Apo Koinou

Amongst the beauty and magic of Crete, I discovered friendship, and the sense of having something in common with many people who I met. I found Apo Koinou…

I arrived in Crete feeling a loneliness, and realised that I needed to spend some time with people, and not always be on the move. It is very easy to be caught up in “the journey”, to focus too much on the walking, and forgetting also to enjoy myself. At times I felt lost – something about walking on an island that means you are never really getting any closer to the “destination”. Of course, that was before I understood something fundamental: the destination is part of the journey, it is NOT the end.

I found I was struggling aimlessly at times, and it was during one of these moments that I encountered Anne-Laure…

That morning I was exhausted. The night before I had slept in a half abandoned village, and had set my tent on a balcony, overlooking the mountainside, with a view all the way down to the sea. But during the night I hardly slept – the wind was rattling through the village, howling and blowing, so that despite being inside the tent, I had the sensation I would be lifted clean into the air and hurled down the mountainside.

In the morning the wind was still blowing and after packing my tent, I struggled some 8 kilometres along the road, twisting and winding around the mountain. The wind was like a wall at times, and when I arrived in the next village, Schinokapsala, I felt drained. I found the local kafeneio, and sank into a chair to drink a coffee.

And so it was that I began talking with Anne-Laure, and some hours later found myself sitting on her beautiful terrace having lunch. My interest was piqued immediately when she told me about her work: she started a website called Green Up Film Festival, where she collects documentaries about environmental issues all over the world. The idea is to build awareness about the problems affecting our planet, and visitors to the site can watch and vote on their favourite documentaries. And it’s not just for professional film makers – if somebody has something important to say, and they present it well, then they can be a part of the film festival. Check out the website here.

Anne-Laure has also travelled…a lot, and so she was happy to invite me to stay, wash my clothes, relax. “I know how it can be when you’re on the road”, she told me. “Make yourself at home”. Which I promptly did. In fact  so much so that I ended up staying for 3 weeks!

During this time I cooked (trying out all the recipes I have collected, and some from my brain), did some gardening (I don’t quite have green fingers yet!), and we visited the area. I relaxed and enjoying living, in great company. We talked and talked and it was a moment of opening my eyes a little more to the journey I am on and where I want to take it. Oh and my brother also came out for a week. Great!

Anne-Laure on her terrace with the local,  happy dogs
Anne-Laure on her terrace with the local, happy dogs

June 25th 2014: my birthday. I arrive in the beautiful village of Archanes, wandering down small alleyways lined with colourful houses, flowers in bloom, and the sounds of locals shouting from inside. Turning a corner I see a beautiful little shop: I had been wanting to stop for a drink, and out of nowhere appears Myrro Lab. Inside is an aroma filled heaven: herbs, teas, spices, handmade soaps and other natural products. It’s like breathing in life. 2 beautiful smiling ladies greet me: Myrto, the owner, and Konstantina. I am invited to sit and drink some tea, and suddenly the conversation is flowing. And of course I am invited to stay for the night and meet their friends. And to make it even better, Anne-Laure also came and joined the party. Friends everywhere! Awesome birthday!

Myrto and Konstantina

The day after my birthday and I’m on my way to En Oikos Eco Festival in Heraklion. In a park in the centre of the capital of Crete, the festival tries to bring together people and producers from the island who are working in eco-friendly ways. There are obviously many food producers, but also artisans working on different ways of eco-living and lots of music.

When I arrived I went straight to the organisers to ask if I could do anything…and I was immediately recruited to the falafel team. For 4 nights I was part of the human machine, making falafel wraps practically non-stop for the festival goers.

When I wasn’t making falafel, I spent my time chatting with the many fascinating people – so many I can’t remember all their names! However, I was lucky enough to make friends with the members of a co-operative: Apo Koinou. Everyone in the co-op was so friendly and vibrant, a real group of happiness, working together. And as I chatted with them an idea formed: why not see if I could spend some time with them after the festival? I was invited by Miron and Georgia to join them on their farm, make some cheese, and see how it all works.

Apo Koinou means “together” or “in common”, and the days that I spent with the people of the co-operative were exactly that. There was an air of celebration…every night, and you could sense the united purpose between everyone. The conversation was always interesting, and if I was able to get past the lack of Greek, I was able to join in as well. I found myself in the company of people with the same outlook on life:

Από Κοινού is a young social cooperative based in Heraklio, Crete. Although focused on food, Apo Koinou brings together artists, writers, farmers and more who all share a common vision towards a more sustainable way of life. Their ethos lies in the preservation of the land through natural farming, the production and distribution of products through fair trade and improving quality of life through self-sufficient approach incorporating the talents of many people on this Island all facing the current situation that Greece is in. 

Have a look at their website here

What I was searching for, and feeling in Crete, is summed up in the name of the co-operative… Apo Koinou. I was in need of people who have the same outlook as me, who had something “in common” with me, and who I could speak with and learn from. Seeing the life in the co-operative, and spending time with all the amazing people who I met on Crete, filled a hole. I would not change anything about my journey: I love what I am doing, and have never been happier, and to be with all these people, and to feel their warmth and joy for life, was very special.

Crete will always hold a special place in my heart and I know that there are people there who are firm friends – we do have something “in common”. Our outlook on life, how we want to live, and what is important. From the time with Anne-Laure, when, for the first time, I really let go of an idea I had about my journey, to the days with Miron, Georgia and the rest of Apo Koinou.

As I stood on the boat, leaving Crete felt both wrong and right at the same time. I felt a sadness to be saying goodbye to such an incredible place, and the people I had met, but happy to be on my way again, into the unknown.

And even then I was not alone. Miron and Georgia had found me waiting inline to board the ferry. They were off to Anafi for a week, while I was heading to Santorini. As we sailed away from Heraklion, the mountains behind turned purple against an orange backdrop, and beyond I could feel nature and the island calling to me. As the boat left, I asked Miron about Cretan leaving songs, and so we departed with the words of Kostas Moudakis, one of the first traditional singers from the island…

I sail in the middle of the sea
and with tears in my eyes
I say goodbye to my beautiful island Crete

I arrived in Crete feeling lonely, but  left in the company of friends, and a heart overflowing with emotion. The words, and the people hold a special place in my heart, and I will return…but not yet, not yet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s