Occupying prime position on one side of the roundabout, about which all traffic to Thermisia village comes and goes, is the café-bar. It takes the unofficial, unassuming, low-lying role of the watchtower.
Neatly aligned chairs occupy the narrow strip of pavement, where men sit with matching glasses of ouzo and water. Friends buzz up on mopeds, park nowhere in particular, and take any seat available. Either they sit in silence or resume a conversation with a friend they’d begun an hour or two earlier, or yesterday.
Inside it’s functional; plain and simple with old brown chairs and a scatter of ashtrays on tables. This is a man’s patch.
On our first visit I order a Greek coffee – short, black and strong. I manage to kick it back without too much of a grimace, but realise I should have taken it sweet or had an ouzo to really fit in.
Second time I ask for a white wine (lefkó krasí). The barman repeats the words to me as a question – do I really want white wine? Óchi – I mean – Nai – I mean – Yes – I say. A smile: my new friend will bring me his very own wine (hand on heart).
My glass is brought to me filled full to the brim. I don’t waste a drop and I tip him well.
There are two barmen, and between them they keep the bar open from 7am until the last patron decides it’s the end of the night. I have it on very good authority that the place is still going strong at 2.30am – a fact uncovered when (on visit No. 3) the second barman greets my boys like old neighbours and friends, and anticipates their beer order before I’ve agreed to buy them anything.
This barman is very attentive and welcoming, but when he looks up and away from us, his gaze takes him far away. The lines writ on his face and the set of his shoulders – when he occasionally takes a seat – speak of an interesting, but not always easy life, and one not always lived in Thermisia.
Our new favourite bar appears to have no name, nor anything that boasts of its trade. Yet its clientele are loyal, keeping watch from their chairs while the two barmen serve them coffee, ouzo, water or beer, and nothing more to eat than peanuts.