An internationally acclaimed poet who has kept his day job as a sandal maker since the 1920′s, and who has since become a national treasure in his own right? Sounds like the focus of some small-budget movie, but it is in fact a very true story.
Meet Stavros Melissinos, a man whose diverse artistic abilities has seen him gain notoriety as one of Athens’ must-visit tourist attractions – both for his written words and fancy footwear. A highly-celebrated poet whose work has been translated all over the world, Melissinos has seen his hand-made sandals worn on the feet of major stars like the Beatles, Barbra Streisand and Sophia Loren – who has apparently been wearing his creations since her starring role in ‘Boy on a Dolphin’ back in 1957. With clientele like this, the man must have been doing something right, so it is not hard to see why his son, Pandelis Melissinos, has decided to take over the reins after his father’s retirement in 2004. And after visiting the shop in person, it clearly wasn’t a tough decision to make.
Cosy and modest, Melissinos shop is tucked away in the hustle and bustle of the Greek flee markets, among the bartering of pots and pans and picturesque postcards on the assorted stalls and carts. His shop can be found near the great Acropolis, adjacent to Monastirake Square. It is situated at 2 Aghias Theklas Street, just a minute walk from where his old shop once sat. And it’s a prime location, neighboring some breathtaking sites including the Roman Agora, the Tower of the Winds and the temple of Thesus.
Once inside, you’ll find walls decorated with handmade sandals and bags, books of his father’s poetry as well as copies of Pandelis’ own artwork and plays – the artistic gene was clearly passed on. It’s also nice to see that both father and son are extremely proud and humbled by their success, with newspaper clippings, congratulation notices and framed pictures of famous shoppers also adorning the walls.
When speaking with the man himself, it’s remarkable at the amount of time and effort that goes in to his handiwork. There are around 28 different styles, some of which are hand-painted and styled to such a high standard that you may be scared to try them out on the streets. His styles are casual, smart, youthful and chic. And if you can’t find one that takes your fancy or are having trouble fitting in to a pair, Pandelis will make one for you there and then. You can be guaranteed good quality at reasonable prices, with some pairs costing between 20-25 euros.
It’s definitely worth the effort to seek out Melissinos’ shop and there is plenty more delights to be find nearby with other good quality shops, amazing sights and great dining experiences just waiting to be discovered. It is an essential stop on holiday in Greece , I cannot recommend it highly enough.
This is a guest post by Scott Henderson who works in the travel industry and loves to travel. Originally from Edinburgh, of all the countries he’s visited he loves Greece, Germany, India, and of course bonnie Scotland the best.