Athens: güle güle Güllüoğlu

24 Jan

Several years ago a branch of Karaköy Güllüoğlu, easily Istanbul’s, and the world’s, best baklavacides and other sweet and pastry makers, opened in Athens, in dead-center downtown, Nikes Street, right behind Syntagma near Hermou.

All the products were excellent, as good as Istanbul. Athenians caught on quickly and it was amazing to see lines of them waiting outside the store on New Year or Easter to buy çörek, because Gülluoğlu’s hallucinatorily aromatic çörek is the only archaeological evidence we have of the manna God fed the Israelites in the desert.

And the sign up front wasn’t pulling any punches either:

But yesterday, I went by and saw that the sign had been replaced with a generic “Baklavas”.

I asked why:

“So that people know our products are made here.”

“Most Athenians don’t even know where or even what Karaköy is. Was the old sign hurting business, ya think?”

“We wanted people to know that our products are made here, not in Karaköy”. [wherever that is]

“You were always packed, since the day you opened. I don’t understand. Was the old sign hurting business?”

“We wanted our customers to know that our products are made here?”

“Here? Where?! (And here those who know me can hear my irritation starting to break down into a spittly stutter) Nikes? Syntagma? Downtown Athens? The Kingdom of Greece and not Constantinople? Here where? Because Konstantinidis [a den of mediocrity pastry-wise] announces proudly on its signs that its products are: ‘based on Asia Minor tradition since 1922.’ And your new sign just kinna stupidly — excuse me — says ‘Baklavas’ and doesn’t say made in Athens or made in Greece or anything else?

“We wanted our customers to know that our products are made here?”

“I just ask…. Ugh… Can I speak to the boss or owner?” (I love being the pain-in-the-ass New Yorker sometimes, especially when someone is ineptly stonewalling me, because New Yorkers become Mehmet II at the walls of the City when someone is stonewalling them, especially — and most unforgivably — in an unintelligent fashion.)

“He’s not here right now.”

“When is he available?”

“Usually in the mornings.”

“When?”

“In the morning”.

“Like proi-proi or mesemeraki?”

“Around then”.

I bite my tongue.

“Well, here’s my name and number. Just tell him I’ll be trying to get in touch with him one morning. I have business in the center daily these days so I’ll try and swing by.”

So, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll bag an interview, though I don’t expect it to be less robotic than that of the poor tormented salesclerk.

Here’s one theoretical lead to this business though. Güllüoğlu actually has several branches around the world these days; there are two branches in Manhattan, and the warehouse/factory in Astoria, which is just deliciously down the block from St. Demetrios on 31st Street. Three Turkish friends of mine are convinced that Güllüoğlu (no alliterative joke intended) are Gülenist operations, and that that isn’t a marginal belief in Turkey. Can the Turkish embassy have actually bothered Greek authorities with something as stupid as taking the Karaköy sign down? Are they really fronts for Gülenist operations and they just thought it was best to cover their asses?

Who knows?

‘Cause if it’s not something like that it means we’re in 2020 and still busy changing Liopesi to Paiania. And you thought my imam campaign was just a joke.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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