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Ilias Mamalakis: The Cafés that survived over time


The concept of men gathering to discuss and exchange views on politics, art, and philosophy dates back to antiquity, mostly the agora.

It wasn’t until much later, during the siege of Vienna by Suleiman the Magnificent, when coffee spread to Europe and meeting points became coffee houses; sometimes refined, other times poor. However, the entire discussion was always held over a cup of hot coffee.

It’s in these places where one would meet friends or read the newspaper and smoke a cigarette or hookah.

The very first café in Greece opened during the Ottoman Occupation on the island of Crete, in a village, and its name, Yeni Kahve (the New Coffee House), underpins the concept of the coffee house. It was somewhere between Rethymnon and Herakleion. The village still stands; unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the coffee house.

Since that time, mainly in Central Europe, cafés with exquisite decorations and excellent service have been established, where a customer could take coffee, as well as pastry.

Many such cafés survived over time and are now being discovered, documented, and showcased by the Historic Cafés Route.

It’s truly mesmerizing to enter a place with, usually, wood paneled walls and comfortable chairs –armchairs, marble-top tables, fine porcelain tableware and silverware, and in such a civilized environment that makes you also want to look very dapper and enjoy your coffee, your cigarette, and a game of cards, chess, or checkers with fellow customers.

Once fully appreciated, historic cafés will become tourist attraction sites and add to the history of their respective city.

I wish that the Historic Cafés Route will be one more avenue for cultural growth and historical exploration.


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Region of Crete

Under the Αuspices of:

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Chania Chamber of commerce & Industry


Historical Archive of Crete

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