Maybe It’s Knowledge Entering Life

(Press play to experience “knowledge entering life”)

Coffee and Princeton are like East and Pyne. Like orange and black. Like Woodrow and Wilson.

It’s ingrained in our daily routines: one cup before a 9am lecture, an afternoon Witherspoon’s pick me up, a midnight study-inducer, the infamous, “Let’s grab coffee sometime!” I didn’t think I would ever visit a place where coffee was as important as college, but then I came to Greece.

Thessaloniki is a city of cafés. By my count, there are approximately 2.14 coffee shops for every citizen. The coffee culture means cafés are public gathering places for people to discuss the economic crisis, smoke a cigarette, and enjoy a frappé. Cafés line the streets with outdoor seating and awning-covered tables perpetually occupied by teens, pensioners, and families.

Mikel Logo: "Maybe" this is the founder

Mikel Logo: “Maybe” this is the founder

The most popular café, Thessaloniki’s version of Starbucks, is called Mikel, presumably abbreviating its tagline, “Maybe It’s Knowledge Entering Life.” My classmates and I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance for knowledge to maybe enter our lives, so of course it was one of our first stops when the inevitable caffeine-pains hit. As the saying goes, when in (the) Rome(an Empire)…

And in this part of the ancient Greco-Roman Empire (see, we are learning history here too), the coffee to drink is called a frappé. Not your average Starbucks milkshake, a Greek frappé is a version of iced coffee topped by a dense bitter foam meant to be thinned with water. Delicious, and so different than anything I’ve ever had in the U.S.

The dregs of a Greek frappé coats my appropriately orange cup

The dregs of a Greek frappé coats my appropriately orange cup

Mikel is my favorite study spot and where I feel most like a real Greek, even if I can only drink coffee like one. Like the Greeks discussing the present economy as I study Thessaloniki’s past glory, I reassure myself: Maybe it’s knowledge entering life.