Greek-American Stories: Touring the Right Places

Sunday found John, Dimos, and George in Dixon’s cafeteria listening attentively as Kipreos described the two weeks’ vacation to the place that he and a group from the hotel where he worked had chosen to visit. Before then, his usual vacations were to Cyprus, of course, where he visited his mother, relatives, and school acquaintances. This time he had decided to join a special tour to see Athens and other parts of Greece. Included in the tour was a trip to Epirus, a mountainous region where the town of Metsovo is located. A souvenir from his trip, he unwrapped a wedge of cheese made there, having cut it into bite size pieces for them to enjoy, and placed it next to the donut plate.

Photos of him and the tourist group at various places in that town were not yet available, he told them.  “They’ll be ready by next week.” Then, he continued, “But, if you ever go to Greece, you’ve got to see this place. It’s so country! The mountains scent of oregano and…” Just then, Yiannis sauntered in, coffee in hand. His eye scanned the donut dish and he was disappointed that his favorite sprinkled one was missing. Damn! The penalty for coming late! He paused, noticing the cheese. The others had given him scant notice listening to Kipreos’s account of his recent vacation. Leaning over, Yiannis asked John where Kipreos had vacationed. But the din in the cafeteria muffled the information and it sounded like “Me-to-ko,” Rather than ask again, he decided to figure it out for himself by listening. He picked up a piece of cheese and nibbled on it while Kipreos mentioned colorfully painted houses, girls wearing pretty scarves, and men who wore wide brimmed, straw hats for shade.

“We enjoyed the clear, warm sunny days and the people in the little tavern. We danced to a small ensemble that played folk music in the square.” Yiannis asked about the food. “The fruit was sweeter than you can imagine and the food was not too different from what is cooked in Cyprus.” Yiannis nodded, grinning. “Pretty girls’ eh? Dark eyed and flirty?” Kipreos looked up. “Well, some were dark eyed and pretty but…” saying no more on that subject he turned his attention back to the others. “Guitars played the sweetest music.” Yiannis piped up, again, “Of course! They’re known for their guitar playing, I know.” Dimos looked at him. “You know that?” He replied, “everyone knows that! I read it in National Geographic and heard them playing in the movies.” George puzzled questioned, “in the movies? You saw them playing guitars in the movies?” Their doubts began to irritate Yiannis.

Eyes narrowed, he told them, “yeah! They’re famous for those things.” Then, he asked Kipreos, “they siesta in the afternoons, right?” Kipreos nodded. “Oh, yes! Everyone does, naturally. By afternoon, it was too hot to travel around. The hotel we stayed at had ceiling fans, no air conditioning, though! But, there was a nice breeze coming down from the mountains.” Yiannis, putting down his coffee, thought about the breezes mentioned and wanted to convince them he knew a thing or two. “That’s from the Gulf, of course, or the Atlantic, depending where you’re located.” Staring at Yiannis with unrestrained curiosity, Dimos wondered at the odd information he touted but decided not to correct him. “What do you think of the cheese?” asked Kipreos.

“Isn’t it the best you’ve ever tasted? Everyone bought a wheel of it before leaving. They’re famous for their cheese.” Yiannis murmured, “I didn’t know they made cheese there.” Then asked, “how did you communicate with the people?” All heads turned again toward Yiannis in astonishment. Feeling offended at the inference that the Cypriots didn’t speak Greek as well as mainland Greeks, Kipreos said with dignity and composure, “I’ll have you know that my Greek was well understood and I even acted as interpreter for the others in the group.” Surprised, Yiannis’ head came up.

“They spoke Greek? I thought they spoke only Spanish!” Annoyed at his string of irrational comments, George growled, “Yiannis! Now why would they speak Spanish in Metsovo?”  Eyes rounded widely, his mouth dropping open, Yiannis exclaimed in complete surprise, “Metsovo? Oh! I thought he went to Mexico!”


JANUARY 22ND: On this day in 1788, Lord Byron (née George Gordon Byron), the famous philhellene, poet, and satirist, was born in London, England.

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