“What is Kourou, Please?”

Why did people start lining up outside 10 Voulis Street early on a Saturday morning, even before the city started to look properly alive?

People started lining up outside 10 Voulis Street in downtown Athens early on a recent Saturday morning, even before the city started to look properly alive. That the crowd was a multiethnic one was immediately apparent. Tourists from the length and breadth of the world had gathered in front of Ariston, investigating the window display of cheese, spinach and sweet cream pies and piroski buns.

A young Chinese woman read the signs out loud, pausing as she tried to pronounce the word “kourou.” “What is kourou, please?” she asked the man behind the counter. “Traditional cheese pie,” he said, as drily as the crispy, grease-free pastry that makes up the kourou cheese pie for which Ariston has been famous for years.


He didn’t have the luxury to explain that the word is Turkish and means dry; to be fair, he probably had his fill of having to answer the same question a few dozen times a day.

Who’d have expected that so many of Athens’ old establishments – pie shops like this one, souvlaki joints, tavernas, pastry shops and old-school kafeneios – that managed to survive the crisis would be experiencing a boom thanks to being featured in travel magazines, blogs and posts, along with laudatory descriptions that are sure to entice foreign visitors.

There are many ways to view tourism on the scale that Greece has been experiencing it in recent years. One of them is that the way modern tourists go about their travels today, with many focusing on the lesser-known aspects of a city, represents a massive opportunity for old-school businesses. Shops that are otherwise unremarkable and often in neighborhoods that are not in the epicenter of tourism activity are being sought out today after featuring on “Don’t miss” lists and in the Top 10 of what a tourist has to try in Athens.

There’s something Anastasios Lombotesis never expected when he arrived in Athens in 1906 from Constantinople where he’d learned the art of pie-making and opened Ariston, believing that every single item that leaves his store must deserve the name “ariston” (the best).

This article originally published at ekathimerini.com

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