A lover of Nueva Trova music and inspired by the lyrics of a song by Silvio Rodriguez, ‘Unicornio Azul’, where a blue unicorn searches in vain for a last mate, the charismatic Tasos Meletis named his shop ‘The Last Unicorn’ because he believes he is selling the last of their kind. Tasos comes from a family of collectors that has been specializing in anything of Philhellenic interest; he is the third generation to be doing so.
The Last Unicorn is another example I have come across in Athens of a truly Greek shop. It is a treasure trove for anyone looking for memories of their childhood and of a Greece of yesteryear. Step through the elegant entrance and you enter into another world; pause and look around, and your pulse will quicken by what you see.
Using the building’s original architectural features for display, you will find tastefully arranged on shelves and tables long-forgotten Greek toys, Greek games, books and guidebooks on Greece and more, much more. There are toys manufactured by Greek companies such as Εl Greco, Lyra and EPE – Lotto, Monopoly and The Brilliant Know-all, all in excellent condition and in their original packaging; copies of the little ‘Karangiozi’ books and coloured plastic shadow-puppets from the 70’s of all ‘Karangiozi’s’ fellow-characters (the shadow theatre ‘Karangiozis’ is the most representative art form in the history of Modern Greece); unopened Matchbox toys and little tin animals that make noises when pressed; antique pencils, yo-yos, lead soldiers and plastic ‘Tsoliades’ (the Greek National Guard) in their brilliant white ‘foustanellas’ (white costumes); and, stacked in piles, you will find original sheet music from the ‘30s, 40’s and 50’s of songs by the likes of Attic and Xanthopoulos, all painstakingly collected for their art-work rather than their contents.
Two things, however, caught my eye and touched my heart in particular; the first were some oil paintings and drawings by a Greek painter I had not come across before, Giorgo Savvakis (1924-2004). He was Plaka’s local artist and there, in a corner of the shop, is a display of some of his naïve paintings and drawings of the local taverns and haunts and the second was a collection of small leather ‘tsarouchia’ (the shoes the National Guards wear) and even smaller ‘Tsoliades’ (the Greek National Guard) that our father would buy for us as children from the airport when leaving Athens after our summer holidays.
All these treasures and more can be found at 59 Adrianou Street, Monastiraki, in Plaka. Go quickly before it all disappears for good, just like the blue unicorn’s mate!