The power is out in my apartment – it could be the fuse, or an act of fate, but I spent a lot of time in the warm computer lounge today, when I wasn’t walking around shooting photos with my Holga.
I was in the lounge when Maria texted me about dinner – did I want any? And did I want it at a taverna? I used one of my last two texts for the weekend to emphatically stake my claim at the dinner table, then grabbed Brittany and headed on the twenty minute walk to Aromas, the little taverna where we all had dinner last week. The food is amazing, the people are friendly (though we mostly only see Carolina, who is wonderful) and the price is right for a Saturday night, on Independence Day in Greece.
Brittany and I got lost once or twice while we were moving toward the taverna – perils of living in a village where the streets were built to foil pirates. This may be one of our favourite places to eat, but damned if we’ve taken the same route twice to get there. As we walked up the stairs to the taverna after successfully navigating the dark, we were shocked by two close-range rifle blasts out of the front door of the taverna.
“Oh,” said Brittany mildly. “It must be someone’s name day”. She’s been here a semester longer than I have, she can be forgiven for not cringing against the marble staircase the way I did.
Brett and Maria met us and we looked around the inside of the restaurant, bewildered. “It’s nearly empty!” we cried. “What’s going on?” We started tossing around theories – being independence day, many people had started carousing early – the tavernas were full of Greeks at 2pm, which is unheard of here. So we figured they were home sleeping off lunch. What we missed was that the few people who WERE there, were really living it up.
Carolina took us to the glass case and showed us the days offerings – tender kalamari in a tomato-dill sauce with cardamom, briam (like ratatouille, only with about four kilos more olive oil) and gigantes and fava beans and pork in lemon sauce and all manner of goodness. I opted for briam, Brittany for fried zucchini, Brett for gigantes, and Maria-Elena for pork in lemon sauce, and we all four dipped into each dish to make our dinner. Plus we polished off two dishes of skorthalia, thereby continuing our week-long garlic bender. While we ate, the smattering of people in the nearly empty restaurant coalesced into dancing circles, and the music grew increasingly louder. Carolina finally shouted in our ears that today is Angelos’ name day, her husband, and we danced a bit and listened to Angelos’ favourite song repeatedly, until Carolina brought out sweets made with farina & cinnamon. We left shortly after for Rengas, for dancing and wine.
When we first arrived, the tables were empty though the musicians were playing beautifully inside. We turned around immediately and walked around the corner to the Village to get the rest of the students – we were going to make this a party.
Maria was restless and hoping someone would get up to dance first, so she sat tapping her foot through favourite songs until finally she stood up and started to dance. We joined her, stumbling through several songs with the encouragement of the musicians, who played easier pieces that we could follow, until we sat exhausted and had another glass of wine.
The violin started a lonely sounding song, and the mandolin and bouzouki followed in harmony, sadly drifting. A middle-aged coupled who’d been sitting behind us and smiling affably while we stumbled and fell in the faster songs stood and moved silently to the floor, and began to dance.
And oh, I’d had a little wine, and the light was dim and the music was sweet and they were so beautiful to watch. They circled each other lightly without touching, their steps in exact synchronization. You could tell they had been married so long that they moved themselves as though they were two halves of one body. He held his arms in a wide circle, and she twirled safely within their stretch, perfectly in rhythm. Then they stood side by side and joined arms to shoulders, stepped and kicked lightly in exact rhythm, concentrating. He smiled down at her, and she peacefully moved to face him.
You could see that she had been very beautiful when she was young, because of the particular beauty she carried with her into middle age, her graceful posture, her lovely mouth that only smiled once but always rested in a calm line.
The song got a little faster, and they whirled and I was entranced and the song ended and they laughed and he put his hands on each side of her face and looked lovingly in her eyes and kissed her. We applauded and thanked them as they walked to their table, and he ruffled my hair as he passed, and later when they left and we wished them goodnight they said “Thank you for the company” and though we had thanked them for the dancing, there was more to it than that.