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“A judicial officer serving in Nafplio once came to my shop, but he didn't mention what his occupation was. In order not to ruin the dye I was making, I had to keep him waiting for a few minutes and he got angry. ‘Do you know who I am’, he told me, ‘I am the public prosecutor’. ‘And why should I care, I am the shoeshiners' prosecutor’, I answered. He was impressed by my prideful answer, and from that moment on he became a costumer and a friend of mine”.
He had loyal customers
A city can be described not only through touristic reports, but also through the stories told by its citizens. The late Markos Arapoglou from Nafplio was one of these people. When he was still alive, he used to vividly narrate incidents concerning his profession and gathered quite an audience in his shop every day.
One of his favorite stories was the one about a rich lady from Athens who went to Epidaurus to listen to Maria Callas singing. “That day, there was a storm, and she was afraid that the expensive shoes she had bought from Italy for 750 drachmas had been destroyed by the mud. They were made of a type of leather which is also used in glove making, and they looked mangy, because she had someone paint them with lacquer in Athens”.
Markos used acetone to remove the lacquer and made them look brand new. He charged her 35 drachmas, instead of 15 which was his usual fee, but she gave him 50. She was so satisfied that for many years she kept sending him shoes from Athens to paint them. Bicolor shoes were the latest fashion back then, and Markos used to paint them with great mastery, as he was a perfectionist.
Back then, his shop used to have a lot of costumers; on Saturdays, 100 costumers at least, while on Sundays 50 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. During the last years before he passed away, a whole day would go on without anyone walking into his store. The last shiner of Nafplio had no family, so as to have someone to pass on his art to.
He painted countless boots
Markos set up his trunk for the first time in 1940 in front of the Justice Hall of Nafplio and painted countless guerrilla, military, Italian, German and English boots.
During the German Occupation he polished the boots of some Nazis with battery fluid and destroyed them. It was an act of resistance, a really unusual one. Once, a German noticed it before Markos ran away, so he broke his trunk and threw it in the sea. He then kicked him so hard that he almost crushed his bones. He was later interviewed about this incident by a TV station but never got to see himself on television, as the crew forgot to tell him when the story would air. The reporter had promised to get in touch with him, but she forgot.
TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS