"39 coffee-houses and one barber-shop" by Jelly Hadjidimitriou
by Jelly Hadjidimitriou |
39 coffee-houses and one barber-shop in Lesvos
Crete University Press. ISBN 960-524-044-0
Coffee houses or kafeneia, as they are called in Greece. Coffee
houses on the island of Mytilene or Lesvos look so similar to the coffee
houses in Crete or other areas in Greece.
This similarity should come
as no surprise, as all areas of Greece share a common historical and cultural
Coffee houses represent a very important aspect of social
life in the
villages of Greece. This is the gathering place for all men: young and
old, single and married. Even to this day, coffee houses are not a place
Men usually gather here in the evening, after the end of a busy day.
They come here to meet friends, learn the news of the village, talk about
politics, play cards or just relax with the monotonous clicking of worrybeads
(kompoloi) in their hands.
Coffee houses are still very popular in the villages of Greece. In towns
and cities they still exist, however they are gradually being replaced
by cafeterias and bars visited by both men and women.
Jelly Hadjidimitriou has managed to create an excellent collection of
photos of these coffee houses. The photos together with the bilingual
(Greek and English) texts are a precious aid to understand this significant
part of the Greek culture and preserve images that have been a quintessential
part of the Greek landscape for centuries, but are disappearing as the
"39 coffee-houses and one barber-shop" by Jelly Hadjidimitriou is a highly recommended book for all friends of Greece.
39 coffee-houses and one barber-shop
More photos and a short extract from the book
COFFEE HOUSES which Jelly Hadjidimitriou photographed in Mytilene are
like old pieces of china kept in the dresser with the glass panes and
the mirrors. Bright and shiny. Their architecture and their spontaneous
beauty represent facets of a dying culture. They give the impression
that they have always existed. There is a certain timeless quality about
them. They belong to a far-removed past as well as to yesterday.
They are full of light. The light of Mytilene. Their colours are those
of the flowers in the fields. Their patrons' faces are illuminated by
a sacred light. There is a feeling of serenity about them. They stand
there, before the arrival of the messenger. They will soon be demolished
and replaced by new multi storey buildings. They have not yet lived through
the various unidentified departures - death, migration, illness.
Glasses of water, spoonfuls of sirupy sweets, countless cups of coffee
- those are their weapons. Their chairs are like those in the paintings
by Theofilos or Tsarouchis. Their tables are like those in the poems
by Elytis or Ritsos.
The coffee houses in Mytilene photographed by Jelly Hadjidimitriou
are like flowers clinging to the edge of a precipice - the precipice
of the life and death of the islanders. Of the people in the whole world.
They remind me of a dying art. The art of serenity, where heart problems
and high blood pressure have no place. This is why they look like churches
consecrated to unknown deities. To lost paradises. When we behold them,
their beauty makes tears well up in our eyes. Tears of a pure soul."