Give me a drink of clean water

What can be tastier than a sip of water? For example, a sip from a cool bottle is very tasty when you “landed” in a coastal tavern after a trip along a gorge; and you will have a special pleasure, if the bottle is labeled ΖΑΡΟΣ.   

Actually, such bottle can be found in Crete in any supermarket, hotel and tavern; and it is not surprising: mineral water of exceptional proprieties is a gift of the land here, bottled in the town of Zaros at the foot of Mount Psiloritis along an artificial lake fed by the source of Votomos. This and many other sources of mineral water became the reasons of Zaros’ popularity. ΖΑΡΟΣ itself was founded by villagers in 1980. 44% of the company is owned by the municipality of Faistos, and the rest belongs to the inhabitants of the village and surrounding areas.

Cretan water is known and appreciated not only in Greece: it is exported to more than 20 countries of the world—from Canada to China and from South Africa to Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. The company’s production facilities are located outside of Zaros, in the prefecture of Heraklion, on a plot of 19 thousand square meters. Most of the company’s 70 employees are natives of Zaros.

Water comes from sources located at an altitude of 400 meters, descends naturally at a distance of 800 meters, following its route through carbonate rocks and ending in a pool. From there, from a depth of 180 meters, water flows through pipelines to the Zaros SA bottling plant, where it is bottled for transportation. Throughout the process, from pumping to bottling, there is no contact of water with humans and not any kind of water treatment.

In 2016, ΖΑΡΟΣ received the highest European award for the best taste honored by the Brussels Institute of Taste and Quality (iTQi). In this competition Cretan water was judged by 30 members of prestigious European catering companies.

In 2017, ΖΑΡΟΣ was awarded the title of “Best Bottled Water in the World”. This contest—the 27th annual international water tasting in Berkeley Springs, USA—was attended by over 600 samples of bottled water. Products were judged by 12 judges according to four criteria: smell, appearance, taste, aftertaste and texture. According to test results and judges’ opinion, ΖΑΡΟΣ water has “excellent physicochemical and microbiological quality, high Ph and a balanced ratio of calcium, and magnesium”: it received a gold award. ΖΑΡΟΣ is now on the well-known Fine Waters list featuring the 80 best bottled waters in the world. Getting into it is like getting a “Michelin star”: a confirmation of impeccable quality. Of course, this level of recognition influenced consumer demand, which in turn prompted the company’s board of directors to look for increasing of production: it operates currently at a speed of 35,700 bottles per hour.

Did the Minoans drink the same water?     

Scientists believe that located near the famous Rouvas gorge, a huge oak forest and old monasteries Zaros exists for at least 400 years. Entire blocks of buildings made in an old architectural style, unique temples, as well as the remains of an ancient aqueduct, have been preserved here. The name of the town itself is associated with the combination of the words “za” and “ros”, which mean “large stream.” Not far from Zaros, in the cave of Kamares, there were found traces of the Cretan Bronze Age civilization (III-II millennium BC): many fragments of utensils became exhibits of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. It is known that two large sources here—Votomos and Sterna—were used to provide water to the Roman city of Gortina through a grandiose closed 12-kilometer hydraulic structure, several ceramic fragments of which survived to this day.

It is believed that Zaros has little changed in essence over the four centuries of its existence due to the fact that its inhabitants carefully protect their traditional values, including natural ones. As ever, the waters of the Koutsoulidis River, which is surrounded by picturesque hills, are noisy; and crops are plentiful in the orchards; and springs give clean water to people. One of them, Votomos, was blocked in 1987, and an artificial lake appeared as a result of that, which has received the same name. Here, local residents set up a fish farm for breeding trout and salmon, which have perfectly acclimatized in clean water. The lake is surrounded by a wooden fence and pedestrian walkways, partially landscaped and equipped with benches and arbors, so it is a pleasure walking here under the canopy of plane trees; and the tourists are well aware of it. Another natural attraction of Zaros is the oak forest of Rouvas, the largest in Europe and considered to be a part of the ancient forest that covered the entire island. Due to its isolation, the “forest of millennial trees” survived intact with all its representatives of the plant and animal world.

Do you want to see millennial oaks and plane trees, to catch in Lake Votomos a big fish immediately prepared for you ready to eat, and to drink delicious water not from a bottle but, for example, from a marble fountain in the 14th-century monastery of St. Anthony at Vrontisi? Then Zaros is so right for you!

№ 5 (48), 2020