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Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Bouzoukia. Places to Go When You're Bored.

A night out at one of the many bouzoukia in Athens.


The first time I was asked if I'd ever been to 'bouzoukia', I thought they were talking about a geographical place in Greece. When I was informed that they were actually Greek night clubs with live entertainment, it was only a matter of minutes before I morphed into Party Girl and was on my way to a Greek night out.

If you've got money and enjoy the performer's music, you can have a lot of fun. Although, I've always felt claustrophic in them, I do enjoy watching the 'shows' in the audience as well as the one on stage.

The Cost
When I went to see Giannis Ploutarchos (a popular Greek singer whose face adorns Greek secretaries' screensavers everywhere), we paid the mandatory 200€ for a bottle of whiskey. Since there were four of us in attendance, that worked out to 50€ per person. And because I don't drink whiskey, I shelled out more money to have my preferred poison, Kahlua, brought to the table. Granted, I would probably have paid the 50€ for a ticket to see Ploutarchos anyway because I do enjoy his music so I can't say I was too put out by that cost. For second-rate singers I've seen, even 25€ per person is too much.

Next come the flowers. Trays and trays of stemless carnations are sold to the patrons for about 15€ each so we can throw them on the stage only to be swept off minutes later by a stagehand. One patron in front of me spent, by my count, 1500€ on them. Most tables buy at least 5 trays and since the patrons are packed in the clubs like sardines, it doesn't take long before you start to wonder where all these flowers are grown. I've never seen fields of carnations on any of my travels in Greece so I figure there must be some uncharted island which is home to nothing but carnation fields to support such a popular industry.

The Dancing
There is no dance floor...there's hardly enough room for the waiters and flower girls to pass between the tables let alone dance. Many women resort to jumping on the tables to dance. I always laugh when this happens because they're usually wearing high heels and mini skirts. Too many times I've seen these Glamazons keel over backwards while trying to maintain some sense of modesty by pulling down their mini skirts as they try to navigate through the dozens of bottles, flowers and glasses on the tables. Just a suggestion ladies, if you're embarrassed about your dresses rising too far up your thighs, maybe you shouldn't be on the table in the first place.

If you're not a table dancer, then there's always the stage. I like this part of the evening because no other night club I've ever been in allows patrons to be on stage with the performer at the same time. I'm quite amazed that anyone can actually sing while being pawed by dozens of inebriated or overly-infatuated women. Now I understand why some bouzouki singers make upwards of 20,000€ per night. It's truly a talent.

The Verdict
After all is said and done, I still prefer dance clubs to bouzoukia. I like huge dance floors and the fact that I don't have to spend an hour trying to fight my way the 20 metres to the stage and where the cover charge won't mean my financial ruination. But you can't say you've had a night out on the Greek town if you haven't been to bouzoukia so pick a singer you like, find out where he or she performs, and try it out if you're not claustrophobic and allergic to flowers.

I've actually found myself becoming more and more a fan of the bouzoukia as I've gotten older.

When I was growing up, the idea of going there would horrify me. However even with the cost and the claustrophobia, it's still a great way to spend the evening.

Most recently, I went to the bouzoukia on a works night out. Mixalis Xatzigiannis and someone else (and his name wont come to me cos it's almost 3:30am and I'm tired) were performing and it was absolutely amazing. We all sang and danced, I even found myself dancing on one of the raised platforms (blame alcohol) but the best part was talking to the girl I'd been dancing with the next day and her showing me her bruises. I'm like "so what happened there" and she replied "I skidded on some flowers and fell off the stage" to which I asked "where was I? I didn't see that happen", she told me "we were both wasted and I wanted to keep it hush hush so I didn't tell you".

So beware of flowers, now you understand why they brush them away! LOL! They are a health risk to customer who may or may not have been consuming beverages with an alcoholic content.

Not to say that dance clubs aren't cool either. It's just a totally different night out.

zardoz says :

Nice to see someone's
having fun.
by the way the carnations
are grown at
MARATHONAS
VARI
PREVEZA
AND OUTSIDE OF PATRA
Their very easy to grow
under any conditions
and usually one plant will yeild
more than 70-90 pieces
when handled by pros
if push comes to shove
theres always imports from holland

its useless info
of the week ...... but whatthe heck
at least you had fun.

------------zardoz

Ellas...From the several bouzoukia I've been to, I'd say that Ploutarchos was my favourite. I really enjoyed that evening. Your poor friend though. I'm surprised she didn't break bones from her fall. There's just no way to 'land well' if you fall off the stage.

zardoz...Thank you for solving the carnation mystery! It might be useless information to you but to me, I'm sure it'll be good to know for a future game of Trivial Pursuit. LOL

My Bouzoukia days are over now that we have a baby but I've been to a few in my day..

And also to some crazy places called Sodoma (in 1990s) and my favorite of all times Varaladika (barrels) where I've seen Greek hotties dancing on the barrels.

Varaladika used to be the place my wife and I would bring couples from the states who wondered what Greek people did for fun.

Most wanted to move to Greece after viewing that...

Except for the cigarette smoke of course...

I don't like bouzoukia because the whole picture and the industry behind it saddens me. I don't like this so-called "Greek custom". And even if I did, I can't afford it. And even if I could afford it, I could think of better ways to entertain myself.

I don't like how ALL the songs are custom-made so that the ladies start whipping their pelvises in so-called "tsiftetelia". I don't like how the macho types sling their girlfriends on the table to show off and make sure everyone sees what keeps them warm at night. It's degrading for the women, pathetic for the men.

Two years ago I was forced to go with my husband to bouzoukia, because his workplace held those ridiculous annual Christmas/New Year's "synestiaseis". I hate bouzoukia (so does he) but he insists we have to make a "social appearance". The upsides were that we saw Alexiou & Arvanitaki together and there were no carnations (to my recollection). Unfortunately, once you see a favorite singer in "bouzoukia" environment, the magic is gone.

These "social outings" are pointless. You sit all night in the same cramped position, your neck aches because you have to stare from the same angle. The table is too small with too many people. You can't have a discussion with anyone because the music is too loud. They serve you the same menu always! (Steak with risoto and a commune salad in the middle and oh, let's not forget the bread (like yeah, I'll just dip it in the oil-less salad or dunk it in my water in the wee hours of the morning!)
If you're a non-smoker you better pray that bouzoukia shop has good vetilation, otherwise you're in for a foggy night.
If you get up around 2 am to leave you're considered "ksenerotos", a social loser. 4-5 am is the earliest any respecting bouzouki goer will leave the premises.
If you think you'll stretch your legs by dancing, think again. Even if there IS a dance floor, by the time you get there it will be packed with people. And there won't be any dancing just awkward toe-stepping avoidance maneuvers and such...
If you're not drunk, it's a night to observe human nature. If you're drunk, then this is tolerable, even enjoyable. So your only solution for bouzoukia is booze. (Oh, my I just saw the linguistic link...)

Sorry for taking up so much of your comment space for my bouzoukia rant.

Bouzouki is my drug addiction. Morning ,afternoon and nights if I don't listen to bouzuki, I feel as if I had not had my fix.
I have become a problem to my family, since bozouki is the only music I allow to be heard in the house while I am in residence. I'll probably die listening bouzouki

my dear friend I use to go to disco when I was younger,wich I had a lot of fun,normal I not greek but my husband is and to him disco is like bouzoukia to you so I guest to be able to like bouzoukia its a greek thing.I now for myself prefer to go in a bar with a dj and listen to the song I want since I always go to the same one I'v got the DJ on my side you should try that.

scruff...You'll probably still go to bouzoukia even though you've got your baby daughter now...you just won't go as often. LOL

flubber...Great post flubber. I've blogrolled you for it. LOL I agree with most of the points you've made and that's why I've never been to bouzoukia on my own suggestion...it's always because someone else wants to go to celebrate some special event...birthday/engagement/women's day etc. As far as the dancing on tables, I can't really slam the women too much because I've danced on my fair share of tables, speakers and stages when dance clubs were my favourite haunts. That's probably one of the reasons I don't like bouzoukia so much. I go to clubs to dance, not to drink, sit or talk.

oebalus...Thanks for visiting my blog! Just one question for you: are you independently wealthy? That's the only reason I can think of as to how you can have such an expensive addiction. LOL

louisaki...Even going to bars here doesn't thrill me because they're also crowded and expensive. I like clubs where the dance floor takes up more than half of the entire club. Listening to music, I can do at home. If I go out, I need space to dance.

Came thru EllasDevil website. I'm loving the summer. Places hopping, skirts hiking up...

I have not experienced Bouzoukia, nor, thanks to your post, do I think I ever will.

I've had my share of cramped, smokey, music experiences. All in America of course, but still.

And my god, the cost! Who in Greece can afford it?? (OK, I know who CAN afford it, but are those the people that go?).

This comment has been removed by the author.

Has anyone see CEO Economou at Bouzoukia tonight?
he needs to report EARNINGS for his company tomorrow www.Dryships.com

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