Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Greece ~ Siga, Siga; slowly, slowly . . .

“Slow down, you move too fast,
gotta make the morning last. . .”
                                             -- Paul Simon, The 59th Street Bridge Song
I regularly meet a fellow writer friend for coffee and chitchat when I am in the Pacific Northwest. We schedule it early in the day so as to fit it in to our schedules, which in itself could be a laugh as we are both retired. I mean, really, ‘schedules’ when you are retired??

We never worry about overstaying the 1.5 hour free parking limit where we rendezvous because frankly, we don’t have time to exceed it – there’s always another appointment or commitment that one of us needs to get to.  We sip steaming beverages served in paper cups imprinted with Starbucks logos, giving little attention to our surroundings.
 
We aren't quite as hurried as others who rush in and ‘grab and go’ –  we can now use our mobile device to order our coffee prior to our arrival at this coffee shop chain. No waiting. In and out and on our way. Who has time to linger?

That rushed approach to both having coffee and living life seems normal, the ‘American way’.

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Coffee on the island of Poros, Greece
And, I've come to learn, it is a stark contrast to the Greek approach to meeting for coffee. The difference between the two is nothing short of a cultural caffeine jolt. In Greece meeting for coffee is a long, lingering event, not limited to any particular time of day: morning, afternoon or long into the evening, people come together over coffee. 


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Coffee shop corner in Heraklion, Crete

It has taken a bit of time to adapt to this cultural phenomenon of relaxing and slowing the pace over coffee.  I mean, sitting at a table, long after your cups are empty, sipping a glass of water (that is always provided with the coffee in Greece), just isn’t the norm in the States. Yet, here, it seems almost an insult to the establishment to rapidly consume your beverage and then jump up and leave.

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Kafenion in the Greek Peloponnese
This ‘long-linger’ over coffee may have gotten its start at the old style kafenions, those tiny shops where a small group of elderly Greek men visit while sipping their strong-enough-to-put-hair-on-your-chest coffee and downing an ouzo chaser while twirling worry beads. Where ever the tradition began, it is insanely popular at cafes and coffee houses throughout the country.

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Maestros café - Kardamyli, Greece
During our early stages in Greece we used that American approach to ‘going out for coffee’ in our village. Sip quickly, check messages on our phones, then be on our way.

Siga, siga, (slowly, slowly) that is changing.  After all, what did we really have to do in Greece that would cause us to rush off from anywhere?  And why is it that ‘busy’ seems the acceptable by-word in the States, but here we are learning contentedness in sitting and smelling, the roses,  the coffee, in this case, and watching the world go by?

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Kaefenion - Agios Nikolaos, Peloponnese, Greece
We began slowing our pace one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago when The Scout and I headed to our nearby village, Agios Nikolaos for coffee ‘at Freda’s’. That means Gregg’s Plateia – a small cafe run by Gregg and his mom Freda.  This popular eatery is an ex pat gathering spot, post office, bus stop, and serves as host site to any number of fund-raisers.

An added bonus is that Freda always has an answer to our questions, of which we usually have a few.

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An afternoon at Freda's - siga, siga
As we lingered at our table for nearly two hours sipping a cappuccino and a ‘press’ coffee on that warm afternoon I realized we were conquering the cultural coffee divide. During that time, we browsed through her furniture catalog, picked up books from her mail table that I had ordered from the U.K.'s  Book Depository and purchased oranges from the fruit vendor – never going more than a dozen steps away from the table.

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We buy from this fellow as often as possible
We’d visited with a couple of folks who were walking past, waved to others and simply watched others go about their rounds, like our village pappas, making his way to the church around the corner – after he’d made a stop at the coffee shop across the way.

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Watching the street scene - Agios Nikolaos, Peloponnese
By lingering, we had a treat as a ‘new’ fishing boat was spotted in the bay and crew were shuttling its catch between the boat and the harbor fish scales. Amazing all the things there are to watch and learn while sipping a cup of coffee – if  you give yourself the time to do it.

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Agios Nikolaos - Peloponnese
Our timing was off that day – even with our lingering – so we didn’t get to watch the bus from Kalamata stop in front of the cafe and deposit passengers prior to threading its way down the village’s main street to its next stop at the other end of town.

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The bus comes through town three times a day - Agios Nikolaos
You, who follow our adventures on Facebook, know that one of my most favorite pastimes (and unexplainable) is watching the bus that serves this region crawl through town on its way north or south and then posting FB photos like the one above.

I was glad to learn I wasn’t the only one who enjoys that bus. The photo below was taken on another afternoon coffee outing, when we had new friends who were visiting from the United States join us for an afternoon coffee at another favorite hangout of ours, Molos Bistrot, next to Freda’s. It was the oncoming bus – not the caffeine – that jolted them out of their seats with cameras in hand.

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Here comes the bus!
I took the photo below a few years back in a cafe where we sipped coffee during a stay in a village on Crete’s southern coast. Back then, we had a limited amount of time for travels in Greece and wanted to see as much of the country as possible.  The message didn’t ring as clear then as it does these days.

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We thank you for being here with us for another serving of Greek tales and hope to see you back again. Until then, safe travels to you and yours.

Linking up this week with:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

36 comments:

  1. A perfect musing, Jackie! "Time" itself seems to be a different entity once you leave North America and I can feel my tension levels increase when we plan a visit back to the US. Seeing friends and family is a delicate dance not to "impose" upon their tightly packed schedules and leaves us wondering about priorities ... And the ritual of coffee and meeting with friends to watch the world go by or catch up on local and world events is a lovely way to slow down the frantic busyness of life.

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    1. It is amazing the difference in approaches to those priorities. We've stopped unannounced by a friend's taverna while he and his family were busy getting it ready for 'the season' and they simply stopped what they were doing and asked if we wanted to have a coffee. On our Kyparrisi outing we stopped to look at a closed restaurant as a dinner possibility and the owner insisted we sit and have a coffee and enjoy the view - on the house. Life's priorities are coming more clear to me in this ex pat life -- I am liking the shift in my approach to life as well.

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  2. Beautiful!
    Thank you for joining the weekly photo link-up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/05/simply-squirrelly.html

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    1. Thanks - always fun to be part of the linkup!

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  3. I just caught up on your last few posts, from Easter through this one, and thoroughly felt transported as I read each one. Easter traditions, stone walls, mountains, and the lingering over coffee -- sign me up!

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    1. Oh Amy always nice to hear that you've enjoyed these snippets of life in Greece. It really is a magical place! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I love this siga siga culture of coffee drinking. We discovered it in Croatia, where a coffee date can take three hours! I love the view from Freda's place. I do love your Greek posts and am putting in a standing order. :)

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    1. Oh Jan, you always bring a smile to my face when I read your comments. Thanks so much for your continued encouragement. Xxx Jackie

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    2. I certainly wish I had the initiative to live in a country other than my own like you do! I've always had a soft spot for Greece. We went there when we were 24 years old and the people were so friendly and the country so appealing.

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  5. I so love your pretty posts...and how I would love to visit Greece someday...and have coffee....and RELAX...(I am now on a search for a sign just like that to hang in my backyard space...)...xoxoxo

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    1. A sign like that would be perfect under that new pergola of yours, BJ. Hope you find one!

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  6. Sounds blissful... I think we could all do with operating on 'Greek' style time a bit more often

    Mollyxxx

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    1. It does amaze me the way we put time with friends and family and sipping coffee on the forefront when we travel but when we are in our everyday life, everyone seems to busy to take time to connect (beyond mobile phone texting). Thanks for stopping by ~ happy weekend!

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  7. Your post reminds me of friends who invite me to their houses to "eat." Now, some of them live fours hours away from Los Angeles. What they really mean is that we are going to the house, help prepare the food, eat together and then spend the rest of the day walking around a park or hanging around the house. So, yes, some terms are understood differently in different cultures.

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    1. Nothing like one of those kick-back days with friends though, is there Ruth? Thanks for such a thoughtful comment about life in California.

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  8. Hi Jackie. I think lingering over coffee is a European pass time:) I did a lot of coffee lingering when I was in Portugal last winter, and there was always company. Your bus shot makes me think...that driver has a very steady hand! Beautiful photos, as always. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. Thanks much Nancie, glad you liked the photos. And yes, 'lingering over life - and coffee', does seem a more European approach to life than American! ;-) Happy weekend. #TPThursday

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  9. I like the idea of "siga" when sipping coffee (which I do in the mornings at home) especially when visiting with friends. Looks like that bus barely makes it through the narrow street.

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    1. There is a nice feel to siga, siga coffee isn't there, Gaelyn - no matter when or where it is sipped with friends. Thanks much for stopping by!

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  10. Loved this post. It made me smile and feel as I had slowed down (at least for a bit). I don't know why we attach such importance to being busy. Lingering over coffee in Agios Nikolaos sounds perfect.

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    1. Thanks and glad you liked the post, Donna. We will slowly sip coffee together should you ever make it to 'our' part of Greece! (and some wine, too -- later!)

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  11. You can order your coffee via an app? I guess I shouldn't be surprised about the rush, rush make everything fast and convenient USA. It's always a bit of culture shock to go back to my own country. The Greek siga, siga attitude is much more to my liking.

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    1. Yes, Jim we live in the land of Google, Microsoft and a trillion other tech companies and are the home of Starbucks, so it seems only natural in this part of the US to order coffee using an app! I prefer the siga, siga approach! Thanks for the visit.

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  12. From Marcia Mayne at Inside Journeys blog: '"I love reading your stories about adjusting to life in Greece. The bus story made me think of one my aunt told about waiting to hear the bus to Kingston as it reached the foot of the hill (the buses made a very distinctive 'chi chi' sound as the driver released the brake - so we called them 'chi chi' buses - then she'd run from her house to the street. She always made it to the bus stop before the bus. A handful of those buses remain. Mostly they take visitors on tours round the island and when they're spotted, all the cameras come out.
    My question for you is, do you naturally revert to your American pace when you return to the northeast or do you maintain your Greek pace?
    The first few weeks after I returned from Jamaica, I wondered how I'd ever lived in NY. I felt so outside the hustle and bustle but eventually, I found that I had adapted. I wasn't even aware that I had changed back until one day, I realized I was walking as quickly as the folks around me. "

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    1. Marcia, I loved that story of the 'chi chi' bus of old. It is getting more difficult to re-acclimate into the US pace each time we return. . .we are looking at this lifestyle a bit more critically these days and not just slipping back into it as we once did. Other ex pat bloggers seem to be writing of the same difficulties of re-entry no matter what country they've chosen outside the US, so it isn't 'just us' noticing these things. . .whew! It is nice to know you aren't alone. Thanks much for the comment!

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  13. Interesting. Your writing was vicariously took me to these lovely places and now, I am off to grab a coffee. :-)

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    1. I hope when you grabbed that coffee, that you sipped it siga, siga and enjoyed the life scene around you. Thanks much for your visit - hope you'll be back again soon!

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    2. Hopefully, you drank it 'siga, siga' and enjoyed your surroundings for a couple of hours. Thanks much for your visit to TravelnWrite and we hope to see you back here regularly!

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  14. Coffee time here after reading this. Love the Peloponnese - drove there and I wrote how I found my happy place. Memories never forgotten - you took me back therein a flash!

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    1. Glad the post sparked some happy memories and that you enjoyed that coffee you downed after reading the post. Thanks much for your visit - hope to see you back again soon for another cup of the Peloponnese!

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  15. North America isn't the only place to be rushed when it comes to coffee time. Italians and many French grab an espresso at the bar and down it in two sips. But I like the way the Greek do it, siga, siga...

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    1. I am certain that in the larger cities of Greece that same 'grab, gulp and go' exist as well, but happily the slowed approach to life - and coffee - is still the predominant approach in our area. Thanks so much for the visit!

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  16. It's always interesting to see how different cultures approach coffee. Here in Portugal, it's quite normal for people to stand at the counter in a café to get a quick shot of caffeine before going about their business. No lingering involved. But then if you throw a cake into the mix and make it a chance to catch up on gossip, people will sit there long after the cups have been drained.

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    1. Love the idea of the cake along with the coffee and of course, what would lingering over a cup of joe be without a bit of gossip or 'talk story' to go with it! Thanks much for your comment Julie - hope you'll comment regularly here!

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  17. There is a science to all of this really. I know they sit and sip and do business in a roundable sort of way, they network in those kafenions. And they languish for hours. On the other hand, when they are driving or trying to board the bus, they are in such a rush, as if the house was on fire... am I right? This rush to the bus drives me mad. Certainly it is not going to leave without us.

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  18. What a lovely post! Indeed, there are cultural differences. We just returned from Italy where the Italians pop in and out of bars for an espresso in a microsecond!

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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