Tag Archives: Melina Mercouri

COFFEE, WITH GOOD TASTE

 

 There may be an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, as Sinatra first sang in 1946, but Volos isn’t all that far behind.  Cafe, coffee shop, coffee house, street cart – whatever the establishment serving the coffee bean  – Volos has a great many of them.

You can take your coffee in the most upmarket of surroundings where you can see and be seen by those who like to be seen, and where you will part with significant change, or you can grab it as you go from very modest premises. Some of these may be little more than a hole-in-the-wall but many serve surprisingly good coffee at a most reasonable price.

Wherever you choose to sit sipping your coffee, you aren’t likely to be disturbed if that’s your preference. At least, not by the staff trying to get you to leave. Take your time, read one of the newspapers placed about, check your email or whatever on your handheld device, contemplate your navel…

Our favourite cafe is in a quiet side street, a short walk from the busy main shopping street. It’s a little gem. A courtyard on the pavement outside catches the eye as you approach. Bright potted plants atop small tables beckon you to an armchair. Glass and wood panels enclose the area, while a large red awning offers protection from the sun, or even the rain should you decide to take your coffee there. It’s a perfect spot to watch the world go by, and catch up with your friends.

So inviting!

   Bentwood chairs complement the round tables inside. The human soul responds to curved forms – Nature doesn’t do straight lines – and the effect is very calming. The owners of the cafe, brother and sister Vagelis and Liana, have taken great care with the decor. Vagelis is a keen collector of antiques and objects of historical and social interest, some of which are displayed in the cafe.

The advertising posters of bygone times are fascinating in what they reveal of social history, and the aspirations of those they were aimed at.

Political commentary

Some of the interesting collectibles which are carefully arranged in cabinets and display tables –

 Wake up and smell the coffee –

Good Morning!

 Perhaps there was a vogue for cheerful greetings in the home at some point. This jolly rooster, done in what is known as Berlin work, was almost certainly worked from a chart, though when I can’t say. I’m no textile historian so I don’t know when needlework motifs became less formal and romanticized, at least in the hands of the domestic needlewoman; experts can date such pieces by the cloth and threads used. Magazines and books with various designs were easily available and in fact, the first printed charts were produced in the 1500s in Germany, so the design used on a piece may be considerably older than the work. This one seems post World War Two to my eye; I would welcome any opinions.

There’s some age to this embroidery. Worked in silk on silk, by an expert hand, it might reflect socio-economic standing. Assuming the piece is Greek – and Vagelis believes that it is – the use of French seems somewhat of an affectation. Or shall we just call it snobbery, plain and simple? The cultured classes prided themselves on their ability to speak French, with all the connotations of such an accomplishment. And of course, the materials used here indicate a moneyed hand. Vagelis laughingly refers to this as “high society”.

A sentimental piece with its happy songbirds which has rather captured my imagination. It’s painted in watercolors on paper. The simple frame is handmade. By whom? When? Why? Was it painted by one person and framed by another? Was the design copied, perhaps from an embroidery pattern, or did the artist have a flight of fancy? Was this a gift to a beloved mother, or to a romantic interest? I sip my coffee and muse on it. Was it appreciated by the recipient? It seems so heartfelt. Vagelis thinks it dates from the 1920s or ’30s. I’m sure it tells a tale.

 A collection of vintage cameras in one of the cabinets caught Ron’s eye the first time we took coffee here. In this day of digital cameras and smart phones with their cameras giving instant results it seems another age when you took your film to a shop to be processed and printed. 

Old photographs are tucked about. Here is the Volos waterfront in 1945, in the last year of the War

and here is Volos today.

(The earthquakes of 1955 almost destroyed the city; only a handful of the beautiful earlier buildings remain.)

A cutting from a local newspaper refers to a photograph of the beloved actress, Melina Mercouri that Vagelis has, and pays tribute to her 22 years after her death. The setting is a typical Greek pavement cafe where a street photographer snapped Mercouri enjoying her coffee. The date is not indicated, but was probably in the late 1950s or early ‘60s. So much is captured in this shot, from the iconic tables and chairs, the little boy on his tricycle, the glamourous actress and political activist, to the older generation. Greece was still trying to recover from the devastation of the Second World War and the vicious civil war which immediately followed it.

 

Vintage furniture adds to the ambiance in this very pleasant cafe.

Whatever you choose to drink – the classic Greek coffee prepared and served to you in the briki, the traditional copper coffee pot – or cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee, tea, fresh fruit juice, it will be presented with a little dish of something to munch on.

What adds to my enjoyment and makes me linger is the music. Traditional Greek music, French, Italian, vocal and instrumental. Vagelis has carefully put together a delightful assortment that is not only pleasing to the ear, but encourages me to stay and listen.