BouBoukakia, like Cafe Pantepoleion, has an assortment of groceries, food and drink. However, it is a more informal environment, and can be endlessly entertaining due to its charismatic owners, Roula (BouBou) and Kostas.
Kostas and BouBou have been happily together for 23 years. For 17 of those years, in the summertime, they have taken their boat to Seychelles beach, close to Magganitis, in order to sell drinks, sandwiches and snacks to islanders and travellers alike. This is one of the ways that they get to know people from all over!
BouBou and Kostas love growing plants and flowers, and have a patio that is made for spending all day outside.
Fran and Sander are two of our favorite people in the village. They come from Albania, which to Albanians is actually known as Shqiperia, “Land of Eagles.”
Not only does BouBou love cats, she also loves dogs. This is unusual in Ikaria, where dogs are even more unpopular than cats. Including Goofy, BouBou has a small collection of dogs which bark faithfully and loudly every time someone arrives. Given that she’s running a popular cafe and grocery, the cacophony is an all-day affair!
A number of Greeks chain-smoke in the cafes and tavernas. Though there are technically laws against this now, they are virtually never enforced by business owners. One of the reasons we love BouBoukakia is that it is the only place in Magganitis that we can go that is 100% smoke free. BouBou will kick you out if you light up in here.
In addition to the normal assortment of updates on car accidents, murders and riots, Greek television has lengthy reports on things such as specific olive oil prices across the country.
People filter in and out of BouBoukakia all day. Residents come to take breaks from work, buy groceries, drink beer, wine or coffee, eat small plates of food, watch TV and catch up on gossip.
Amongst the topics of conversation at BouBoukakia: how many olives you’ve picked so far, how much olive oil you got, which oil press you went to, whose goat got into whose garden and what to do about it, and how big an octopus someone just reeled in from the sea.
About once a week, a woman brings mail to our village. Because there are no addresses here, she takes the mail sequentially to each of the two cafes in town. She goes through the mail at each place, announcing the recipients’ names. The people at each cafe will take a handful of mail to deliver to their own friends and relatives. The unclaimed mail eventually goes into a box at the second cafe.
The woman pictured above is the only person assigned to deliver mail to Magganitis. If she is sick, the mail doesn’t come. This happened one week while we were here, and it caused quite a fuss amongst the townsfolk, many of whom depend on regular pension money that comes via the weekly mailperson.
Kostas used to be a ship’s cook. He does most of the cooking for himself, BouBou, and all the visitors to BouBoukakia.
Octopus is one of the favorite meals here in the village. It is normally served with a vinegar and herb dressing.
Kostas makes some of the best wine and liquor in town. This is a nice glass of homemade spiced liquor that has honey, cloves and other spices added.
Most of the vegetables in our meal, such as the lettuce and celery, come from their garden down the hill.
Our snail hitchhiker has lost his lettuce home, but we relocate him to a pot of other greens, where hopefully he will be just as happy.
While BouBou sticks around BouBoukakia to make sure she can serve customers, Kostas takes care of more of the outdoor work such as vegetable gardening and picking olives. Pictured above is a portion of Kostas’s olive harvest for the year.
Unfortunately, Kostas had two full sacks of olives stolen from him this year, a discouraging fact considering how few people live in Magganitis.
Though BouBou has decorated every surface with a busy array of objects, she is meticulous about cleaning everything daily, and fixes anything that doesn’t work just right.
This talisman is one of many that BouBou has hung in various places around the inside of BouBoukakia. It is meant to help protect against the curse of the evil eye, or “kako mati.” The Greeks, who are very superstitious, believe that a curse can be cast on someone through a glance that harbors negative intentions such as envy, malice, or even misplaced admiration. Signs someone may be affected by an evil eye curse include headaches, dizziness or a string of bad luck. Strangers, old women, or blue-eyed people are thought to cause the curse of the evil eye most frequently. This may be why most protective talismans in Greece are blue. According to Greek folklore, the talismans help bend the gaze of the evil eye back to the sorcerer.
References to the evil eye can be found in ancient texts, including the Bible. In Greece, references appear as far back as classical Greece, when people believed the eyes could be a source for rays of evil. This superstition was spread by Alexander the Great as he moved east. The concept is still going strong in many parts of the world; in Europe it is most prevalent in the Aegean and Mediterranean areas.
In fact, someone has now even developed an app for android phones that allows a user to log on to chat with a digital Greek grandma who guides the user through the steps necessary in order to rid yourself of the evil eye curse.
When I counted talismans hanging in BouBoukakia, I found at least ten.
It is widely believed in Magganitis that BouBou’s rabbit died as a result of an evil eye curse.
BouBou used to sell the smaller painted rocks at Seychelles Beach in the summertime for 5 Euros apiece, which is now about 6 dollars. Since the economic crisis in Greece, she cannot bring herself to charge more than a few Euros to people, and also has not raised prices at her cafe for some time.