Anyone who has ventured a little way from wherever they are staying in the cities, towns and even some of the villages in Greece will have come across a periptero. These gaily coloured kiosks are really 1.9 square metre wooden boxes, more often than not capped a triangular awning which overhangs the box by at least another 18 inches to shade both wares and customers. The operator sits surrounded by his or her wares on three sides - both inside and out - and does business through a small window on each side at his or her head height while seated!
|According to published figures there are more than 46,000 of these amazingly small businesses operating throughout Greece. Selling sweets; ice creams; newspapers; magazines; picture postcards; key rings; worry beads (kolimboi) cold drinks; maps; guide books - in fact anything that the owner considers sellable in his area - and tobacco!!!!! Tobacco in Greece is sold almost exclusively by peripteros. And tobacco in Greece, as any visitor from Northern climes will have noticed, is very, very popular..... If it rained more in Greece every periptero would have a rainbow sticking out of the top!!|
|Periptera, as they are collectively known in Greek, are gold mines. Which goes a long way to explain their numbers. Standing outside Chania central market I have an immediate choice of two, the one above and the one on the left. Both survive well in spite of each other and the market and nearby competition, and from this particular spot I can see at least three more, and from the furthest away at least two more, and.... I do believe it to be possible to tour a large part of Chania, without getting lost, simply by making for the next periptero you can see! Tour guides take note... this may be the next fad.|
|But back to the rainbow! It seems sometimes that the old saying, "if the cap fits wear it!" Have a look at the caps sitting on top of the peripteros and you will get a very good idea about the major companies with a seriously (in)vested interest.... Though it has to be said that even allowing for low prices (compared with the UK) something like 75% of the massive amounts of tobacco revenue returns to the government as tax. The periptero owner doesn't often find that the end of the rainbow is inside the box with him or her. And the person inside the box may not always be the owner and thus earning even less for long hours selling, so to speak, on the spot! And be perhaps grateful that there isn't a picture of a 'Big Mac' on every periptero in sight! Can you imagine it - a MacDonald's periptero for every 400 inhabitants!! (The number of tobacco outlets - mainly peripteros - allowed in Greece).|
Of the three working sides of the typical periptero - with that tiny window in the middle through which you stoop to show your selection and put your money in a large usually glass ashtray just in front. Your change will be deposited there.... Some peripteros also sell stamps - and bus tickets which you will need on services without conductors. If there is a local bus stop nearby get your tickets from the periptero. If you are worried about anything get your worry beads here too!
|A large number of peripteros take advantage of the extra space created by their overhanging awnings to add ice-cream freezers and drinks coolers. Greek ice-cream is to my mind the best in the world, and I say that even after trying the Italian variety in Venice, and the ability to obtain cold bottles of water; soft drinks and sometimes beers is often a god-send in summer. The sight of locals toting cold drinks bottles everywhere in a heat wave is not uncommon, nor is sometimes seeing them pour the contents over their heads! Buy one here.|
If the periptero, such a common and perhaps inseparable part of the Greek scene ever becomes extinct, someone will suggest I am sure, that their magic hats with the often superbly self-deprecating advertising be retained as national monuments. This roof stands on the periptero at Kolimbari crossroads NW Crete. I used to have a bag over my head too, but then I gave up smoking in 1984..... Collect a periptero, much more interesting than road signs! Someone will surely write a book.
|It is said that a well located periptero can take as much as 2,000 GB pounds per day from it's 1.9metres square. Maybe 10% for it's owner in return for open all hours service and employing assistants. Some owners are military service or police personnel injured in the line of duty and some have run these tiny businesses for many, many years. One we know has been operating his for 35 years and hopefully we will be able to get him to tell us something about his experience in the not too distant future.|