Tholaria, Langada and Potamos are the three delightful villages perched on the mountainside above Aigiali. Tholaria, reputed to be the most lively and fun-loving, boasts a superb view out to sea and is the location of O Horeftis, one of the island’s oldest coffee-shops. Argyris Nomikos, its present owner, reminisces about his childhood and his father Nikolas, who pursued the professions of coffee-house keeper, butcher/slaughterer, shoemaker/cobbler and barber, all on these premises. He says he can’t quite quite remember at which time of day he ‘saw more blood’, in the early morning, at slaughtering time or in the evening when Nikolas was shaving his customers!
Like all the young men of Amorgos, Argyris left the island to work as a sailor but returned in 1970, when his father died, to take over the shop. Then 26 years old, he has been running it for half a century. He is out-going and active – he was town council president for twelve years – a fun-lover, a ray of sunshine, and so generous that not a day goes by without his treating customers to a drink, ‘on the house’. Glass after glass are downed of rakomelo, a grog of heated raki liquor with honey and cinnamon, or of psimeni raki,a local speciality, where the ‘firewater’ is cooked with cinnamon and nutmeg and served cold.
Nowadays, besides attracting locals and friends from elsewhere, the Horeftis is frequented by the village’s most eminent personalities, village characters, who take part in unbelievable goings-on, games, pranks, jokes, mock quarrels, skits and the like. For example, there is a photograph on the wall depicting Nikos Stephanopoulos, an excellent fiddler and great joker, Stamatis Theologitis, a modern musician. The two of them used to compete for hours, making fun of one another, as to who was the better, under the bemused gaze of Maroussa, Nikos’s wife.
For years now he is the first person I visit when I come to Tholaria. His joie de vivre and vitality are inexhaustible.