Thursday, May 28, 2009

House Tour

Sylvia and Dwight, my dear friends, are planning to be here in about three weeks, and to spend 13 days with us. I'm so excited I think about it all the time! In the process, I dreamed up this little tour of our tiny apartment here in Greece. Well, not so little, but I thought you might enjoy it if you have time for a rather lengthy post.

Here are your keys to the house. The small one opens the front door downstairs, the door to the building. The other key, the skeleton key, opens the apartment door.

The front hallway, or rather, the hallway, period, is of genuine, cut and polished, burgundy and white concrete aggregate. All the other rooms, as you can see at a glance, open onto it. The radiator is an example of the brand new heating system the government here mandated a couple of years ago. Whereas before, our building’s wise and fearless president used to decide when the communal heating would be turned on in the fall, now each apartment controls how much heat to use.

The two chests of drawers in the foyer are part of the apartment’s original furnishings. The smaller of the two mirrors, the one above the chest of drawers on the right, in that crummy-looking gilt frame, is a family treasure, because it is one of the few things that came with the family when they were forced to flee from Constantinople. (We do not call that city ‘Istanbul.’ Mostly we just call it, “The City”.)

The copper pot which now contains silk flowers is another family treasure. It is engraved with the words, “Anastasia, 1893”. Anastasia was Demetrios’ grandmother. The pitcher, which is actually copper-coated tin, was probably a wedding present. The icons are of the Anastasis (Resurrection), for the lady of the house, and of Great Martyr Demetrios, patron saint of this city, for the man of the house. The other icon is of Christ as He looked when he appeared to one of our local saints, Fr. Paisios; it is a print of one painted by nuns under his direction.

To your right as you enter the apartment is the bathroom. If you’ll just walk on past me, I think we can probably fit two at a time in the bathroom.

The bathroom is a work in progress, but considerable progress has been made.

The sink is original. The tap is new, although of course you cannot tell this from the condition of the supposedly stainless steel.

The shower is also new in the past couple of years. It replaces a half tub that used to sit here [point]. It took two weeks to remove it and install the shower, two weeks in which we had to keep clean by means of sponge baths. The tile in the shower is meant to contrast with the tile on the walls. It is, however, the same size and shape in order to line up correctly. You will note that it does not line up correctly, but that is too long a story for this tour. It doesn’t much matter because some day we are going to rip out all the tile and put in something wild and fun.

The toilet, unlike the original one, does not leak. It looks American but is not. This means whatever is put in it has an approximately even chance of landing in water or on bare porcelain. Note the brush kept handy to avoid embarrassment. Also note that you usually need to flush twice.

Greek plumbing systems are not built to accommodate toilet paper; hence, the wastebasket beside it.

The new washing machine also does not leak. It has 18 different programs you can select. Nearly all of them take two and a half hours. This Italian model heats its own water and cleans clothes better than any clothes washer I’ve ever owned in America. It can also spin at the rate of 1,000 revolutions per minute, or three times as fast as a typical machine in America. You don‘t want to spin most clothes that fast, however, as you will never get the wrinkles out if you do.

The window is new. The old one was of louvered glass and couldn’t be tightly closed in winter. It also lacked framing, so all the insides of the walls showed. We’ve had this elegant little thing put in just in time for your arrival. It can open a little, or it can tilt in a lot, for cleaning.

Now if you’ll come two steps in this direction, you’ll be in the bedroom. The combination wardrobe and linen closet on your right was custom made for the spot in which it sits. The top drawer contains towels and washcloths. The middle drawer contains bed linens, and the bottom drawer contains table cloths and assorted pieces of crochet, needlepoint, and embroidery. Blankets and pillows are on the top, together with several large pieces of beautiful fabric we think were woven by Demetrios’ grandmother. One of them is the blanket in which he was wrapped as a baby.

The nearly king-sized, extra-long bed with mirrored headboard and matching nightstands is also custom made for this space; as you see, it takes up most of it. At the foot of the bed, you can pull out a double drawer, and if you lift here [demonstrate] the whole mattress assembly lifts up, revealing that the entire space under the bed is a storage box. After you have unpacked, we’ll put your luggage here.

A question? Oh, yes, that tall piece of furniture behind the door that looks like a stack of small drawers is actually a shoe rack. We take off our shoes and wear slippers in the house. The laundry hamper is further behind the door, on the other side of the shoe rack.

Notice the little chandelier. Like the others in the house, it is of brass and is very ornate and old-fashioned looking. They aren’t actual antiques, but they are so old they are probably unique by now, so they have been left here just because they’re rather interesting, in our opinion.

The sliding glass door on the other side of the bed opens onto the balcony, which we will tour shortly. The window opposite the bed looks straight into several other people’s kitchens.

Our own kitchen is our next stop, if you’ll move four steps to your right as you exit. That’s not dirt on the kitchen floor; that’s the color of the tiles, white and gray – or at least that’s their color now. They will be replaced in due course.

The bare bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling is going to have a good-looking shade some day.

The sink and countertop are brand new, installed just in time for your visit.

As you know, there is an international convention about water taps: the hot is on the left and the cold is on the right. Here in this kitchen, it’s backwards, but the tap is marked accordingly, so if you’ll check this little blue and red symbol here, you won’t be confused.

One thing that is expensive in Greece is energy, so we use as little hot water as possible, and as little energy as we comfortably can. That doesn’t mean we take cold showers or sit around perspiring instead of turning on the air conditioning – we’re all on vacation here! We aren’t going to make ourselves miserable. But we’re careful, is all. We don’t dawdle in the shower or keep lights on in empty rooms and so forth.

The refrigerator is original and serves to keep food for up to three days – four, if you remember to defrost regularly.

The stove is also original. It has four burners, each a different size. The tiny one is for brewing Greek coffee. The oven temperatures are of course marked in Centigrade; check the Internet for conversion charts. The burners have two settings, “off” and “high”. One burner has a deluxe additional feature, which is the ability to select among six different temperatures.

The sliding glass door opens, as you can see, onto the balcony, and you can probably see the clotheslines just on the other side of the balcony. We don’t need clothes dryers here; the sun dries our laundry very quickly, within half an hour in summer.

The icon box next to the door contains an icon of Christ and a very special icon of His Mother, the story of which we can discuss after the tour.

The collection of bright and/or decorated bottles on the top of the wall cabinets is to hide two copper pipes that are a part of the new heating system. You can still catch glimpses of those copper pipes where the bottle collection is incomplete.

Now if you’ll step across the hall into the living room.

The reproduction French provincial sofa, loveseat, and chairs with the royal blue upholstery were bought for Demetrios’ mother some 30 years ago, but are still serviceable.

The fine pieces of crochet, worked by his mother or grandmother, distract attention from the furniture under them, which is pure, authentic junk.

The hardwood parquet flooring is mostly intact and only missing its finish in less than half a dozen places. It will be refinished or replaced in time.

The wall unit is a combination china hutch, wine rack, bookcase, and entertainment center.

The television gets some 20 channels and the use of the remote will be demonstrated later. You can usually find some American shows with Greek subtitles.

The old Singer sewing machine is our third and last family treasure, brought from Constantinople, together with the pitcher and the mirror. It is still threaded and it works fine.

Do I hear a question? Oh. How do we clean the curtains? Good question, as the ceilings are so high. As you see, we have only sheer curtains in every room. If we need privacy, we use what we call the “shutters,” which are siding doors, behind the glass ones, of perforated metal. Well, the curtain rods in each room can actually be lowered by a pulley. Then you simply unhook the curtains and toss them in the washing machine.

Any more questions? The picture above the sofa? That’s a needlepoint landscape, worked by Demetrios’ mother. This apartment was hers.

As you see, this room also has a door to the balcony, which begins here. If you’ll just step through the sliding door…

Five stories below you, as you exit from the living room, is Gambetta Street. It’s a semi-major thoroughfare in this part of town because it’s relatively long. Over there on the corner is the butcher, and around the corner from him is the nearest pharmacy. The general store is on our side of the street, so hard to see without leaning over awfully far. It has coffees of every description and they grind the coffee for you. It also has a bakery and a good wine cellar. Now if you’ll kind of scrunch around the corner of the building, the balcony continues. That’s Maria’s house, straight across on the same level. She’s a childhood friend of Demetrios’.

Now we are overlooking Baron Hirsch street. (Hirsch because this used to be a Jewish neighborhood, before the War.) That place over there is a taverna, or pub. It has good food. The park below us is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it puts distance between us and other buildings, so we aren’t looking out our windows straight into someone else’s. On the other hand, the park is a gathering place, late at night, for teenagers, motorcyclists, and drunks. (You did remember to bring your ear plugs, didn’t you?) That’s the bar, over on the far side.

This little area of the balcony, where you see the little table and chairs, is where we have breakfast, weather permitting. We’ve bought new chairs, just for you. Over there at the other end of the balcony, around this corner, is the utility area, where we keep a step-ladder, clothespins, mop and broom and the like.

Now we’ll conclude our tour with the sitting room, which doubles as a guest bedroom. If you’ll come with me back around the corner and through the door just before the one leading to the living room.

The sofa is new, and it converts to a bed simply by removing the back cushions. Then, under it is a trundle bed, which slides out – thus – and as you see, the trundle pops up to the same level as the sofa, so you can make them into one big bed or use them as twin beds, or even wheel the trundle bed into the living room if you wanted to. Those are “orthopedic” mattresses, very comfortable.

We bought extra lengths of the same fabrics used in the sofa and cushions to recover these easy chairs and ottomans someday. Oh, by the way, the seats of the chairs lift off, and you can put your bedding in there during the day. The tops of the ottomans also lift off for more storage. There are coat hooks with hangers behind the door.

We hope you will be very comfortable and cozy here, and will enjoy your stay as much as we will. Welcome!


elizabeth said...

Thanks for the tour. Sounds lovely, clean and without clutter.

Elizabeth said...

Sounds fab :-)

I hope you have a great time with your guests !!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

One of the things I enjoy most about living in this house is that it contains exactly what we need and use, plus some few decorations, and not one thing more!