The kafenion, a Greek coffeehouse, is a contact and information exchange. Business is done here, people discuss and play. We are meeting up with Yannis Zapanti at Mouries in Volos.
Drinking coffee in Greece is more than just a pastime, it is a social ritual. The Greek café, the kafenion, is an iconic institution. Usually they are sparsely furnished with simple wooden chairs, small tables and neon tubes. They can be found on every village square and in every neighbourhood of a city. It is a place of contact and information exchange. Business is done here, people discuss politics, play and talk about everyday problems. The kafenion stands for something indestructible, something timeless.
Kafenion Mouries in Volos
Dimos Makris’ kafenion Mouries is situated on the Plateia Elefterias, the liberty square in Volos, directly underneath the Syriza party office. We are meeting Melpo Zapanti and her father Yannis Zapanti. Yannis is a regular in this kafenion. We are having Greek coffee and mountain tea and are captured by the ambiance.
Some men are playing tavli, the Greek version of backgammon; on another table they are playing cards. The game is noisy and each move is accompanied by a burst of emotions. Those who want to be in peace play with their kombolois.
All kafenia offer delivery service. The waiters acrobatically balance the kafedakí on the tapsi, a round tray with a long handle, on their bikes or mopeds or they just quickly bring it to the neighbour, the merchant around the corner.
A kafenion is a men’s meeting point, women are only rarely present. The Mouries however has two regular female customers. A side-glance to the continuously running news on the TV triggers a heated debate. The incapacity of the government is discussed, new taxes and laws and how it could all be done better. The game is perfect to let of steam and anger. Hours can pass before the men are done discussing, playing and drinking coffee. Sitting there calmly, playing with the komboloi, discussing or playing a bit of tavli, all of this can be enough to turn a normal day into a good day.