Yamas! 20 Traditional kafenions
In Crete you can find many traditional villages. Some of them are inhabited by just a handful of people and others are crowded and lively. What they almost all have in common is that they have at least one kafenion! A kafenion is the meeting point in the village for a drink as well as for socializing! Although many kafenions have gradually disappeared, still there are quite some unique ones to visit! It is absolutely worthwhile to taste a Greek coffee, frappe or raki, meet the locals and experience the village life!
In Apokoronas region we have selected 20 special locations where you find these kafenions! Of course there are much more, so we had a ‘difficult’ task (and research) to make this selection! With this little booklet you have the opportunity to discover some of these traditional kafenions. For each village (indicated on the map), we also give local tips about what to do or visit. Enjoy discovering these lovely places!
The word kafenion comes from the Greek "καφενές”, which is borrowed from the Turkish word kahvehane or kahvene (coffeehouse). In almost every village in Greece you can find a kafenion! In many small Cretan villages it is still the social centre and essentially a place where men go to meet friends, relax after the end of a busy day, learn the news of the village, talk about politics, play cards or "tavli" (backgammon) or just sit with the "komboloi” in their hands.
Nowadays also women visit the kafenion although it typically is a men’s place. It is also a gathering place at special events, such as funerals or memorials. In remote villages it is the place where you can buy fresh bread or collect your post. In the recent past even the pensions were paid in the kafenion..... mmm tempting!!
The kafenion is usually primitively furnished with small tables and wooden chairs placed sideways at the table. It has simple decoration, the inevitable television and typically no music! You can certainly order a Greek coffee or frappé (iced instant coffee) but also beer, soft drinks, local wine, ouzo and raki (in Crete tsikoudia). Typically in Crete almost every kafenion offers a small "meze” with your drink, which is a bite like sliced olives, cucumbers or tomatoes, sardines, cheese, paximadi (crust bread), peanuts or crisps. It is also very common in Crete to get a tsikoudia offered with your drink!
In the past there used to be at least two kafenions in each village, painted in the colour that indicated the political party supported by the kafenion’s owner. Blue was for the conservative party "Nea Democratia” and green for the socialist party "Pasok”. Even though the amount of kafenions is gradually diminishing, kafenions are still very popular in the Greek villages, being an important and unique meeting point for the locals!