At 10:00 pm we arrive in the village of Kastoria. Two massive bonfires, side by side, light up the mountain perched above. Upon examination, they’re really spotlights. Each one is shining on green trees only a few feet away.
Trifon and I sit down at his favorite restaurant. We have Batzos, a raw goat’s milk cheese that is the Saganaki of the North. He pairs it with a Macedonian Sauvignon Blanc. The bottle sports a giant scarlet “A”. In contrast to the salty shepherd’s cheese, this white wine is notably flowery. If liking it makes me an adulterous whore, then Hester Prynne and I have something in common.
Of course, Trifon knows everyone in the restaurant. After we finish our meal around midnight, he drops me off at my hotel. It is dark except for the stars above. But I can make out rock, wood, and stained glass windows bordered with white lace. There is a solemn quiet to the chill mountain air. I feel like I’m going to sleep in a nunnery as I bid the 2ndgeneration of Arosis goodnight.
The next morning Trifon picks me up and we head towards his factory. Cutting through downtown, we pass Lake Orestiada. This wide but very shallow pool is divided by the peninsula upon which Kastoria sits. In English Orestiada translates as “mountain nymph lake” (yeah Rod!).
As we follow the shore, a Greek Orthodox priest (black habit, beard and all) sits on a bench. He is GLARING at the water. There is an intensity to his gaze. Somewhere in there, someone or something has sinned! If this was a staring contest, I’m betting on the priest. He’d die right there if that’d keep his eyes open longer and prolong judgement. The Old Testament is still new here.
We arrive a few minutes later at the Arosis factory. It still has that new car smell, and the building is not quite done. Trifon’s mother greets us at the entrance. She is smaller in stature then her son with a dash of grey and a kind smile. While she doesn’t speak English, you can see the pride radiate from her as Trifon, in fluent English, starts the tour.
Each year, farmers arrive during the harvest. They drop off pulses, lentils, chickpeas and the like in different shapes and colors. The ivory, plastic sacks holding them are taken to a group of metal rooms where they’re gassed. Heavy, black
metal doors seal each compartment. There are no windows. Trifon somberly tells me that this is the technology used during WWII to exterminate those that Nazis labeled “pests.” The idea of a practical application for what could only be deemed as being born out of pure sociopathy is both disturbing and chilling.
We continue on to the drying room where for 16 hours beans are desiccated at 35°C (95°F). There is a sorting system for each type of pulse using new machines from all over the world. Conveyor belts run back and forth. You need a ladder just to see the top of this giant, metal box.
After inspecting the rest of the storage, packing and shipping areas we retire to Trifon’s office. To say it is small wouldn’t do it justice. It is nonexistent. The administration wing hasn’t been built yet. Instead, in a future closet two desks are jammed in, facing each other. One is for his Mom and one for him. She serves us teacups of thick, black Greek coffee. All around are shelves of ledgers, books and bags of elephant beans. They look like white stones, lovingly carved into kidneys.
Between two very neat piles of paper, I set my cup down. The red, maple wood grain of the desk has that signature Ikea look. Trifon tells me that since his father’s passing, Ms. Fotiadis’ focus has