One thing you will notice if you stroll around the Old Town of Nafplion is the many shops with worry beads: worry beads made of various stones and colours, big or smaller in size, of old or modern times… There, in a small two-story house that dates from the 18th century, you will find a Komboloi (Worrybead) Museum, the first and only museum of its kind in the world! It was established in 1998 by Mr and Mrs Evangelinos, a couple with passion in collecting worry beads from around the globe. This passion is shared today by their children, who are also dedicated in working with worry beads, this favourite pastime of many Greeks.
Mrs Eleni Evangelinou, the daughter of the museum's founder, talked to us about their rich collection and the decision to present it to the world. "The first member of our family to be so passionate with worry beads was the grandfather of my father. He was a cotton trader and would travel frequently to Egypt for business. He created the first collection of worry beads and taught my parents their secrets. In 1994, we bought the building that houses today the museum. At first, we used it as an antique shop but then we thought the idea of the museum. It is a small, two-story house that was constructed around 1800 by a local architect. The upper floor had a kitchen, a bathroom, a narrow hallway, a dining room and two bedrooms. The ground floor would house various stores: a quilt maker's workshop, a knitting workshop and a hairdresser's. Today, the upper store houses the museum and the ground floor hosts our workshop and retail shop."
How do you enrich your collections?
The first collection was my grandfather's. Our collection was obtained through our travels. We traveled a lot because we were occupying with the trade of old things. That time, we could easily find unique worry beads in the bazaars of the East. However, as the museum was becoming famous to the world through articles of international newspapers, it was getting more and more difficult to find such worry beads today.
Which is the oldest worry bead you obtain? It is an amber worry bead, bought in Aleppo Syria. It was constructed in 1650 and its colour is golden-orange.
What kind of stones do you use to make a worry bead?
We import stones from countries of the East (Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Egypt). You can use infinite material to make a worry bead. Having chosen and designed each stone, we order specific shapes that we have copied from old worry beads. All the worry beads we make are copies of old ones. For stones, we use only the classical material: pure amber, mastic amber, bone, shell, coral, horn, crystal, artificial resin and many others.
What are the differences between the Greek worry beads and the worry beads of other civilizations?
The Greek word for worry bead is "komboloi" and it means the sound in a row, referring to the sound of stones bended together in a string. This kind of worry beads with distances between the stones is of Greek origin and it is used as a pastime. Other civilizations use worry beads to pray, not as a game, such as rosaries.
The Komboloi Museum is located at 25, Staikopoulou st, Nafplion Old Town, and it is open every day from 09.30 to 20.30