Lady Writers of the Poconos,  Writer's Life

Dancing Under the Cobwebs

I danced myself dizzy to the rhythms of a bouzouki and guitar. I drank local wine from a carafe that never went empty. Even though completely sated by Greek starters, I ate succulent grilled lamb till I thought I would burst.  Ever-present Greek salad with feta, long ropes of pasta with slow simmered beef, garlicky tzatziki, roasted beets, local salami, chunks of crusty bread, and plates of unidentified savories arrived unceasingly from the kitchen.

Corfu! Definitely one of the most enjoyable evenings I had in Greece.

You may be familiar with Corfu from last year’s BBC series about the Durrells. The Greeks call the island Kerkyra. Corfu is the anglicized version. The books by Gerald Durrell are far better than the television series, and the island has changed a great deal since the 1940s when the youngest Durrell collected his menagerie of local animals and documented the quirks of his unconventional family. The crescent-shaped island sits off Greece’s west coast in the Ionian Sea and the ferry takes about one and a half hours to get there from Ioannina on the mainland. Albania lies a mere ten miles away and is accessible by ferry.

Back to the restaurant.

That evening, our fearless bus driver Takiz (spelling unconfirmed) took us to a little village seven kilometers southwest of the only major city on the island, Corfu Town. Corfu Town serves as the capital of Corfu and the twenty or so islets in the Ionian Sea, most of which are uninhabited.

Our restaurant sits in the quiet residential village of Kynoprastes. The bus couldn’t manage the narrow roads near the end, so we had to walk the last mile to the restaurant surrounded by a misty haze and facing an uphill climb. A pre-dinner tour of a nearby olive museum had to be canceled because no one could find the key to the front door. Just as well, since it started raining in earnest.

The restaurant is called Trypas, Greek for hole. It began life as a grocery store in the 1930s. The room only holds six small tables and the center is kept clear for the dancers. The floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed full of empty(!) liquor and wine bottles had not been dusted since the store’s inception lending a certain casualness to the place. That evening our group of fifteen was joined by another table of three. No menu was offered. Food just kept appearing from the back kitchen.

The musicians played behind the counter over my left shoulder. The old-fashioned phonograph (imagine an RCA Victrola with a dog listening to his master’s voice) hung suspended high in the corner above my head with sinuous cobwebs hanging that would have had my mother reaching for her dust rag. The live music continued for the next three hours without a break. They were consummate masters of their craft.

Our dancers changed costumes at least four times and demonstrated traditional steps from all over Greece. During the highlight (!?), our man in the skirts with pompoms on his shoes took the rim of a small table between his teeth and did a few acrobatics. I guess a strong jaw and powerful teeth are greatly prized by the Greeks. I didn’t get a photo and my jaw ached with sympathy pains.

The rain had stopped before a few of our party headed back down the road of dark and shuttered houses to the bus and the return to our luxury hotel, The Corfu Palace.

I thought the hideaway restaurant in the sleepy town was one of the anonymous places known only to the locals. I only discovered later that its reputation went far beyond any expectations I might have had. The pictures on the wall behind the musicians are those of previous guests to the establishment that include French President Francois Mitterand, actress Jane Fonda, Aristotle Onassis, and the original Zorba, Anthony Quinn.

Evidently, anyone who is anyone comes to visit “the Hole” for genuine Corfiot cuisine and great entertainment. I can’t say I ate that well every night I was in Greece, but there were many nights I did. The rugged terrain I had to traverse by foot most days is the only reason I lost four pounds. More on the rugged terrain later.

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