turk).  But I am slowly learning that it is a thin veneer of suspicion, and the Greek poker face changes on a drachma once they establish you are not indeed a blood-thirsty Turk.

I could offer a few examples, like the man at the laundry shop who recognized that I didn't have any other clothes other than the ones I was dropping off and thus did my laundry on express for the price of regular, or the long purple-clothed, long white-bearded priest who blessed me in the morning light as we walked by, but I will expound on just one.

As I was walking back from dropping off my laundry, I stopped to get a cup of coffee from an old lady at an old bakery.  First, I asked for espresso, then Turkish coffee, then got it right and asked for kafa hellenica.  She pointed to all three, and laughed if I wanted them all in one pot.

In broken communications, we established the proper sugar and strength of the rich Greek coffee.  She took the old bronze coffee briki (pot) off the wall and started simmering my coffee.  As it began to boil, she slid the glass case open and with her silver tongs grabbed a round dough fritter sprinkled with sugar: prezent.

I took one bit and melted in a sea of warm fried dough and cool vanilla custard in the center.  It was marvelous.

Orreoh, she said.  Very Good.

Very, very good.

I bade her ciao, and the old woman replied, ciao bambi (Goodbye child)

With gratitude and a smile as big as the Aegean, I wandered out of her little shop with my cup of black Greek coffee and the homemade fried custard donut that was the best fritter I have ever had.

That's the way the world goes round.

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