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My Great Greek Adventure: Patras, Greece’s Gateway to the West

Ευρωκίνηση

(Photo by Eurokinissi)

Patras is the third largest city in Greece, with a population of over 160,000 people. It is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Athens, but can also be reached by bus services from main bus terminals. Patras is situated on the northernmost point of the Peloponnesus. It is a well-known city, especially to our western neighbor Italy, as Patras has a major port used for trade and travel. You could catch a ferry to Venice, or keep it Greek and visit the Ionian islands. The port runs along the coastline and stretches almost three kilometers the length of the city’s seafront. The main bus station is located right at the port, allowing visitors and locals easy transportation.

Patras has an ancient past dating back some millenniums. It is recorded that civilizations have inhabited this area since before the Classical era. it was a prominent ally of the Achaean League of Greek states in the Peloponnese. In modern history, Patras was the sight of the first rebellions against the oppression of the Turks. The city and the area at large would play a significant role in the Greek Revolution, as many of its inhabitants were more than ready and willing to stand bravely against injustice.

The town square or Plateia of Agios Georgios in the center of Patras was the exact site where the Greek Revolution was first brought to life and set in motion on March 25, 1821. This has been documented with explicit documents stating how and why this path was chosen and expressing the determination of the Greeks to be free.

Although it is smaller in size from other major cities in Greece, Patra has a lot to offer travelers and explorers. Located in the state of Achaea, the city sits at the base of the massive mountain range Panachaiko. Its most famous modern feature is the artistically and architecturally incredible Rion-Antirion bridge, which connects the Peloponnese to Central Greece. The bridge is one of the largest cable suspended bridges in the world and measures a length of over two-thousand meters. It was officially opened in 2004, as were other major renovations and new constructions, in order to host the summer Olympic Games in Athens. There is still ferry access for crossing the narrow channel by free ferry boat service that goes back and forth all day and night and there is an incredible view while crossing.

Within Patras and nearby there are many historical and ancient sites to explore. A medieval castle simply called the Kastro of Patras stands in ruin at the edge of the city. From the center of town, follow Agiou Nikolaou Street up leading away from the sea, and you will begin to see the long stairway of St. Nicholas that leads up to the castle. If you would like to drive up to the top, set your GPS for Panachaidos Athinas Street, and you may follow this winding road up the hill to the castle. The Kastro of Patras was built during the sixth century and sits at the tallest point of the city, seeing far and wide into the distance. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants around the perimeter of the castle and it proves to be an excellent place for pleasant night out with a great view.

Nearby, at the base of the hill, you will find the Roman theater or Odeon. It was built around the same times as the more famous Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens and has endured wars, countless captures and sieges and the effects of mother nature and her earthquakes. The Roman Odeon was almost lost beneath the rubble of all this chaos, until construction for a new port in 1889 unearthed the theater. Today, it has been fully restored and serves as the site for many events and shows. The Roman Odeon, the Medieval Castle, and the sights that surround them have been classified and are protected as archeological sites.

As with most other cities and towns in Greece, certain churches have significant importance to the communities they are located in. The Saint Andrew Cathedral stands near the main port and is immaculately kept with lots of greenery and peaceful settings on its grounds. Saint Andrew is regarded as the beloved Patron Saint of Patras, and the love is evident through the detailed architecture and artistry put into the church. Across from the church is a park, along with seafront tavernas and an authentic fish market.

Walking along the waterfront is a beautiful experience in Patras because you are gifted the view of the mountains of Central Greece across the Gulf of Patras. It is even better at sunset and the sky changes colors behind those towering mountains and the silhouette of the Rion-Antirion Bridge. The area at the base of the bridge is called Rio, and it has a strip of seafront restaurants, cafes, and bars that attract a lively nightlife. On Saturday nights you have a front row seat to the Rion-Antirion bridge being lit up that legendary blue.

If you are more interested in quieter and more historical activities, there are a number of popular museums throughout the city. The Archeological Museum of Patras is located in the suburbs of Anthoupoli and has a collection of ancient Greek treasures. Patras is known for its love of culture and especially for its annual Carnival Festival in February. The largest festival of its kind in Greece, it is a celebration where people dress up as different characters and party on with parades and decorated floats.

Patras is a rewarding stop on your adventures through Greece. It has all the history and soul of other major Greek cities, as well as the endless seaside, mountains, and forest havens that surround it. There are nearby ruins like the Mycenaean cemetery of Voudeni, and also modern marvels like the city’s prestigious universities. Patras is known as the gateway to the Peloponnese and Western Europe, and there you will discover the beauty hiding on this side of Greece.