Blog 13 30/06/2015 ATHENS: In the footsteps of “The Embroiderer”

Posted in on 30 June, 2015 in News


 ATHENS: In the footsteps of The Embroiderer


It’s often said that authors incorporate a little of themselves in their books. In my case this is certainly true. The story of The Embroiderer spans 150 years. It is a sweeping saga set in Turkey and Greece against a backdrop of the last years of the Ottoman Empire; a period of great change and social upheavals. During the second half of the book, Athens plays a pivotal role in the story, not only because it is where I first heard the stories that I was to later write about, but because it involves places that I came to know and love when I lived there in the seventies. In those days I didn’t have a car; in fact many Athenians still don’t have one. The traffic is horrendous, parking almost non-existent and quite frankly, with a good metro system which improved greatly in time for the Olympic Games, you don’t really need one. So I either caught a bus and train or walked; usually the latter. Not only was it a way to keep fit whilst allowing me to consume moussaka, spanakopitas, and copious amounts of retsina and ouzo without putting on weight (I actually lost it), but it gave me a chance to see everything.


Poseidon. The National Archaeological Museum

I lived three kilometres from the centre of Athens in the neighbourhood of Kypseli. Like most suburbs of Athens, older, neo-classical style houses can still be found amongst the polikatikias – modern apartment blocks. It was here that I decided to set the last home of Sophia Laskaris, one of the protagonists in The Embroiderer. The main road into the centre of Athens took me past The National Archaeological Museum and the Athens Polytechnic where people lost their lives in the uprising against the military Junta headed by Georgos Papadopoulos, straight into the heart of Plaka and Monastiraki at the base of The Acropolis.

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square

The phrase from Noel Coward’s song, “Only Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” would accurately describe me. My favourite time of day to wander around the ancient ruins was when there were few people about – siesta time when all sane people were having a nap.  My other favourite time was in the early hours of the morning just after midnight when the harsh noise of the day gave way to the soft sounds of the night; the sound of a bouzouki floating over the red-tiled rooftops of Plaka, the howl of a dog, murmurs of lovers embracing on the fallen marbles in the ancient Agora. And the ever-present scent of jasmine and gardenia that mingled with pine resin in spring and summer. All treasured memories that had to find a way in to The Embroiderer.

Ancient Agora

Athenian Agora

When Sophia Laskaris finally left Turkey during The Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922 with only two of her children and a suitcase full of memories, Greece was in turmoil. It had been at war for ten years – more if we count the earlier uprisings. Now it had to cope with the influx of 1,500.000 refugees.  Sophia falls back on her years as a couturier in Constantinople and reinvents herself but the hardships and political instability of the next few years take their toll; The Great Depression, military coups and dictatorships, and then war; first the Italians and then the brutal oppression of the Nazi Occupation.

Today I’d like to take you to some of these wonderful places. So kick off your shoes, get comfortable and transport yourself back into the Athens of The Embroiderer. Much of it still exists today.

Athens, September 1972 (Part 1 Chapter 1)


Neo-classical house

 31 Thessaly Street in the leafy suburb of Kypseli in Athens had once been an elegant townhouse but years of neglect had reduced it to a sad state of disrepair. The warm pale-ochre stonework had long faded into a blotched gray that exposed large areas of crumbling plasterwork, and dark-green paint peeled from the wooden shutters. A narrow balcony protruded over the imposing front door, precariously held together by a blue filigree wrought-iron balustrade. Surrounded by modern apartment blocks with spacious wide balconies filled with an array of potted plants, the house now looked out of place—a relic from another era.

Eleni rang the doorbell and waited for what seemed like an eternity. It was, at three-thirty in the afternoon, siesta time; the hot Athenian sun beat down mercilessly onto the quiet empty street. She took shade under a Syrian hibiscus tree next to the front door, admiring its delicate purple flowers drenched in sunlight. Across the road, a woman emerged from a bakery carrying a large baking tray of hot food, a loaf of bread tucked under her arm, and disappeared into one of the nearby apartment blocks, leaving the lingering aroma of baked lamb infused with cinnamon. Eleni heard the sound of footsteps clattering through the hallway towards the door.

Irthe, irthe,’ cried a shrill voice. ‘I’m coming, I’m coming.’

The door opened to reveal a bird-like woman clad in black. Her face, with its large dark eyes, partially clouded by cataracts, wore a sad aspect. It was made sadder by her mistress’s dying. Chrysoula greeted Eleni warmly, wiped away her tears, and ushered her inside.

‘She has been waiting for you. Another day and it would have been too late,’ she whispered, crossing herself. ‘But now she sleeps and I don’t want to wake her. Come. I have prepared food for you. You must be hungry after such a long journey.’

Stirring the contents of an enormous black pot, she scooped large spoonfuls of steaming lemon-scented chicken and rice soup into a bowl and placed it in front of Eleni. Wiping her hands on her apron, she pulled out a chair at the other end of the table, sat down, and fixed her eyes on the young woman seated in front of her.

Eleni was a little unnerved. She cast a glance around the kitchen. It was much larger than she had expected, with a high ceiling decorated with raised square panels filled with rosettes, and walls covered with glass-fronted cupboards and open dressers displaying an assortment of glassware and hand-painted ceramics. Pots of sweet-smelling basil, mint, and oregano stood on the nearby windowsill next to an old marble sink, and a pair of French windows opened into a garden courtyard filled with a profusion of flowers. Sunlight streamed through the doors, warming the stone floor.


Athens, Spring, 1929 (Part 3 Chapter 24)


Temple of Hephaistos

Sophia opened the shutters and gazed out at the breathtaking view before her. It was a view that could have been lifted from Andreas’s wall paintings in the Hellenic room. It was partly because of this that she chose to buy the apartment in the first place. Nearby stood the magnificent Temple of Hephaistos, built in the fifth century bc and dedicated to Hephaistos, god of potters and smiths and to the goddess Athena. Beyond, bathed in the rose-tinted warmth of the late afternoon sun, the Parthenon rose majestically out of the craggy sacred rock of the Athenians—the Acropolis. Below the Acropolis the scattered marble ruins of a once-great civilization that had given the world democracy lay partially hidden in a landscape of wild myrtle, olives, laurel, and carob trees. It was hard to believe that less than a hundred years ago shepherds still brought their flocks from the outlying plains of Attica to graze on this land, much as they had done two centuries earlier when offerings to the god Pan were left at the small cave on the slopes of the Acropolis.

Situated within walking distance of Keramikos, the city’s ancient cemetery from the twelfth century bc to Roman times, Sophia’s apartment was on the second floor of what had once been the home of a famous naval commander at the great naval Battle of Navarino in 1827. The building was an eclectic mix of fashionable neoclassicism with touches of local tradition and was only recently converted into apartments. Despite its dilapidated exterior and the lack of adequate plumbing, Sophia saw considerable charm in this once-grand home. With such a severe shortage of available properties on the market, she considered herself lucky to have found them a home at all.

A house such as Sophia first purchased in Athens

A house such as Sophia first purchased in Athens

Where once the house stood in a quiet picturesque square along with several other houses of notable charm, the influx of so many refugees meant that it was now situated in a lively and vital neighborhood. Makeshift dwellings, hastily thrown together during the first year of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, were rapidly being replaced with small businesses that seemed to spring up overnight. Except for the few hours each afternoon when workers stopped for lunch or took a short siesta, from dawn until dusk the cries of the street vendors competed with the tack-tack-tack of the artisan’s hammer and the clatter of wooden carts as they rolled over the cobblestones, making their way towards the commercial districts of Psyrri, Omonia, and the center of Athens.

Sophia took a deep breath. This was the time of year that she had enjoyed so much in Constantinople. She closed her eyes and her thoughts drifted to her garden. She could hear the soft splashing of water from the fountain of the nymph as clearly as if she were there. She saw Selim the gardener clipping delicate pink rosebuds for Sevkiye’s pilavs. She could see Ali Agha and his look of pride when he drove Mestinigar. She thought of Munire, Ariadne, Markos, Yianni Mandakis, Anna, and of the courageous Helene. If it hadn’t been for the wars she would have been launching her new collection now. How fashions had changed in just a few short years. How life itself had changed. She had heard that Mustafa Kemal deplored the veil, urging the women of his new nation to become Westernized. She wondered what he would make of her Oriental collection now. ‘Who would have thought that the Sultanate would have been abolished and replaced with a Caliphate?’ she thought to herself. Now even that had been abolished. It was not only the Greeks who had paid a high price for these wars.

Leaning out of the window, Sophia looked into the quiet street below. It was three o’clock and still siesta time. In the saloni, Chrysoula laid out the dining table in readiness for the visitors, conscientiously arranging platters of baklava, hair-fine kataifi, and a freshly baked karithopita studded with walnuts—Kyria Angeliki’s favorite. After adding a pot of freshly made quince preserve and a dish of ripe figs, she stood back and admired her handiwork. The Kyria had taught her well; this was a special occasion and she wanted to make her proud. After all, it wasn’t often that the Director of the Athens Conservatoire came for afternoon tea. A car stopped outside the house and Sophia returned to the saloni to welcome her guests.

From the same chapter.

After a convivial afternoon, the mood in the apartment darkened again. Thunder clouds now shrouded the Acropolis from view and the thunder of cannon fire resonated through her body. A bolt of lightning momentarily lit the sky, the heavens opened, and for almost an hour Zeus reigned supreme. Then as quickly as it they came, the clouds passed over. For a few seconds, a shaft of golden light drenched the Parthenon in molten gold. Sophia’s heart raced at such beauty. Then it was gone. A sense of calm swept through her. Kyria Angeliki was right. She must move on.


The Parthenon

 Athens, Spring, 1939 (Part 3 Chapter 27)

 When they left the Church of the Pantanassa, the rain had eased and the sun was beginning to break through the soft white clouds, bringing with it the promise of another bright spring day. In the Plateia, kafenia and taverna owners were busily setting up tables and chairs on the footpath. As they often did on Sunday after church, Sophia and Nina headed to Kafenion Bournabat for a plate of loukomathes—soft chewy fritters dribbled in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Like most refugees from Asia Minor, they looked forward to this Sunday morning ritual, much as they had in their homeland. When Nina caught her mother’s arm and suggested that they forego this treat today, and instead take a leisurely walk up to the Acropolis, Sophia knew that she was about to tell her something. She braced herself for the inevitable.

The Acropolis

The Parthenon.

The heady scent of acacia blossom filled the air as they made their way along the Panathenaic Way, through the east side of the Agora towards the sacred rock. Steady streams of visitors were already heading in the same direction. At the foot of the Acropolis, Sophia paused to catch her breath. She wiped away the beads of perspiration from her brow, commenting on how the ancients must have been fit to have made this short trip on a regular basis. Entering the Propylaea—the imposing entrance to the Acropolis—Nina informed her mother that this masterpiece of classical architecture was designed by the architect Mnesicles, and built in the period from 437 to 432 bc on the site of an earlier entrance.

‘If we look closer, we see how brilliantly the architect created a rare aesthetic blend of Doric and Ionic orders…and when Turkish rule began in 1458, the Turkish Commander lived here.’

Sophia had heard it all before but today was different; she detected a note of anxiety in her daughter’s voice.

‘And in 1645, the powder magazine was struck by lightning, destroying the building and killing Commander Isouf Agha and his family.’

‘Well, I must say,’ Sophia replied, ‘when I see these buildings now, the marble so white in the sunshine, I find it hard to imagine that they were once brightly painted.’

Caryatids, Acropolis, Athens

Erechtheion. Caryatids. Acropolis.

They continued towards the top, past the small elegant Temple of Nike to the Erechtheion. Sophia suggested that they might sit for a while on the Acropolis wall and enjoy the splendid view below of Athens. Nina picked up a small stone and playfully tossed it from one hand to the other. The cast of her features, set in a half frown, looked almost oriental. Her finely shaped eyebrows arched towards the bridge of her nose, a nose that began straight in the classical manner yet turned slightly over her small mouth. Sophia was immensely proud of her and the two had formed a close bond.

‘I have something to tell you, Mama,’ said Nina, letting the stone fall over the side of the wall where it bounced from rock to rock until it reached the thicket where Manolios’s body had been found. ‘I have fallen in love.’

Sophia refrained from telling her that she had already guessed as much. Instead, she asked who the lucky man was.

‘You may not like it when I tell you. He’s an Englishman I met at the Embassy. He’s here as part of the British Diplomatic Mission to the Balkans. Until last night we had hardly spoken to each other, but I knew when I first met him that there was something special between us.’

Nina was a private person who kept her feelings to herself. That she was spilling her heart out like this left Sophia in no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation.

‘Please don’t be angry with me,’ she said softly.

‘Why would I be angry with you, agape mou? Your happiness is my happiness.’

‘Because I have chosen an Englishman.’

Sophia smiled. ‘You are not the first person in the family to have chosen a foreigner. Don’t forget that your great-grandfather was French and many years later, there was…’ Sophia hesitated. Her thoughts drifted to Constantinople. ‘Anyway, the important thing is, does this man have the same feelings for you?’

‘Of that I am sure, Mama.’

‘Then I would like to meet him. Next week is Holy Week—the most important holiday of the year. I can’t think of a better time to show him how we Greeks celebrate. Can you?’

The two made their way back to Monastiraki, and in doing so turned into the street where Kyria Koula the fortuneteller lived. As usual, the old crone was sitting on the doorstep.

‘I’ve heard that woman can predict the future,’ Nina said. ‘Perhaps I should ask her what the future holds for me.’

Before Sophia could stop her, Nina let go of her mother’s arm and quickened her pace. She told her mother to go on without her. Dismayed, Sophia watched Nina approach the woman. She was too far away to hear what took place, but the expression on Nina’s face told her it was not what she wanted to hear. With her head bowed, Nina walked back to her mother. Warily Sophia asked her what she had said. Distressed, Nina said the woman wanted nothing to do with her; that there was no future to tell.

‘When I told her that was impossible, she said something about a viper in the house and that my only salvation was to kill it first…before it killed me. What does it mean?’

‘These people talk in riddles,’ replied Sophia consolingly. ‘Don’t let such idle talk spoil such a lovely day.’

Nina looped her arm through her mother’s again. ‘Perhaps you’re right; only God knows what’s in store for us.’

Sophia agreed, yet no matter how hard they tried, neither of them could forget Kyria Koula’s words.

‘Kill the viper before it kills you.’

Church of the Pantanassa

Church of the Pantanassa

The Church of the Pantanassa was lit by flickering candles—hundreds of them—and in the fading light the congregation watched as the priest and monks took down the icon of Christ, wrapped it in linen, and put it on a great casket covered in flowers, symbolizing the tomb of Christ. Like some ancient rite of ceremonial magic, the priest delivered his prayers and the men picked up the bier and headed out into the night. Outside, a small crowd of true believers carrying candles began to follow the procession through the streets of Monastiraki. For three days the bells would toll; three days in the Orthodox year symbolized the death of Christ culminating in his resurrection the following Sunday.

At home an enormous cauldron of mayeritsa bubbled gently on the stove, and in the saloni Sophia and Nina prepared the resurrection table with baskets of red dyed eggs and plaited tsoureki bread. By early afternoon the table was ready. A steady stream of guests arrived at the apartment to partake in the celebratory feast.

Sophia watched Vangelis teach the Englishman backgammon, and by all accounts he was a quick learner. Every now and again Nina offered him a small plate of food, explaining the significance of each dish.

‘Try this,’ she said affectionately. ‘This pilav is a specialty of our family.’

She laughed heartily when he was challenged to crack the red eggs, each time winning against his opponent.

‘The person whose egg lasts longest is assured of a happy life,’ said Nina. ‘Look, mine cracked on the first go; you still have yours.’

‘And I still have mine,’ shouted Chrysoula, waving her egg in the air.

‘Now it’s down to you two,’ said Vangelis, encouraging the guests to place bets on the lucky winner.

Everyone cheered when Chrysoula won; none more so than the Englishman.

Vangelis slapped him enthusiastically on the back. ‘But you are lucky in love,’ he whispered. ‘You have no need of red eggs.’

It was a silly, superstitious game, but in the pit of her stomach Sophia harbored a nagging fear when her daughter lost.

‘Let’s give thanks to God for a good Easter,’ she said to everyone. ‘Raise your glasses. Christos anesti!

Christos anesti!’ the guests replied. ‘Christ is risen.’


Athens, Winter 1941 (Part 3 Chapter 29)

Plaka 1 Home of The Black Cat Cabaret.

Plaka. Home of The Black Cat Cabaret.

Vangelis was the only one Sophia could truly confide in and she decided to pay him a visit. The Black Cat in Plaka was one of the most popular night spots in the city. It had been a favorite haunt of the British, and now the Germans and Italians sought relaxation there. The huge cocktail bar on the ground floor was filled with officers and civilians alike, and at the back there was a discreet gambling room where Axis personnel and black marketers traded anything from diamonds to coffee over roulette and blackjack. Posters of Vangelis and his dance orchestra lined the walls alongside photographs of musicians and popular cabaret singers with sultry eyes.


A street in Plaka

Vangelis was rehearsing when Sophia arrived and she was shown to the manager’s office on the first floor. Yianni the Arab, as he was known because he was a Greek from Egypt, sat at his desk counting the previous evening’s takings while listening to the music of Sofia Vembo. Sophia had known him ever since she was reunited with Vangelis. He was a tough character, always impeccably dressed in handmade suits. He wore a fedora over one eye in a rakish manner. He reminded her of a Hollywood gangster.

‘How’s that daughter of yours?’ Yianni asked, still counting the money. ‘Any time she wants to sing popular songs, tell her to give me a call.’

He put the money in a paper bag and locked it away in a safe behind a large poster of a singer; a beautiful doll-like creature with eastern looks. Nadya, as she was called, bore a striking resemblance to Nitsa.

‘The Germans love her,’ Yianni smiled, noticing Sophia’s interest in her. ‘Who wouldn’t? And so versatile too—Dietrich, Rina Ketty, Hildegard, Rosita Serrano. You name them, she is their equal; even our own Sofia Vembo.’

laka 1 Home of The Black Cat Cabaret.

Sofia Vembo. Inspirational singer against the Nazi occupation in the 40’s.

Germans raise the swastika on the Acropolis

Germans raise the swastika on the Acropolis. 1941

Athens, Spring 1944 (Part 3 Chapter 33)

It didn’t take long for Nina to discover that the secretary known as Evdokia frequented the cocktail lounge at the prestigious Hotel Grande Bretagne every Thursday afternoon. Thursday was the day she met Maria at Zaharoplasteion Perikles, and when she suggested a change of venue to the Grande Bretagne, Maria was more than accommodating—it was her favorite venue.

Hotel Grande Bretagne

Hotel Grande Bretagne

Nina arrived at the hotel half an hour early and found herself a table in the bar with a clear view of anyone entering or leaving the room. She ordered a drink and waited. After some minutes, Evdokia walked into the room. Nina had no trouble in identifying her. She was exactly as Sophia had described her: of medium build, quite plain and conservative, with short wavy black hair. Esther had added a further compliment: ‘completely without charm.’ The woman now seated with a group of friends fitted the description perfectly, and on the lapel of her dark gray suit she wore the telltale butterfly brooch. This was the same one that Esther said she was wearing on the afternoon that she called into the shop. On the wall behind her hung an enormous French tapestry of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, aiming her bow at a fawn innocently grazing in the foliage. Nina did not fail to notice the irony.

Shortly after Maria arrived, making an entrance to which Evdokia could only aspire. Looking elegant in a tailored cream suit, she was as striking as Evdokia was dull. Wearing her hair down, the copper tones glinted under the crystal chandeliers, complementing the glossy red fox fur draped over her shoulder. All heads turned. There were few who failed to recognize her.

‘What a good idea to meet here,’ she said with a smile. ‘I have entertained in this hotel more times than I care to remember.’

Throughout their rendezvous, Nina kept a close watch on Evdokia, waiting for the moment when she would leave. Eventually, Evdokia picked up her handbag and left the room. Nina quickly took out a few notes from her purse and placed them on the table.

Interior of The Grande Bretagne

Interior of The Grande Bretagne

‘For the drinks,’ she said to Maria. ‘I really must be going or I won’t get my work done.’

Maria looked disappointed but when a group of Germans came over and asked for her autograph, she quickly perked up.

In the corridor, Nina saw Evdokia pass the cloakroom and walk down a flight of stairs into the ladies’ restroom. She followed her and seeing no one else there, quietly locked the door behind her and stood in front of the mirror powdering her face. After a few minutes, Evdokia emerged from a cubicle, stood next to Nina, and began to apply lipstick. Nina placed the compact back in her bag, took out a knife, and in an instant stabbed her in the back. Evdokia let out a gasp. Her small mouth with thin lips quivered, causing the lipstick to smudge as she slumped forward. In a flash, Nina spun her around and thrust the knife under her ribs, giving it one final twist. Evdokia silently sank to the ground, her startled eyes asking why.

German troops parade in Syntagma Square 1941

German troops parade in Syntagma Square 1941

Athens, Early Summer 1944 (Part 3 Chapter 34)

It was no more than two weeks before Nina saw Reinhardt again. She had just left the building of the Archeological Society when she saw the young Viennese lieutenant waiting for her with the car.

prison of Socrates

Prison of Socrates in the Agora

‘Good afternoon, Frau Stephenson. Herr Reinhardt has requested that you meet him at the Prison of Socrates at two this afternoon. He has asked me to take you there.’

It was clear that by giving her no notice, Reinhardt was being cautious. He was going to prove to be a wily fox.

The lieutenant stopped the car at the entrance to the agora and indicated for her to walk on alone. The place was deserted and Reinhardt was nowhere in sight. She sat on a rock and covered her head with a scarf to protect her from the hot sun. Some minutes later, she saw him walking along the pathway towards her. Without as much as an apology for asking her to meet him without notice, he informed her that they had one hour.

‘I’m all yours,’ he said with a smile. ‘Shall we begin our little tour here—with the death of Socrates?’

Nina thought his choice of venue a little ironic. Was he playing games with her?

‘This is the cell where Socrates is known to have died after being given hemlock,’ she began.

‘And his crime?’ asked Reinhardt.

‘He was charged with corrupting the young.’


His deep, rich voice seemed to draw her out and it made her nervous.

‘We know that while in here, he received a visit from a friend—the old and wealthy Critos, who had bribed the guards to enable him to escape.’

‘And why didn’t he leave?’ Reinhardt asked, casting a glance around the dark cell.

‘Because he considered that two wrongs don’t make a right. The laws that he was being asked to violate were the same laws that had educated and enriched him. He had sworn an oath to the gods saying that he would accept the jury’s verdict. To die was to prove his innocence.’

‘Hmm,’ Reinhardt replied thoughtfully.

‘And by dying,’ Nina continued, quickly regaining her composure, ‘he changed the course of history. The development of science and the ideas of political reform later discussed by Plato were as a direct result of his death.’

‘Impressive,’ smiled Reinhardt. ‘Most impressive.’

They made their way to the site of the Bouleuterion, the Council House, where Nina explained that each councilor, after being chosen by his team, held office for a year.

‘And over there we have the Metroon, where births and deaths were recorded along with all of the decisions made by the people.’

‘True democracy,’ Reinhardt replied.

He congratulated her on a first-rate tour; he had enjoyed himself enormously. Nina suggested that he might like to see more another day. They returned to where his limousine was waiting. At the sight of Reinhardt, the Viennese lieutenant, who had been leaning against his car smoking a cigarette, jumped to attention. Reinhardt shook Nina’s hand and departed, telling her that he looked forward to another tour. He contacted her twice after that. Each time it was without warning and always for no longer than an hour.

Athens, September 1972 (Part 3 Chapter 36)


Taverna by the side of the Roman Agora.

Maria’s breathing worsened and her eyes began to roll upwards. Eleni took one last look and ran out of the house. It was the middle of the night and she had no idea where she was going. She just had to get as far away from 31 Thessaly Street as possible. Through her tears, the neon lights of the night flickered like candle flames in the wind. And like a moth to a flame, she walked in their direction until after some time she reached a small plateia, surrounded by tavernas and kafenia. The merriment of late-night revelers only served to deepen her despair. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she sat down at an outdoor table at a small taverna in a quiet side street. A young waiter came over and placed a menu in front of her. She pushed it aside and ordered ouzo. Minutes later he returned, setting down a small glass in front of her, along with a carafe of water and a small plate of mezethes.

Eleni sipped her drink and through her tears stared at the dark shapes of ancient columns that lay scattered in a large area of long grass bordering the length of the street. The plaintive sound of the bouzouki drifted across the tiled rooftops of Plaka and in the distance, high on a rock, she could just make out the outline of the Parthenon, dark and brooding under the silvery moon. Never in her wildest nightmares had she expected things to turn out like this. She called the waiter over and ordered another drink.

The waiter raised his eyebrows. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to see the menu?’

Eleni shook her head, avoiding his eyes. This time he returned with a larger plate of mezethes.

From the same chapter


Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

Markos was beginning to wonder what he’d got himself involved with but something about her made him think she was sincere.

‘Look,’ he said, checking the time, ‘I think we should call it a night. I have to be at the university in a few hours. I must get some sleep. I’m going to get a taxi to take you home. How about we meet here again this evening? That way, you can tell me everything and I’ll see what I can do to help you.’

Eleni thanked him for his kindness and apologized for keeping him up so late. ‘I would like that.’ She looked around. ‘I’m afraid I have no idea where I am,’ she laughed. ‘These columns, what are they?’

‘You’re in Monastiraki,’ replied Markos. ‘This is the Roman Agora.’

Eleni felt the hair on her neck stand on end. It was as if she knew the area already

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