Greece: Smash hits

By Rod Emmerson

Rod Emmerson experiences the time-honoured tradition of breaking plates on the Greek isle of Rhodes

Rod Emmerson enjoys the crunch of broken crockery at a backstreet restaurant in Rhodes.
Rod Emmerson enjoys the crunch of broken crockery at a backstreet restaurant in Rhodes.

To the great dismay of Greeks, the custom of breaking plates was banned during the 1960s by the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos.

His xenophobic politics might still be simmering below the surface in Greece, but poor Georgios isn't around these days to see the plates raining down like hailstones around us.

We were in a backstreet restaurant in Pastida on the Greek island of Rhodes, the coast of Turkey a plate's throw away to the north. You could lob one at our ship, the Azamara Journey, docked close by at the ancient port of Rhodes. But the promise of a fun-filled night of traditional Greek food didn't exactly go according to plan.

Pivotal to this restaurant's live entertainment was a mix of traditional and modern Greek music and dancing, including performers wearing the quirkiest of costumes, the fustanella.

Their crooner looked like a Greek Dean Martin who, in between endless songs, was slowly but surely getting hammered on the local brew.

This, as it turned out, was a humorous distraction from the less-than-inviting food being placed on our tables. On top of this, there were those of Jewish faith in our group who were being served pork without question. People have gone to war over such things.

Fortunately, as a group of mixed-aged party folk, we found it easier to drink the local brew and try our hand at traditional Greek dancing.

Then the lights dimmed and the spotlights came on. Musicians playing the bouzouki, a plucked string instrument, struck up a classic Greek melody and hundreds of plates were handed out. (These days the plates are made of plaster, for safety, but they are still look and feel like plates.) A lone male dancer hit the floor while patrons formed a circle and clapped, and the plates began to rain down. We all took turns smashing these things on the floor - or on each other - and I couldn't help but think this was probably the Greek version of kapa haka.

From the back of the circling audience came a local fisherman. Shirt-tails out and arms stretched high, he crunched his way across a sea of broken crockery and danced like the ghost of Zorba the Greek - all very entertaining.

Craving wholesome food and a venue where we would not get hit by flying plates, we went back to the old town of Rhodes, with the girls dancing along the way like Zorba the Greek.


GREEK ISLES

GETTING THERE: Azamara Club Cruises has a trip to Ephesus, including various Greek Isles and the Turkish Coast, embarking in Athens on October 19.

MORE INFORMATION: A fly/cruise package with seven nights in a veranda stateroom cruising the Greek Isles and Turkish Coast starts at $6179 a person.

ONLINE: cruiseworld.co.nz


Rod Emmerson travelled to Rhodes courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises and Cathay Pacific.

- NZ Herald

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