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  About Patras


► The Geographical Environment

Patras is the capital city of the Prefecture of Achaia and of the Region of Western Greece. The region covers the North-Western part of Peloponnese and the Western part of the mainland. The existence within and the proximity of very important monuments, most notably ancient Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae, makes the region especially attractive. The year's round mild climate provides many opportunities for outdoor activities. The area's fertile soil is suitable for almost every kind of vegetable and crop and the area hosts a rich vegetation of olive and citrus trees. The region is an important agricultural area for all Greece and its vineyards produce fine wine.
The weather offers contrast, with four distinct seasons. Spring and autumn are lively. Summers are hot and dry, but the Mediterranean sea offers a lot to do and enjoy. In the winter, the ski-centre in the town of Kalavryta, an excellent resort in the near mountains, attracts many visitors. The impressive mountains of Helmos and Erymanthos offer many opportunities for eco-tourism, climbing and other recreational activities. Extensive waters are suitable for the development of aquaculture. The University of Patras plays an active role in an effort to establish Patras as a high tech centre.


► History

The most ancient traces of permanent human settlement in Patras have been traced during the Early Helladic period in the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and since then the area has been inhabited continuously.
Already since its first period of prosperity, the Mycenaean period (1580-1100 B.C.), the names of the three districts found in the wider area are attested: Aroe where the modern city of Patras is located, Messatis in Voundeni and Antheia in the area of Rion. The Achaians of Laconia under the leadership of Prevgenis and his son Patreas, after the Dorian invasion in the Peloponnese at the end of the Mycenaean period, arrived in Patras, forcing out its residents Ionians who escaped initially in Athens and from there to Asia Minor. Since then, Patras, located in the periphery of the Hellenic world, appears not to have been involved actively in the politics of Greece. During the Peloponnesean war the city of Patras sided with the Athenians and under Alcibiades' advise built the long walls from the acropolis to the port. When in 280 B.C. the city assumes the leading role for the establishment of the 2nd Achaean League, it goes through its second period of development, as the political initiatives are transferred from the Eastern to Western Achaia. However, its third and most important period of prosperity occurs during the Roman empire when, after the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C., its port becomes the gate to the West and in 14 B.C. emperor August established here a Roman colony. The new multinational city becomes autonomous with the right to mint its own coins. Great public buildings are constructed (temples, market, odeum, amphitheatre, harbour, bridges, aqueduct, etc), its agricultural and artisan products are exported everywhere and its countryside is organized with farm-houses through the application of a special real estate registry. Very important Roman and Early Byzantine mosaics have been found, the richest selection in Greece, which will soon be roofed in a new Museum.
According to the tradition, Apostle Andreas, the patron Saint of the city, suffered martyrdom in Patras. Excavations of the last thirty years brought to light public baths and remains of Christian basilicas. The strong earthquake in 300 A.D. and later the barbaric invasions are the cause for the gradual decline of the city. Around 805 the city survived from an attack of Slavs who had settled in the surrounding countryside. The revolt of the Slavs was suppressed dynamically by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and, according to the tradition, by a miracle of Saint Andreas. The bishopric of Patras, initially under the bishopric of Corinth, was elevated at that time to Metropolis. With the city is associated the name of Aretha, Bishop of Caesarea and a famous Byzantine intellectual and humanist who was born in Patras in the middle of the 9th century.
After the conquest of Patras by the Latins in 1205, the city became a barony under the Principate of Achaia. Around 1207 the Latin archbishopric was established in Patras. In 1267 the barony was sold by the last baron to the archbishop of Patras for 16.000 golden coins. Since then, the Latin archbishops ruled Patras as autonomous rulers. At the same time the interest of the Venetians for the city was increasing and they occupied it for a short period of time. The city was brought back under the Byzantines when Constantine IA- Palaiologos, Despot of Mystras, occupied it in 1430. The city was surrendered to Mohamed B-the Conqueror on March 15, 1458.
During the Turkish occupation Patras took part in the revolution of 1770 (Orlofika). The revolution was suppressed by force on April 13, Good Friday day. The city was set on fire also in 1779 by the Muslim Albanians. The contribution of the city to the Revolution of 1821 was important. The Committee Philike Etaireia of the Peloponnese was located in Patras. The Association was a secret organization prepairing the ground for the National Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire. On March 22, 1821 the Hellenes who revolted together with the residents of Patras gathered in Saint George Square, where the Archbishop Germanos sang a short memorial service for those who would have died during the struggle and prayed for the Struggle. The fighters swore a pledge for the faith and the country.
One year after the liberation of the city, the first "plan of the city" was drawn out (1829), under the orders of Kapodistrias, with a uniform rectangular layout according to the Hippodamean system, by the engineer Stamatios Voulgaris. A few years after the end of the revolution and the transfer of the capital of Greece from Navplio to Athens (1834), Patras is transformed rapidly to an important civil and financial centre, with a worth mentioning social organization and high level cultural life. This development helped the city to live its most fascinating period, the so called "Belle epoque" from 1900 until the end of the First World War. For this development Patras had all the prerequisites absent from other Greek cities, as the strong commercial and industrial activity with a basic axis the exportation of raisin and the continuous communication with the islands of the Ionian Sea and Italy.
Patras of 1900 is divided, as of today, in Upper and Low City. The castle of the city rises on a lofty hill-extension of the Mount Panachaico. The castle was built most probably in the middle of the 6th century A.D., after the earthquake of 551 A.D. which stroke the region. In the outer side of the walls have been embodied marble beams, columns and other architectural parts deriving from ancient buildings. The Low City developed, after the independence, in the flat plain along the coast. Its centre is the square of George I, where the municipal theatre "Apollo" is built, work of Ernst Ziller (1872). The Saint Andrew church is located where an old Christian Basilica used to be which was maintained until the beginning of 18th century. The church was repaired by the Venetians around 1700 and was destroyed by the Muslim Albanians during the war of 1770. On its place the so-called "small church" was built in 1863, work of the architect Lyssandros Kavtantzoglou. Next to it the construction of the contemporary large church started in 1908. The church of Pantanassa in the Low City (1857 - 1859), work of Kavtantzoglou and Freariti, the Anglican church of Saint Andrew (1872) in the homonymous street, and the metropolitan church of the Annunciation in Maizonos Street, constitute characteristic ecclesiastical architectural works of the period. In the southeastern side of the Acropolis the Upper or Old Town is built rather disorderly. There the houses of prominent citizens of Patras existed, e.g. the houses of Roufos and Papadiamantopoulos, as well as the old municipal hospital which was built according to the plans of the Danish architect Hansen and was founded by King Othon in 1857. From the beautiful houses of that period, urban mansions and country villas, very few survive today.
The Archaeological Museum of Patras is an old private house, donation of Karagiannis, in the corner of Aratou and Maizonos 14 Street next to Olgas square. In its five halls representative works of art of the whole of ancient history of Patras are exhibited. One of the most characteristic is the marbled copy of Phidias'Athina Virgin, three original sculptures, from the temple of Triclaria Artemis, presenting the wars of the Amazons, a Roman mosaic floor depicting musical and athletic events, clay objects, metal and other items characteristic of all historical periods of the citys history, funerary finds from the Hellenistic period and an excellent selection of Roman glass.
In Patras, the poet Kostis Palamas was born, the sculptor Memos Makris and the composer Liolios. A worth mentioning event of the modern city is the annual carnival, a tradition imported from Italy last century. The harbour of Patras, as in the past, is today the commercial and touristic gate of Greece to the West. The commercial and cultural contacts with Italy play an important role in the development of the city.


► Modern Times

Patras is a vibrant city with a population of around a quarter of a million with something to offer to everyone. Very attractive and exciting, full of things to do, it successfully combines the advantages of a modern city with the charm of one with a very long history. Its inhabitants have many opportunities as the city provides many cultural and recreational venues. Its waterfront, beautiful squares and many traditional and neo-classical buildings captivate the visitor. Patras is built under the shadow of a Byzantine castle, standing loftily on the hill above the city dominating its highest part. The names of many neighbourhoods, the same as in very ancient times, remind one of past history and glory. In the surrounding area, unrivalled calm, vast and sandy beaches and enchanting shores, offer the delight of water and aquatic-sports and at the Marina there is the Patras Yacht Club. Along the very attractive coastline, there are many picturesque seaside villages with taverns, offering fresh fish and traditional dishes. The possibilities of daily excursions are many and a variety of places near-by to visit, admire and enjoy, such as the islands of Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Ithaki, as well as many coastal resorts. The city has a range of hotels, restaurants, indoor and open-air cafeterias, late night clubs with live music or just a good atmosphere, all within easy reach from the centre.
In Patras, you can discover a wide choice of entertainment to suit your taste. The centre of the city is well served by shops, department stores and many boutiques, all within easy reach. Many small stores are also found throughout the city. The Archaeological Museum of Patras is an old private house, in the corner of Aratou and Maizonos 14 Street next to Olgas square. In its five halls representative works of art of the whole of ancient history of Patras are exhibited. One of the most characteristic is the marbled copy of Phidias' Athina Virgin, three original sculptures, from the temple of Triclaria Artemis, presenting the wars of the Amazonos, a Roman mosaic floor depicting musical and athletic events, clay objects, metal and other items characteristic of all historical periods of the city's history, funerary finds from the Hellenistic period and an excellent selection of Roman glass. A new Museum is under construction. There are also the Historical and Ethnological Museum and the Press Museum. There are two football stadiums and several indoor basketball courts which host the local teams as well as visiting teams from other cities. Two municipal swimming pools provide facilities for swimming and water polo teams. The Tofalos Sports Centre hosts a number of national and international sporting events year'round.
Patras is a major port for Greece and the Mediterranean as a whole, and is considered Greece's gate to the West. It is also the main commercial and administrative centre of Western Greece with rail and road links to Athens and other major cities. There are a number of industrial enterprises, mainly in the areas of food processing, textiles, brewing and cement. In addition, there are a good number of service enterprises. Tourism represents another source of economic life, although Patras is considered a passage rather than a resort centre. Fishing is also important. The new bridge Rion-Antirion connecting Patras with mainland Greece, the national road by-pass, the new harbour, under construction, are changing the City and its environment significantly. Local authorities and people expect the University to play a leading role in helping the city define its character in the early part of the 21st century.


► Cultural Activities

The city offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities with many musical, theatrical events and festivals. In the Municipal Art Gallery and at several private galleries, painting and sculpture exhibitions by local and internationally known artists, take place. In the same building, the Municipal Library is roofed. The library also arranges cultural events such as literature reading. The city has a long musical tradition. Many famous composers started their careers here. You can find a classical repertoire but also other types of music. The Plucked String Orchestra of the Municipality of Patras welcomes University students to become members. For the classically inclined, the Soloists of Patras offer regular performances. The Apollo Municipal Theatre is a place for performances, as well as for concerts and recitals. It is a neo-classical building designed by the famous architect Ernst Ziller, centrally located and also the home of the city's Theatre Company. There are also several other theatre groups, most notably the Agora Theatre with a regular programme of events. In the open air theatre in the castle, orchestras and other performing artists make regular appearances. The Art and Literature Building has a gallery and a hall for speeches and presentations. The old municipal hospital functions as cultural multi-centre since its restoration. There is a variety of cultural events every season, culminating in the International Summer Festival, which plays an important role in the city's cultural life as people become acquainted with different kinds of art. The city is also famous for its annual carnival, one of the best in Europe, which occurs in the pre-Lent period in February or March.


► City Walks

Walking is the best way to know and enjoy Patras. A stroll through the city will reveal many things to the keen observer. Getting around the inner city is easy, as the city centre is not vast and distances are short. Pedestrian streets, beautiful squares, small shops, cafes and taverns invite one to wander about and enjoy the ambience. The water-front can be appreciated from numerous outdoor cafes and restaurants. Strolling through its cobbled streets, you will find numerous entertaining venues. Psila Alonia is a lovely spacious square with palm trees, many outdoor cafeterias and the statue of Paleon Patron Germanos ―a leading figure in the nation's struggle against the Ottoman empire in 19th century. At the end of Agiou Nikolaou St., walk up the steps and visit the Castle, a place steeped in the mist of myths and folklore tales. You may also go to Dassilion, which is a small pine forest overlooking the city, with a cafeteria-restaurant where you can enjoy your coffee or ice-cream with a panoramic view of the city, the harbour and the Gulf of Patras, especially in the afternoon under a magnificent sunset. The Skagiopulio park is a quite green spot in the heart of the city. The Saint Andrew church, rising majestically, is the biggest and most beautiful church in the Balkans. Also, worth visiting is the Achaia Clauss winery, set in an idyllic place with many vineyards producing the famous mavrodaphni wine. The colourful open-air markets in different parts of the city offer harvest-fresh vegetables and fruits.



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