Greek sandals by a famous sandal maker
On my first visit to Athens many many moons ago, I stumbled upon Pandrossou Street and recall my heart rate spiking up as for me this was like discovering an Aladdin’s cave of shops. Pandrossou Street is a pedestrian walkway jammed with shops on both sides, many selling souvenirs, local handicraft, jewelry, scarves, t-shirts as well as leather goods.
I didn’t come here with a specific shopping list, but ended up buying a nicely hand-made and very functional black leather briefcase from one of the shops. It was quite cheap and lasted forever, in spite of my none too delicate treatment of it! I needed to bring back little souvenirs for work colleagues and found some nice ceramic coasters with images of Greek gods on them. My colleagues loved them as I had paired them off with a god each and they were chuffed with the association.
It was in Pandrossou Street as well that we first met Stavros Melissinos. We went into his shop to admire (and buy) his Greek sandals and then discovered that Stavros was more than a sandal maker. This very friendly old man was famous as a poet and philosopher and his celebrity clientele included Sophia Loren, the Beatles, Jacqueline Onassis, Gary Cooper, Rudolph Nureyev and many others. The sandals were a means to earn a living, but Stavros was more interested in his writing and philosophy. He was pleased that he could discuss his philosophy with Tony and the two of them got on like wild fire. For all his fame, Stavros’ shop was very modest and it appears that he was more interested in meeting the people that came into his shop, rather than selling his wares. So each time when we returned to Athens, a visit to Stravros was one of our first stops.
Where to find Melissinos’ sandals
The Melissinos sandal shop moved from Pandrossou Street as the Olympics brought with it increased rentals in the main tourist areas. The sandal shop is now located at 2 Aghias Theklas Street, still within walking distance of the Plaka area. The business is now run by Pantelis Melissinos, Stavros’s son. Pantelis has carried on the family tradition of sandal making and like his dad, he is also a talented playwright, composer and set and costume designer. He is a spitting image of his father both in looks and personality. Coincidentally, the new shop at No. 2 Aghias Theklas Street is just a few doors away from where Lord Byron used to live at No. 11. Pantelis must feel that he is in good company in this street.
Sandals fit for gods and goddesses
We bought more sandals and Pantelis was able to quickly pulled apart a pair that Tony was keen on and he personally fitted them to Tony’s feet, making sure that the edges were all smooth – what great service! Pantelis told us that the priestesses at the Olympia Flame Ceremony have been wearing Melissinos’ sandals for over 40 years, something that Stavros never mentioned to us.
If you’re going to Athens, it would be worthwhile making your way to Melissinos’ and getting an authentic pair of Greek sandals from this famous sandalmaker. You can choose from about 28 different styles, each one named after an ancient Greek god, goddess or one of his celebrity clients. They are very affordable and make good gifts for friends and family. You can also order these online and the website shows what all the different styles are and gives indicative shipping costs to the U.S.Your Turn: Do you have any advice you would like to share? What tips would you like to add? Please comment below.