All that glitters is not gold, said a poet once — thus, a pile of garbage may reveal the most brilliant gem, I shall add.
On the west side of Thessaloniki, near the cargo area of the port and next to the old railway station lies the greek “favela”; Thessaloniki’s most outrageously neglected and frowned upon area (named Hatzi Bahtse back in the day) is home to our own “Les Miserables”, the castaways, the down and outs.
Luckily, it is also the home of a unique “kapilio”, i.e. a popular outdoor taverna where the common folk gather to drink wine, forget their worries and enjoy rebetiko music. No microphones, no amps, just the lads with the bouzouki and Zoe singing and playing her guitar, like the old days.
Roula & Efi (the gregarious and lovely owners since 1999) never stop running around serving delicious food and drinks from their basic but always brilliantly cooked menu. Customers are well acquainted with the musicians and the staff and there are usually regulars, but don’t worry; this is the last place on Earth you will feel left out or unwanted. Even if you are a foreigner, even if you don’t know a single word of any song or even if you have two left feet, Efi will lift you up to dance, sing along & make you feel at ease.
Hatzi Bahtse is by far my favourite spot when it comes to live rebetiko. I love the spirit(s), the location, the people.
Fear not and go west!