I rolled over and almost fell onto the floor. Two red cats slinked by. Couch…red cats…must be Thessaloniki.
I thought that I had closed the door out to the balcony, so where was all the noise coming from? The door was closed, but another door in the kitchen was open…for the cats. The noise was coming from outside. It almost sounded like the laiki (pronounced “lie-ee-kee”), the Greek street market that occurs once a week—except for that man’s voice. Weird. It was like a combination of podosforo (European football) and the laiki. Take away that irritating male voice that sounded like a broken clock tower bell, and it would be a laiki. The bustling noise of the neighborhood crowd was discernable. Even his irritating voice was familiar, but instead of yelling “ANGANARES!! (ARTICHOKES!!)” or “FRESKA PSARIA!! (FRESH FISH!!)” or “OLA ENA EVROOOO!! (ALL ONE EUROOOO!!)” he was yelling something else, something that my sleep-deprived brain couldn’t quite make out.
I remembered back to my first laiki experience in Athens. I thought it was the best, even better than the Acropolis! Apparently, my shopping addiction extended to fruits and vegetables, but to say that the laiki is composed only of fruits and vegetables would be misleading. The laiki is to a Greek home what a periptero (kiosk) is to all of Greek life. Beyond fruits and vegetables are plants, little trees, flowers, olives, fresh fish, olive oil, nuts, grains, household items for the bath and kitchen, bedding, pillows, rugs, clothes (from bras to jeans) and Bunsen burners. Between the peritero and the laiki, you’ve got just about everything covered.
I remember spending hours wandering up and down the four packed street blocks, squished between vegetable stands and mad Greek women pushing upright shopping carts. (A word of advice: Wear strong protective shoes, such as those for hiking, and “steer” clear of those shopping carts on wheels. Part of me wonders how many laiki customers have lost toes…) I was mesmerized by the assortment, the quantity, and the prices. More words of advice: If you buy less than a kilo of anything, the sellers will take pity on you and refuse to charge you—since anyone who buys so little must be devastatingly poor. The longer you wait, the lower the prices. After my first trip, my thoughts were filled with just what could I do with two kilos of lemons? (other than make lemonade, of course).
But even the vast display of fruits, vegetables and wares was eclipsed by the bizarre cacophony of voices screaming just about everything one could imagine. One of our first assignments in Greek class was to attend the neighborhood laiki and write down what we heard.
Cigarette smoke pierced my nose, and brought me out of my daydream. My friend was up. I appeared in the kitchen as he asked me if he had woken me. I answered “no.” He said, “It must have been the laiki, then?” I answered that it was that man yelling God knows what. He said, “Oh, the one yelling “OLYMPIAKOS!!”?
That’s why it sounded like podosphero! Olympiakos is one of the Greek teams; they had evidently won the night before. Why he was yelling it at the laiki the next day is still a mystery.