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Wednesday 24 July 2013

We are back for a third night in Nafpoli having had another couple of days on the beaches nearby and a day at the nearby ancient site of Epidavrus. We have grown quite fond of Nafpoli which has the first, and reputedly only, Komboloi  (worry bead) Museum ‘in the world’.

Having paid my €2 entry fee I climbed up the creaky wooden stairs to the first floor. As I arrived a family of 3 left – just as well really as the four ‘halls’ were tiny. The museum owners have been collecting komboloi for 50 years and  have rare beads dating back to 1550 as well as a selection of prayer beads used by Hindus, Buddhist, Muslims and Catholics. They are all known by different names – Malas, Tesbi, Sebhas and Rosaries. The lady in charge downstairs had already pointed out the ‘No photos’ sign which was a disappointment but the low light upstairs wouldn’t have made for great photos anyway.

Downstairs in the well lit workshop was a different matter and I would have loved to have taken loads of photographs of the mass of colourful komboloi hanging from the display boards behind  her desk. The previous evening when we walked past I did sneak a quick photo through the door but it doesn’t really do the treasure trove the justice it deserves.

Visitors can watch the process of conserving old komboloi, creating replicas for sale or design their own made-to-order komboloi. Beads can be made from a number of different material types including pure amber, mastic-amber, bone, shell, coral, horn, wood, crystal and artificial resins. The number of beads can vary according to the size of the bead and the users palm width, but it’s normally an odd number. 

There are numerous shops in Nafpoli specialising only in komboloi as well as the usual tourist stalls with the prices ranging from a cheap and cheerful selection starting at €5 to a worryingly expensive one priced up at €1500.

Its fascinating to watch the twisting and twirling of the beads in the hands of the older generation who play with them subconsciously, and there is apparently a loud and a quiet method of handling the beads. The Greeks do not use the komboloi for any religious purpose – you see the menfolk twirling their beads as they walk along, whilst sat drinking or just passing the time. You wonder whether it is a sight that will be less familiar in years to come as the younger generation have their phones to play with these days. The komboloi may them become real museum pieces. 

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