Patras, Greece

Postcard dated: 20 June 2007

[Postcard/Picture]

On the reverse of the postcard...

FERRIES 23:59 daily except Monday...except for today.

This image is the scene I arrived at the port town of Patras for, hoping to catch that night's ferry to Italy but realized I'd been relying on another published service that does not actually exist. I took the ferry the next day, spending a full 1.5 extra days on transportation and therefore less time at places farther along the way.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy Patras, though. Every traveller must be flexible in his or her plans, and make the most of even unplanned exploration. I used the time to catch up on rest, spent time at an internet cafe to make the plans for farther on, and took advantage of a short free bicycle rental to explore in the town, including visiting the fortress at the top of the hill. This site, as most of the town, holds beautiful and interesting stories and sights just off the beaten path. The longest cable-suspended bridge in the world is just a bit farther up the coast, and Greek culture is alive and well here. Still, many people just travel through this town (as even my original plans called for).

EU membership makes a HUGE difference in travel. I came into Greece (EU member) from Macedonia (not an EU member yet). Because of this difference, Macedonians needed visas to go to Greece, and despite actually being in a city quite near the border, I couldn't get directly from one place to the other by any public transport. (I took a bus to a different city, took a cab to the border, walked a few km through the borders and no-mans-land, and hitched with a tourist minibus until the first Greek town with a train station.)

In contrast, every other storefront in this town advertised "TICKETS TO ITALY" across its windows. Everybody and their uncle seemed to be selling them, as if going to Italy were just as natural as going to the grocery store. In this town, it might even be easier...so long as the ferries actually run. (FYI: Italy is an EU member.)

Another thing I noticed in Patras, as in much of Greece and Italy, was that almost every building had a small solar-thermal system on the roof. They all had the same style device: A panel raised up and tilted by the mounting hardware, and a large tank that looked remarkably like a huge AA battery at the top of the slope. The climate (extremely sunny) is perfect for that method of heating water, and the fact that it was so commonplace brought a new perspective to the solar project that I'm working on back at Lafayette. Our design is quite different and optimized for large scale applications, but I couldn't help notice how prevalent solar-thermal is in this part of the world.

It's now about time for my Exodus (still the simple Greek word for "exit," posted on signs etc.) to Italy...a return to the Roman alphabet! I'll write again later!

Grace and peace,

Ben

(FAQ #1: I don't know the people in this photo and am not one of them.)

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