Patras: A town on the edge

Patras, more or less the same population as Cardiff, is one of the major transport interchanges in Greece and is necessary as a stop-over but I would not choose to come to here for a holiday.  Sunday, the day I spent here wandering the streets, was not very enjoyable and frankly left me somewhat saddened.

It is very much a contrast between two very different life experiences, two environments cheek by jowl but worlds apart. There are glitzy new glass and stainless steel buildings and very run-down, dilapidated older buildings in close proximity.  There are people sleeping in the parks opposite very grand churches. There are many examples of development work on stop because the plug has been pulled on funding.  Many businesses have closed down.  Others have opened up.  A fish restaurant recommended in the Rough Guide has been turned into a couple of upmarket bars selling very overpriced drinks – €5 for a  330ml bottle of Amstell.  I mustered my best Greek when I paid and told the waitress that it was ‘para poli akrivos’ – ‘beyond very expensive’.  It’s normally €2.

Strangely it’s very difficult to find anywhere to eat anything other than fast food here.  Dozens of pizza places and the like but not a single traditional Greek menu could I find in the town centre.  Perhaps traditional Greek food is now only provided in estiatoria catering for tourists, of which there seemed to be only one in Patras today ….. me.  I must admit though that I did find a bakery smack in the middle of town which sold the best spinach pie I have ever had.  That plus a frappé came to only €2.70 …. astonishingly good value for money.  And it’s open 24/7 !!!!!

In the evening in particular it seems like the entire population of Patras congregates in the vast number of very nice bars and coffees shops in the centre of town and chat and smoke and drink coffee.  At the same time street vendors, many of African origin, wander the tables selling all manner of counterfeit branded products.  Both immigrants and Greeks beg as you walk the streets or sit in a coffee shop. Take a ,look at:

I had a coffee at the end of the afternoon and downloading the photos from my cameras to the computer.  I was there about 30 minutes and in that time was approached by 3 people begging for money or cigarettes. While I was distracted by the third, a very young girl, the second, a bloke in his twenties wanting cigarettes, pinched my small Canon camera from the seat beside me.  That didn’t go down well with me.  I love that camera.

Is this what Patras is like?  I can’t believe that the whole country is sinking like this.

It wasn’t all bad.  The old fortress at the top of the town is a breath of fresh air.  It’s personned at the entrance but free to go in and wander around way up above the bustle and traffic of the town 350 feet below.  Enough of it is intact to be worth climbing the enormous flight of steps to get there.  But don’t attempt it if you have a weak heart.  Or at least tell someone where the insurance policies are first.

I move on again tomorrow to Kalamata, another 4 hours on a bus leaving at 08.30.With no breakfast in the hotel I’ll be calling in the bakery as I pass en route to the bus station.

Much street art seems to go hand in glove with dilapidated buildings, poverty and artistic protest

But some is clearly commissioned. Note the reflected trees and photographer in shorts

The Peloponnese Railway in the centre of town next to the harbour

Looking straight down Agios Nikolaos Street and into the harbour from the top of the steps to the castle

The highest point of the castle

Looking down from there across the town

With Agios Andreas church rising above its surroundings

A very grand church with poverty begging and living rough outside its doors

Church of Agios Augustus: how complicated does a roof get ???

Very colourful and artistic children’s play area on the seafront. Unfinished and used by the homeless for sleeping in judging by the rolled up mattress


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