Nafplion old town, Greece – and a shop selling Komboloi (worry beads)

April 13, 2012

In Greece, you often see men sitting over a coffee or an ouzo, fiddling with their Komboloi (worry beads). It seems an exclusively male pursuit, as I have never seen a woman even sitting in a cafe, let alone playing with worry beads – but perhaps local women sit at home and worry instead?

It hadn’t crossed my mind that there might be shops devoted entirely and solely to the sale of worry beads until, that is, I visited the pretty old seaside town of Nafplion at the beginning of April and came across just such a shop.  It had, according to the owner (luckily I had the trusty Yiannis, husband of Sunvil’s rep Jackie, from nearby Tolon, with me, who translated – and even kindly bought me my own set of worry beads), some 3,000 sets of worry beads on display in its many cabinets, plus a further 1,500 or so in boxes under the counter.

They ranged in price from modest to – well, thousands of pounds for the most expensive, and were available in a rainbow of colours and an amazing selection of materials.  Camel bone, anyone?  Or amber, perhaps?  There’s even a website – – which gives the history of the komboloy (in English and in Greek).  These days, it seems, they are used to help one to relax, to reduce stress, to give up smoking, to reduce depression and to create joy.  And they are also used as jewellery by women, or as home or car decorations – quite the multi-purpose gift.

My worry beads are a beautiful deep blue colour, and they are indeed decorating my home; they will remind me of Nafplion and of a very pleasant morning strolling the streets of the old town before heading off to nearby Nemea, to learn about the fascinating Nemean Games, dating from 300 BC – the fifth in the series of modern-day Revived Games being scheduled for 23 June this year (see this previous blog).  I have since registered to run the 100m race (barefoot, as the rules demand) in the ancient stadium of Nemea.  Let the training begin – the worry beads will doubtless come in handy!

(Sue Ockwell)