In the first decade of this century, the most frequent habitués of Prekas’s café (tou Preka) in Katapola on Amorgos were three legendary island figures: Nikos Prekas, the owner; Dimitris Skopelitis, a well-known sea captain; and Leonidas Vlavianos, a big livestock breeder who also played the lute. By the following decade all had passed on. The establishment opened right after the Liberation in 1944, when Nikos’ father decided to convert the Italians’ supply depot into a café.
In the early 1920s he had quit the Royal Navy where he had envisaged a career, because he ‘lost his head’ over Irene, a beautiful girl from Aigiali who was working in the tobacco industry. Right after the wedding Nikos was born in 1925. When I knew Nikos, he would remind me about the poverty of those years: the young men would take out sailors’ registration papers and embark for a life at sea, whilst the girls would go to Athens to work as charwomen and maids.
Nikos also remembered the ships of those days: the ‘Moskhanthi’ and ‘Anatoli’ arrived from Piraeus once a week, a trip of some 24 to 32 hours. With a smile, he recalled the Italians of the Occupation who wondered what they were doing in a war and wanted nothing else but to listen to serenades, mandolin music and canzonettas.
In 1960 Nikos took over the shop from his father. Those were the days when the first tourists began to arrive. The café housed a shipping agency but acted as a taverna in the evening. That was when the lovely mosaic floors were laid and the interior was beautifully decorated. A special feature is the old television sets, now used as display cases for rare exhibits, the wine barrels, the collection of liqueurs, and finally the old Grundig radio with which Nikos communicated with the wirelesses of the mail boats of those days.
It was a meeting place for fishermen, locals and foreign travellers, and very soon the café became a familiar stamping ground where often rumbustious jollifications took place, to musical accompaniment, which enchanted the tourists. On the walls the history of the port is spread out in photographs of old ships and fishermen’s exploits.
Today Nikos’ daughter manages the place, keeping it just as it used to be, for the older generation to remember what it was like and for the young to see a few vestiges of the marvellous years of innocence.