North vs. South
Northern Greece is a different experience from the island of Cyprus with its Turkish influences. When I land in Thessaloniki, I still have 2 hours to go before reaching the town of Kastoria. Mr. Trifon Fotiadis of the Arosis pulse and lentil company meets me at the airport. While I’ve tried his products (which were expensive but excellent), I know nothing about him. Hopefully his English is up to the task, otherwise this is going to be a looonnnggg drive.
Trifon is a tall, slim Greek gentleman in his mid-forties. Unlike me he has no grey hair. It turns out that not only is he fluent in English, but music as well. He still has his D.J. audition tapes from college. As we drive, at every stop the toll both operator and Trifon have a polite conversation. Greeks are so courteous regardless of the time it takes! Enraptured, I fixate on the toll takers too– people I’d normally ignore back home.
Driving down the dark highway, we pass the resting place of Philip of Macedonia (Alex the Great’s Dad). A copper colored crucifix about 6 inches in length hangs from Trifon’s rear view mirror. There is a lifelike Jesus nailed to the cross, swinging back and forth with each turn. In southern Greece, Hassan had fuzzy dice, and in the North they have a heavy metal Jesus. Black shapes and white mountain tunnels whiz across the glass as Trifon tells me his story. I had no idea just how brutal the 20thcentury was for northern Greece.
Mr. Fotiadis senior started Arosis 60 years ago. His family lived through this harsh time in the region of Macedonia. Don’t forget, Albania (only 40 km from Kastoria) was part of the Communist bloc. Their alpine border was the Cold War’s Iron Curtain.
The world was a place of extremes – pro or anti-communist. After World War II, the Greek government returned from their London exile. Russia however still had strong ties with the communist rebels that had fought the Axis. Long ago, people believed that the Gods literally put thoughts into your head. (source – Xenophobe’s Guide to the Greeks) Instead of mythological deities, all too real superpowers took their place. The two Greek factions became proxies. A civil war ensued. Six years and 100,000 dead later, the Communists lost. This left a lingering distrust of Red Northern Macedonia.
Then in 1967 a military junta seized control of Greece (which didn’t help the “suspicious” North). 6 years later democracy returned only to be followed by a massive oil price shock. A second oil shock in 1979 was another nail in the coffin of prosperity.
Here’s the thing that I know about Slavic people (having been raised by one of them): Forcing an oath completely ignores their cultural motivations.
During this time, the government forced Trifon’s hometown to forswear all Slavic idioms. Balkan place names dating back to Alexander the Great’s time would be linguistically erased. But here’s the thing that I know about Slavic people (having been raised by one of them): Forcing an oath completely ignores their cultural motivations. For example, in Greek mythology the father of all creation is Cronus. This guy is hardcore. He eats his own babies, castrates people and represents entropy. He is physically trying to eat the future while it’s still alive.
On the Slavic side, you’ve got Rod. Yep, the Slavic father of all creation and time will walk up to you and instead of cutting your dick off, say “Hi, I’m Rod.” And while Cronus has all sorts of crazy shit going on, Rod just has a cult of hot women (whose holy duty is the worship of said rod). No kidding. On their Rod (god) page Wikipedia says “He is definitely connected with childbirth in some way.”