Ela, Malakas!!!


“Elaaa, malakas!!” A man throws his arms to the sky as the sound of these words ring though the streets and are heard again just a few short steps down the pedestrian heavy square full of cafes and restaurants. “Ela…. Elllaaaa, malakas” again, like a domino effect of some unbelievable news making its way down the line received a few seconds late and everyone’s reaction is the same. I can’t help but smile to the sound of laughter and knee slapping that follow.

Ah the Greeks, I like these people. Fun, boisterous, passionate, opinionated. They are shouting at each other saying “come on…you wanker” or asshole, or dude/mate/friend whom I love, depending on the context and only in the most endearing, friendliest, and loving of ways. You would never scream this to a stranger…unless of course he or she is being a real malaka! There is an unspoken understanding of when, where, and to whom to say such things.

These words have become an easily adopted addition to my vocabulary. Speaking with new Greek friends, it’s like a badge of acceptance when they yell these words at you for the first time. It’s like learning the secret password to a society. And there is a real satisfaction in how these words feel leaving your lips; melodic yet effectual.

The city is saturated with seating for such friends to gather, sip espresso freddos or cheap beers, and chain-smoke for hours. I’ve never seen so many coffee shop bars in all my life. They fill squares, dominate the storefronts, and spill into the streets. These are easy places to get comfortable, sip your coffee by day and transition smoothly into an afternoon buzz with raki and beers. One after another, serving the same things, it’s a wonder how all these places afford to survive serving two euro coffees in a never-ending sea of the same.

But I love this culture of relaxing, and gathering of friends with no pressure to buy more than a cup of Joe. Everyone is there for the same reason, and even the chairs are often set up side by side to face out for all the malakas watching you can handle.