From the Archives: My experience moving to Copenhagen in 2012
I grew up in a small town 40 miles south of Manchester – home of Smiths, Oasis, and other great High Street retail outlets (insert smiley).
And it was from Manchester Airport that I left England for what could potentially be the last time, as I got to grips with the idea of finally settling down somewhere. And why not Copenhagen? It’s clean; vibrant; modern; old; flat – it has everything a man in his 30s with dodgy knees needs.
My flight over here was an experience in itself, as I tightly took my seat wearing a trench coat full of plugs, wires, hard drives, adaptors, laptop, cameras and anything else I could fit in to my pockets. Don’t forget that I was also wearing two pairs of trousers, a dinner jacket, tank top, and several pairs of underpants. My “hand luggage” contained yet another camera body, three lenses, a few more cables, a Danish picture-book for children, and a fine selection of other literature. Had I have actually been stopped at airport security I would’ve made a fine subject for one of those TV documentaries about Easyjet. They would have played some trombone-style failure music as I walked away, pockets bulging, and just as I look back over my shoulder to the video camera to check I’m not being filmed, the piece would’ve ended with a single ‘ping’ on a glockenspiel.
Sweating and smelling like I looked, I managed to settle in to my seat and soon enough we were flying over the north sea. Even as we approached the western shores of Denmark the waters below were flat-calm and actually looked like tin-foil, as the rays of the sun glinted off the surface. I took it as a good sign – or maybe it was the calm before the storm…
My Danish girlfriend was waiting for me at Kastrup (I haven’t met any foreigner yet who isn’t here because of their partner) as I stumbled through the doors, unable to carry the burden of half of PC World (or FONA, depending on who’s reading this – are you reading this?) on my person. It had been a month since we last saw each other in London – straight after the Olympics. A month isn’t much, I hear you cry; but when you consider the fact that we’d just spent eight months travelling the Southern Hemisphere together, then a month apart is a slight shock to the system.
Well, that was six weeks ago, and let me tell you what has happened since then. I have a CPR number for tax purposes (it cannot be used to get free Danish language lessons because I do not have my yellow card / residency permit), I have a bank account (they won’t give me access to my money until I present them with a yellow card / residency permit), I’ve been working for a sports company – packing boxes and sitting in woodland timing cyclists – but cannot get my yellow card / residency permit because my hours are ‘variable’, and have tried to register my own business officially online, but I can’t yet because I don’t have a yellow card / residency permit.
Yet I’m staring at a chapter in a book which reads, and I quote, “…Denmark is one of the easiest countries to set up a business (with regard to cost and time).” I don’t doubt this was true once upon a time, but since then I have discovered that a lot has changed.
Things need to change again, in my opinion. This is a great city; a great country. But last December I managed to fly to the other side of the world, spent a week living in a hostel, got accepted for a tax number, opened a bank account (I opened it before I even left the UK) and hit the ground running when I went looking for work. Now I’m 90 minutes away from my homeland, living on the same continent, and finding it difficult to get anything productive done.
On the plus side, I am enjoying spending time at Super Brugsen, watching locals spend too long gazing in to the freezer sections. Pålæg – sounds like a wizard’s sleeping quarters.
But I won’t give up; I won’t give in. Denmark – you’re going to have me whether you like it or not…
Words by Joe Miller, Pictures by Matthew James Harrison
It’s always hard in life to accept it when you lose friends, family or anyone close to you. People change, they move on and find pastures new. We live, we die… but we dream.
We dream that we will achieve all our goals in life and hopefully leave a lasting memory in people’s minds, but more importantly, make sure we’ve done everything possible for ourselves and just lived our lives the way that makes us feel good.
Memories almost seem forgotten with some people and you find yourself wondering what changed along the way and if things had gone differently, what would you change?
They say “No man is an island”, but it’s hard to break away from this idea when you find yourself feeling so isolated and distant from people at times. The reliance on others around to support you, confide in you and share life with is never far from your thoughts.
Endelave, Bornholm and Aarø, three of Denmark’s islands, don’t share the same emotions as us. They are bereft of feelings, guilt or regret. Instead, they lie gracefully in their wilderness, like a purring cat, sprawled out on the rug in front of the fireplace. Like all islands, the separation from the mainland brings a sense of escapism, freedom and solitude. The cold winds of winter bring an evanescent chill to the bones, but it is short lived with the constant change of season and look of the landscape.
The Danish island of Bornholm warms the body and soul immediately. Situated off the south-east coast of Sweden, the island hibernates through the bleak months of winter until spring, when it’s magnificent billow of colour comes to prominence through its flourishing plants, flowers and trees.
From its craggy granite rocks to the white sand beaches that caress the coastline, the island welcomes its visitors like a long lost friend and the community spirit is revealed once more.
Isolation is a term not used here, as for many months of the year, you are captivated by the beauty of nature the island provides and the many campsites, restaurants and activities for families and individuals to enjoy.
Endelave, positioned north of Odense and off the coast of Funen, relaxes in its own tranquil surroundings. Of the three islands discussed, Endelave centres around its wildlife. With a large seal population that descends on the surrounding reefs for resting or breeding, the island would feel best served as the backdrop to a David Attenborough documentary and less so as a holiday destination.
However, the inhabitants of Endelave are not seeking to attract a flock of tourists. People are welcome, but as guests of the island, it would be best to take your shoes off at the door and respect the space nature has invited you into.
The land breathes life through its beach-meadow and oak forests that tower over the landscape like a marauding hawk waiting to pounce on its prey… although the prey on this occasion is our imagination.
Aarø encompasses this feeling of togetherness we all look for in life. An island with a small population, but a large sense of community spirit, the inhabitants of Aarø work together in maintaining the look of the landscape.
On the island, you will find a little town and there are a few farms still farming on the island today. Thatched houses and winding lanes reveal an added attraction to the beauty of the island.
Big things come in small sizes….or so I’ve been told! And that’s exactly what you find with Aarø. From the elegant little marina to the fire station with its fire truck you feel you could fit into your pocket, what the island lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in charm.
It’s not the size of the fire station, it’s how you use the fire truck that counts!
I, myself, grew up in a small town in west wales, UK. I always loved the fact that when you walked into one of the local shops, went for a drink, or took a stroll around the town, you would always bump into someone you knew. These islands remind me of this and it’s hard not to find a piece of my heart attached to them.
I will always continue to dream and I will always do my best to try, safe in the knowledge that I have people around that will always be there for me and support me, whatever I do in my life.
Getting lost in the city’s cleverly-designed grid system
“Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona; an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” Perhaps the future is now and the past is the present, but whichever way the city speaks to you… It definitely speaks everyone’s language.
Within Barcelona’s city walls and shores, a fusion of intellect, creativity and architectural genius greet you with open arms in the hope that when you are released from its warm embrace of serenity, you leave inspired, drenched in the romance and prosperity the city soaks in the memory.
Some years after Le Corbusier’s quote of Barcelona came the visually stunning and Catalonian centre for art, ‘Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya’. Situated on Montjuïc Hill at the end of Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, lies the St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City, Rome) inspired ‘Great Dome’ which gracefully presents itself to the many travel photographers and tourists that jostle for position along the magnificent illuminated fountains below the structure. The view through the four pillars lining the foreground of the building create an imaginative gateway to the historic feel of the Romanesque features within the museum.
Barcelona is full of historical landmarks for tourists to salivate over, but many people often refer to this museum as a ‘must see’ monument. I have to agree and with its location on top of Montjuïc Hill, it’s easy to see why. With views stretching deep into the Catalonian mountains, landscape photographers feel rich with opportunity with such a vast wealth of scenery on offer.
The colourful city is steeped in history. We are familiar with Barcelona’s coastal location, Gaudi’s touch of Catalan modernism splattered around the city and the countless amounts of people trying to sell you fake watches or hassle you on Las Ramblas, but I find something else to take an interest in. ‘The Eixample’, a pioneering grid system designed by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, forms a 7.5 square km district, praised for its improved living conditions for inhabitants and space awareness. An area where sun beams seamlessly through the octagonal design of the blocks and where ventilation is at a premium to the gasping breaths of the constant surge of sight seeing tourists. Colours of all the spectrum follow you in your path and it’s impossible to not get lured in by its charm.
I will mention however, it is possible to get lost within this ‘maze’ of a system, as I found out to my despair earlier this year. Ok, so I was slightly on the tipsy side of life and made an attempt to find my hotel unaided walking back from Las Ramblas. I wandered around the streets for nearly four hours before slumping down besides a tree in despair. Minutes later, I heard the sound of a car horn and someone shouting out the window. “Joe! What the hell are you doing there?” I was saved. My brother, of whom I had left hours earlier because I wanted to get back to the hotel to have an early night (the irony), had found me. The conclusion to this is that although the grid design of Eixample is a masterstroke of urban planning, many of the streets look identical and it is quite easy to get lost if you don’t remember the street name you are staying on. No one wants to look like a drunk idiot slumped up against a tree at 4am!
These are only a couple of examples as to why visiting Barcelona is an exciting experience for anyone. The hope is that we are able to visit as many of Europe’s amazing cities in our lifetime, but if you haven’t yet made a visit to this magnificent city as a tourist, photographer or writer, then get your diary out and start to plan a trip.
Think art. Think beauty….. Think Barcelona.
Words by Jo Miller
Photos by Matthew James (except the aerial grid system)
Copenhagen has to be one of the world’s best places to photograph
I’ve been fortunate enough to live in many special places around the world over the years: France, Australia, many parts of the UK, and of course Denmark.
Each and every one of these places has been special in one way or another. In Southampton, as a 23-year-old, I made a small group of friends for life, and enjoyed living in a city so famous for its links to the Titanic tragedy (a small obsession of mine)
And in Australia, driving bare-foot through the streets of Brisbane at sundown, listening to The Doors, will forever stay in my thoughts. I could go on and on, and I’m sure you have your own special memories from across the globe.
But over the last few years, technology has boomed to immeasurable levels. It means that everywhere we go, and everything we do, can be recorded and broadcast live, or photographed and published to Social Media in seconds.
In other words, these past four years living in Copenhagen have been the most documented years of my life. In many ways Facebook and Instagram have consumed a lot of my spare time, but I’ll be honest and say I enjoy looking back through these physical memories and one day being able to share them with my kids.
But there’s a very big difference here, in that Copenhagen is perhaps THE best city in the world to take pictures. “He’s bias,” I hear you say. Perhaps. But I don’t know of any other city anywhere in the world where you can photograph the following:
Once again, olives reigned supreme on the fourth and final day of our Press Trip.
I completely ignored them at the breakfast table, settling instead for some eggs and some sort of chocolate cake. My head was absolutely pounding from the night before and the lack of sleep wasn’t helping much. But we’ve all been in this situation before, so writing about it doesn’t make for compelling reading.
Thankfully we were all allowed to have a stroll around the town for an hour, which finally gave me a chance to go exploring with my camera. Due to the hangover I was feeling 100% anti-social, which isn’t like me at all, so I was quite glad of the opportunity to be alone for a while.
As I walked past a long, white wall with a bright green door in the middle, an elderly lady emerged with two dogs. When she saw me taking pictures she told me it was OK to nip inside her house whilst she took the dogs out. Opportunities like this rarely present themselves, so I dashed in before she could change her mind.
Upon passing through the green door I found myself in a narrow courtyard full of trees and plants, and a stone staircase leading to the roof. I had to carefully avoid the cat shit that was lying everywhere, but once on the roof I had a pretty nice view of the town. I could see several other bloggers and journos from our group slowly plodding along through the streets, checking the backs of their cameras to see how their last shot had come out. Above all else, I was pleased with my ability to blag my way in to places, which is a gift I’ve had for a long time. Once again, having a camera was opening doors for me.
Another door I opened led me in to the house itself, and it was here that my strange mood took a turn for the worse. Immediately in front of me stood a round table covered in a see-through plastic. The room was extremely dark (despite the time of day and beautiful sunshine outside) and smelt damp and musty. There was a portable heater on the floor to the left of me, and to the right was a single bed tucked against the wall. Above it were two pictures of Jesus (one of them might have been Mary), and two very old photographs of a man and woman. I was intrigued to know if it was her parents I was looking at, or photos of her and her husband, or brother, from when they were young. It was hard to tell, of course, but it made me wonder about this woman’s life. I was feeling ridiculously lonely at that very moment, almost as if I could imagine being in this woman’s shoes. OK, so she had dogs, cats, Jesus and Mary for company, but the whole scene made me feel sad. In 45 years time, maybe I’ll have photos of Luke Skywalker and Yoda on my wall, and pics of my long-dead family. Not a nice thought.
I got out of there as quickly as possible and continued on my little adventure, stopping occasionally for a coffee and a photo or two of a building, alleyway or human.
The healthiest diet in the world – allegedly
At 11am we were treated to a personal cooking lesson with local chef Dimitris Mavrakis. He had quite an interesting story to tell about his life and how he came to be a chef. But even more interesting was the story he told about the Cretan diet. In the 1970s, a study was conducted by a French doctor, who wanted to find out which diets could aid and promote a healthy and well-functioning dietary system. According to the results, the 12-month study was over within half that time, when it was revealed that the Cretan diet was “the winner.” All ten participants had issues with their bowels / intestines etc, and after just six months eating the vegetable-rich food of the mediterranean, 70 percent of these ailments had all but disappeared. (Jesus, trying to type that in to a sentence that reads well almost took ME six months!).
Throughout the centuries, meat was a rare addition to the table, and so it was only consumed on average once a month. Most dieticians agree, that the Western diet – rich in meats, sugar and animal fats – is a huge contributor to cancer and heart disease. And it was obvious just from walking around the villages the last couple of days, that the elderly weren’t doing as bad as their UK counterparts. So you find yourself promising to commit to this kind of food for the rest of your life… until you see the Golden Arches at the airport and it all goes tits-up.
Over the next couple of hours we joined in making fresh pasta and a selection of salads inside Dimitris’ very dark and very purple kitchen (absolute piss-poor lighting conditions for moi). But just like every other day of the trip so far, it didn’t take long for us to feel tired, hungry and lacking enthusiasm. None of these feelings could be put down to the lack of enjoyment or interest in what was going on, but perhaps more to do with the size of the group and the time it took to achieve the things on our itinerary. Needless to say, everybody was over the moon when the food finally arrived, and we were all very grateful to the chef and the trip organisers for making it happen. This was a part of the day we were happy to drag out, as we sampled dish after dish (thankfully we were tasting completely different cuisine from the previous days) and finished up with coffee, dessert and the chance to purchase some cheese from the man.
We moved on.
Next up we visited a Women’s Collective where they were making bread. Now, it has to be said at this point that the Cretans love to eat the same starter over and over again, and it consists of dried bread, crushed tomatoes, goat’s cheese, and I think there are probably olives on there as well. By now I was getting really bored of seeing it every time it made an appearance, so watching the women make it was not for me.
Instead I slunk off to find some photo opportunities and found myself stalking a lady in black, who was sweeping up outside a modern-looking church. I decided that she was the highlight of my day so far, and followed her around for a good ten minutes. She had no idea I was there, or if she did she didn’t let on. Part of me was expecting the locals to be camera shy (I can’t explain why I thought this), but overall they were fine with it. I only met one man who was not cool with having his portrait taken (though totally happy to turn the camera on me) and a dog which growled at me for attempting to speak with the young boy it was playing with. This was the point I stepped in some dog shit.
More fucking bread
Back inside the Collective everybody was still making bread. But, the good news was it was about ready to eat. So we sprinkled some crushed tomatoes on top, followed by some goat’s cheese and olives, and what d’ya know, there’s a popular Cretan starter right there in your face. Most of the group couldn’t be arsed to eat yet another one, so it was carefully passed around between us so we could each take a little nibble.
Thoughts turned to suicide a few hours later, when the 900th half slice of dry bread-with-goats-cheese-and-tomato-and-olive starter of the week made another appearance. I for one was ready to throw it against the wall, yet somehow managed to find a place for it somewhere between my tongue and tonsils. “It’s the last one, it’s the last one,” I reminded myself as I took a bite.
The American in the group reminded us that it was indeed Thanksgiving, so to follow the tradition we all took it in turns to thank somebody who meant something to us. I decided to thank the driver, who had patiently driven us around the island all week and had to wait around for us for hours and hours. His face looked blank as I gave my speech, which made me wonder whether I’d wasted a good compliment. There were plenty of others sitting around the table who had made me laugh or brightened my day on more than once occasion since I’d met them just a few days earlier. “He better fucking appreciate it,” I thought afterwards.
I’m going to fast-forward through the booze and food because I’m not that kind of writer. All you need to know, is that it was very very good cuisine and we all enjoyed it immensely. If I was to try and promote Greek / Cretan food then all I can really say is try it. It’s healthy, fresh, and almost served as tapas. Small portions, lots of it.
A confession. And then another one
But this journal is meant to be honest and candid. I promised my readers from the start that I wouldn’t hold back on telling the truth, so here’s the confession. When Friday morning arrived I couldn’t wait to get home. I was counting the hours until I was back in Copenhagen, and had decided that Travel Writing wasn’t really my thing. Sure I loved exploring, taking pictures, tasting new dishes and local drinks, and above else meeting new people. But I was tired and ready for some Friday-night TV. Within 48 hours that all changed.
By Sunday afternoon I was already missing the warmth of Crete and the amazing blue skies. Admittedly, the long, dark, Danish winters don’t help (summer does kick ass, though), but I wanted another adventure. Travel has always been a huge part of my life, especially through my 20s, and has opened my eyes to so many different cultures, political viewpoints, and compelling characters – both good and bad. Running my own photography business has almost made me forget about all of those amazing experiences, which have defined me and made me who I am. I love the open road; having your phone permanently switched off and hidden until you need it; rushing to catch the last bus to the airport, and crossing paths with so many interesting and diverse people.
When I first started to consider which type of photography to pursue, I sat down and wrote a list of pros and cons for them all. Travel Photography was at the very top of my list, but the cons were a little off-putting. The biggest problem is the lack of money available in the industry. Everybody has a camera these days and many amateurs can get fantastic holiday photos. I’ve had phone conversations with Art Directors and Editors who never call back when you tell them the price for a picture. A lot of companies don’t even pay the expenses, so breaking even can often be the best possible outcome.
But of course, this trip to Greece was different. It was an all-expenses paid for experience, and I’d received a positive response from the first travel magazine I’d pitched it to. Suddenly things were looking up.
The reality in this industry is, patience is an absolute virtue. If we want to succeed then we need to be be 80 percent businessman, 20 percent artist. Taking the jobs that pay is the best way to keep the business RUNNING, but taking the jobs we love is the only way towards JOB SATISFACTION.
I’m reminded of a local sports photographer who took a step away from the paid jobs and decided to work hard on her portfolio. Two years later she was working for some big names and brands, and she’d finally found her market. She was demanding good money, too. But over time she seemed to forget where she’d come from, and one-by-one the clients started to turn elsewhere. Her prices and attitude played a big part in this exodus.
The photographer has been forced to rethink her career and financial situation, and at the moment things are looking gloomy for her. In a way, it almost feels like the end of her story as a photographer. Though I hope she can learn from her mistakes.
As we reach the end of 2015 I can only look to the future and prepare for another rollercoaster ride. This summer I took a huge decision and chose not to promote myself as a Wedding Photographer any more. It means that this January I will miss out on thousands of kroner’s worth of deposits, and will need to find an alternative income. But on the flip-side I’ll have much more time in summer to concentrate on the areas of photography that work best for me. This includes a regular Newsletter, my next exhibition, and working hard on strengthening my portfolio to reach new clients. If you stop moving in this industry you’re dead.
As I look at the White Board behind my desk it’s already covered in fresh ideas for the website. Better portraits; more music and travel images… basically my passions in life, and the things that make me want to continue being a photographer. If you’re standing at a similar crossroads in life, best of luck to you.
I’ll finish with a simple thank you to all the folk who made Crete such a fantastic experience. I look forward to crossing paths with you again sometime soon.
At a height of 848m above sea level, Father Andreas’ Shepherd’s Shelter – known locally as a Mitato -sits on the slopes of Crete’s highest point, Mount Ida. Getting there with a hangover was not fun, and my drinking companions from the night before were feeling similarly delicate.
As the privately chartered minibus / coach thingy slowly wound its way through the villages and up the meandering roads, we sat quietly staring out the window at the passing scenery. Some places looked perfect for stopping off for some cool shots, but we were told there was not enough time to do so. One of the places mentioned was officially off the record, so I can’t say much more than that. Drugs, though. The one stop we did benefit from was right by the side of the road on a blind bend, where we got to witness hard-ass mountain goats hopping from rock to rock like they didn’t give a fuck. There was also yet another shrine dedicated to Jesus and his crew, which I thought was a bit odd this far up the mountain.
We arrived at the Shelter around two hours after leaving the villas and the crisp air was actually a welcome relief. The sun was starting to come out, too, and the view was pretty nice. The priest / shepherd came to greet us himself and led us straight to the barn where all the goats were chilling out with their bells round their necks.
There were some keen members of our little group who couldn’t wait to get stuck in, and soon enough a gaggle of writers had gathered over a bucket to watch an Israeli guy squeeze a teat or two. And just like the day before in the Olive Grove, I was more determined to get a good shot before the opportunity disappeared than I was to do the actual milking. I was starting to worry about my lack of getting involved, but I knew that getting a good picture was my priority. It was a challenge with all the others around, that’s for sure.
Back in the Mitato the goat’s cheese was boiling away and was almost ready to be tasted. We cut it with some vinegar and a bit of salt, and suddenly it was good to go. We each took it in turns to portion it out in to small cups before it was taken away to our al fresco dining area that was already overflowing with more Cretan dishes. The wine made a cheeky appearance again, as did the shots, and by the time the fried potatoes arrived I was back in some kind of semi-drunk state again. It was a perfect time for Gary and I to introduce the rest of the gang to good old Chip Butties, which totally horrified them all, especially the french girls. We wolfed it down with pride.
We’d spent most of the afternoon so far chasing the shepherd around the mountain – an act that had caused me to drop my camera, lens first, on to a rock. The bloody thing survived yet again, and it was only the lens hood that needed fixing / repairing. But the majority of us were quite tired when we found our seats in the bus and drove back down the mountain. But there were more items on the itinerary to get ticked off, so any thoughts of a bit of down-time to get pictures edited and blog posts written were quashed immediately.
Which is why we next found ourselves in an orange grove, helping to pick oranges from the trees. I was starting to feel a bit desperate for a decent picture at this point and became a little bit bossy with the rest of the group, as I tried to clear out the wandering bloggers from the background as promptly as possible. The owner of the orange grove, a woman named Eftychia Marathianaki, smiled and played nicely as I dragged her from one tree to the next, demanding that she stand “as natural as possible.” I later found out that she had recently been made a widow and had become the victim of jealous rivals who wanted her removed from the competition. Her tyres had been slashed and water supply cut, in an attempt to stop her from continuing with the business. How lonely that must feel in such an enclosed town, I thought.
Believe it or not, our next destination was yet more food, which consisted of bread, fried potatoes, sausages, olives, cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and more of the Connecting People liquid. Before I could get stuck in I decided to slip away from the group to see if I could find any interesting people or buildings to photograph. The best photo op came in the form of a little old lady with the best-kept hair, sitting outside her shop doing embroidery. The light was fading fast by now, as I danced around her like a leprechaun with a lens. She was more than happy to be photographed, and I wasn’t at all surprised when she then tried to sell me a couple of bags for €10 each. They were very nice bags, but not really something I could imagine walking around with on a daily basis. So I promised to return with the rest of the group and wished her a pleasant evening. True to my word, I never saw her again.
With the Cretan cuisine sitting heavily in our stomachs, we were all a little surprised and saddened when we were asked “What shall we buy for tonight’s barbecue?” Looking at my watch I could already see it had gone past 7pm, and food was the last thing on all of our minds. A few members of the group started to grumble quietly under their breaths as we continued to towards our next destination: The Distillery!
Now I can quite comfortably admit that I was indeed one of those moaning about the situation. I was tired; I had a lot of pics to upload and backup, and I just like the idea of sitting on the terrace with a few beers and having a laugh. But then something magical happened. As we entered the distillery we were watched by tables full of locals, and I remember thinking, “This is going to be a difficult night.” But, if there’s ONE thing I’ve learnt about being a photographer, is that holding a camera in your hands opens doors and channels of communication. So over I went to the grilling area and started chatting to the men who were preparing the food. Within minutes I was sitting with a small group of Cretans and being “forced” to drink wine and raki, whilst tasting their meat, so to speak. And for the third or fourth time in less than 48hrs, raki was connecting people once again.
The fun continued, as members of our group were invited on to the dance floor to learn some local moves. The music was turned all the way up to 11 and round and round we went, kicking our feet about in an uncontrolled and badly timed manner. The Greeks knew exactly what they were doing; the rest of us not so. Behind us on what appeared to be a stage used for making booze, a large man continued the process of distilling the raki, as steam bellowed out across the room. It looked like a scene from Dirty Dancing, but without any of the actual resemblances to the any parts of the film. Just steam and dancing really.
This went on for quite sometime, and our group had already shrunk to just a few. At least half the group had gone back to the villas to catch up on some work and rest, and I felt a little bit saddened for them. In my opinion they were missing out on the best part of the trip so far. But soon enough the rest of us were getting in to the bus and being driven back home for the night. Until my housemate, Gary, decided that he wanted to go and watch the Manchester United game in a pub somewhere, and there was no way he was going to watch it alone.
The bar was all but empty, but it gave us another chance to see how life was really like for the small population of Archanes. I also got the chance to talk candidly with our host, Victoria, who told me all about the Orange Grove widow. She shocked me further when she explained to me a so-called “Mafia Tax” that was applied to businesses who were doing “too well.” Apparently the owner of the distillery had taken quite some convincing to let us all in, as it could mean a hefty tax for him. Lots of stories, photos and articles about his business could effectively cause him to lose money, and he had been more than a little nervous at the sight of us all. It hadn’t shown. His warm, welcoming persona had made the night a complete success, and I tip my hat to the guy for making it so enjoyable.