Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Patra's carnival, Greece

Fotini Eleftheriadou
Writes from Athens, Greece
View her websites : Fotini's Site & Fotini's Space

Last weekend was a long one for Greeks. It was the Carnival weekend, the great end of ‘Apokria’ and a lot of people travelled to cities and towns that celebrate this day with big Carnival parades.

I visited Patra, the centre of the Carnival celebration in Greece and I am going to present to you a few snapshots of this festival which as I have explained at my previous post, comes from the ancient years. It is a tradition that has survived over the centuries.

Patra is the third-largest city of Greece and the capital of the prefecture of Achaea, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers to the west of Athens. The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patra.

The town was founded about 1100 B.C., but became of the importance as a port only in Roman times. After the fourth Crusade it became the seat of a Roman Catholic archbishop. In 1408 it came under the control of Venice and in 1430 of Mistra. In 1460 it fell into the hands of the Turks, by whom it was destroyed in 1821, at the beginning of the liberation war. Thereafter, it was rebuilt in neo-classical style on a rectangular street layout.

Patra stands below its Venetian Castle , on the site of the ancient city where, according to history, the Apostle Andrew taught Christianity and was later crucified and buried. It is the largest communication centre of Western Greece and is a thriving commercial and industrial centre.

Twin cities of Patra are: Bydgoszcz, Poland, Chisinau, Moldova, Bari, Italy, Ancona, Italy, Gjirokastër, Albania, Canterbury, Australia, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, Limassol, Cyprus, Craiova, Romania, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ammochostos, Cyprus, Saint-Étienne, France.

One of the biggest tourist attractions of Patra, is the Carnival of Patra, held every year from February to March. It is said to be one of the most famous in the world coming just after Rio de Janeiro and Venice.

I was in Patra last weekend and I was part of the people who enjoyed the good weather, the funny costumes, the happy faces, the bright smiles, and the great carnival parade.

I have worked here as a reporter and a photographer trying to communicate to you the great and funny atmosphere of the Patra's Carnival. So... fasten your seat belts and start enjoying the Carnival!!!

The media people were present and decorated the city of Patra offering a smile on peoples’ faces attending the carnival. It is amazing how good and funny were those sculptures which represented famous TV persons.

Patra's Carnival is a continuous meeting of myth with reality, imagination and creation over the years.

The most important elements (records) concerning the course of Patra's Carnival are drawn from recent investigations, which sent us back to the 19th century.

From these we can conclude that the first Carnival Ball in the capital of Achaia was held in the house of the merchant Moretis in 1829. The very first records of organizing the biggest institution of the country, in its kind, began to appear in 1860 and after the influence by the West and the Ionian Islands. Since then Patra’s Carnival has been naturally influenced by the culture of the dwellers of the area and the Greek element remains dominant. Confetti appeared in Carnival Balls in 1894 and chocolate throwing in 1899.

The turning point for the Carnival in taking the form that it has today was in 1966, with the introduction of the "Treasure Hunt Game". The Treasure Hunt Game, since 1966 when it first appeared, until today, has turned the anonymous participant into the leading person of the Carnival.

The talent of the thousands of young people, who participate with their groups every year, is opened out in all its glory through Patra's Carnival.

The "Treasure Hunt Game" is a series of questions, riddles and activities, which turn out to be a head spinner for the "contestants". The members of the groups take part in pantomime, mixed spectacle, theatre, dance, creations and quizzes. Fantasy, talent, multiformity, laughter, variety and liveliness come together to add something special to Patra’s Carnival each year.

And then, Grand Parade comes. This is the greatest moment of the Patra’s Carnival. The whole town, plus more than 300.000 visitors move to the rhythms imposed by the participants (more than 30.000), and floats (hundreds of them) with the Carnival King lead you to the paths of high spirit, merry making and freedom from care.

What happens in Patra, on the last Sunday of Carnival, is the pinnacle of the pyramid, which Patra's Carnival has been built on every year.

The parade starts some time after noon with high spirit, dancing and participants, while those taking part in the “Treasure Hunt Game” write their own history in their own way in the streets.

Right after the completion of the Grand Parade, in a unique night of its own, the King of Carnival will bid farewell to the lovers of the kind, while making a rendezvous for next year. It is the moment when the King of Carnival will be given to the pyre and the sky of Patras will be filled with light and colour. Meanwhile, dancing liveliness won't stop, as the thousands of participants will goon living in frenzied rhythms till dawn.

The parade is made up of groups of people in disguise, floats, and dancers. The themes of each of the floats in the procession are different and most all make fun in rhyming verse of situations and events depicting the politics and life of Greek society in general as well as other international events.

Assistants of Patra’s Carnival are groups, associations and services giving a certain product. The Carnival Committee, the Chocolate throwers Club, the Treasure hunt crews and many other participants with genuine carnival spirit, play theatrical performances, street theatre and quizzes.

Carnival in Patra has been made a family event and everybody participate at the parade wearing the happy multicolour costumes. The people in Patra start to parade through the streets as babies and continue until they could not do it anymore because of the age.

Everybody travel to reach the Carnival of Patra and that is how this represented with this float which encourage us to come to Patra.

The new generation of Greeks knows well how to live and enjoy life. The women have been too pretty and the men really handsome. I am proud because I have given my contribution to this new generation with two young women and a boy who is going to be a very handsome man.

At nights the night clubs organize big parties and the people dance until early morning. I participated Saturday and Sunday in those parties. I was part of the happy people who without know each other produced the most happy and fun group.

I hope to succeed passing the atmosphere of the Carnival of Patra. If some time want to be part of the happy and crazy group of Greeks who celebrate the Carnival don't forget to visit Patra.

... and don't forget... Carnival of Patra for ever!

Το τρελό Πατρινό Καρναβάλι

Φωτεινή Ελευθεριάδου

Γράφει από την Αθήνα

Δείτε τις ιστοσελίδες της : Fotini's Site & Fotini's Space

Επισκέφθηκα την Πάτρα, το κέντρο της γιορτής του Καρναβαλιού στην Ελλάδα και θα ήθελα να σας παρουσιάσω μερικά στιγμιότυπα από αυτή τη γιορτή η οποία, προέρχεται από τα αρχαία χρόνια. Είναι μια παράδοση που έχει επιβιώσει στο πέρασμα των αιώνων.

Η Πάτρα, πρωτεύουσα του νομού Αχαΐας, είναι η τρίτη μεγαλύτερη πόλη της Ελλάδας. Βρίσκεται στο βόρειο τμήμα της Πελοποννήσου, 215 χιλιόμετρα δυτικά της Αθήνας. Είναι χτισμένη στους πρόποδες του βουνού Παναχαϊκό, με θέα τον Κόλπο της Πάτρας.

Η πόλη ιδρύθηκε το 1100 π.Χ. περίπου, αλλά απέκτησε σπουδαιότητα, όταν έγινε λιμάνι κατά τους ρωμαϊκούς χρόνους. Μετά την τέταρτη Σταυροφορία έγινε η έδρα του Ρωμαιοκαθολικού αρχιεπισκόπου. Το 1408 που τέθηκε υπό τον έλεγχο της Βενετίας και το 1430 του Μυστρά. Το 1460 έπεσε στα χέρια των Τούρκων, από τους οποίους καταστράφηκε το 1821, κατά την έναρξη του απελευθερωτικού αγώνα. Στη συνεχεία, ξαναχτίστηκε σε νεοκλασικό στυλ και ρυμοτομία.

Η Πάτρα βρίσκεται κάτω από το Ενετικό Κάστρο, στο χώρο της αρχαίας πόλης, όπου, σύμφωνα με την ιστορία, ο Απόστολος Ανδρέας δίδαξε τον Χριστιανισμό και αργότερα σταυρώθηκε και θάφτηκε. Είναι εμπορικό, βιομηχανικό και το μεγαλύτερο επικοινωνιακό κέντρο της Δυτικής Ελλάδας.

Ένα από τα μεγαλύτερα τουριστικά αξιοθέατα της Πάτρας, είναι το ομώνυμο Καρναβάλι, το οποίο οργανώνεται κάθε χρόνο από το Φεβρουάριο μέχρι το Μάρτιο. Λέγεται, ότι είναι ένα από τα φημισμένα στον κόσμο.

Το Καρναβάλι της Πάτρας είναι το συναπάντημα, του μύθου με την πραγματικότητα, της φαντασίας και της δημιουργίας στο πέρασμα των χρόνων.

Τα πια σημαντικά στοιχεία (αρχεία) που αφορούν την πορεία του Πατρινού Καρναβαλιού μας παραπέμπουν στο 19ο αιώνα. Ως πρώτος αποκριάτικος χορός θεωρείται αυτός που έγινε το 1829 στο σπίτι του Πατρινού εμπόρου Μωρέτη. Τα πρώτα στοιχεία της διοργάνωσης του μεγαλύτερου καρναβαλιού της χώρας, άρχισαν να εμφανίζονται το 1860 και μετά από την επίδραση που είχε από τη Δύση και τα νησιά του Ιονίου. Από τότε το Καρναβάλι Πάτρα έχει επηρεαστεί φυσικά από τον πολιτισμό των κατοίκων της περιοχής και το Ελληνικό στοιχείο παραμένει κυρίαρχο.

Το 1966 ήταν η χρονιά ορόσημο για να πάρει τη σημερινή του μορφή, με την καθιέρωση του παιγνιδιού «Κυνήγι του Κρυμμένου Θησαυρού». Το παιχνίδι αυτό μετέτρεψε τον ανώνυμο συμμετέχοντα σε ηγετικό πρόσωπο του Καρναβαλιού.

Στο παιχνίδι του «Κρυμμένου Θησαυρού» παίρνουν μέρος ομάδες ατόμων, που παρουσιάζουν κάθε μία το δικό της αποκριάτικο θέμα. Το "Κυνήγι" έχει ερωτήσεις και προβλέπει θεαματικό ανταγωνισμό μεταξύ των ομάδων (πληρώματα), που διαγωνίζονται σε πρωτότυπα κουίζ, στο θέατρο, στην παντομίμα, στην επιδεξιότητα και φυσικά, στον χορό.

Οι εορτασμοί κορυφώνονται με τη Μεγάλη Παρέλαση της τελευταίας Κυριακής. Το σύνολο της πόλης, καθώς και περισσότεροι από 300,000 επισκέπτες κινούνται στους κεντρικούς δρόμους της Πάτρας σε ρυθμούς που επιβάλλει η Παρέλαση (πάνω από 30.000 συμμετέχοντες), όπου τα πληρώματα ξεδιπλώνουν με όσες δυνάμεις τους απέμειναν τις χορευτικές τους ικανότητες, το χιούμορ και τη φαντασία τους.

Αμέσως μετά την ολοκλήρωση της Μεγάλης Παρέλασης, σε μια μοναδική βραδιά, ο βασιλιάς Καρνάβαλος αποχαιρετά τους λάτρεις του είδους, δίνοντας ραντεβού για τον επόμενο χρόνο. Είναι η στιγμή κατά την οποία ο Βασιλιάς Καρνάβαλος θα παραδοθεί στις φλόγες και ο ουρανός της Πάτρας θα γεμίσει με φως και χρώματα. Εν τω μεταξύ, ο χορός και η διασκέδαση του κόσμου σε φρενήρεις ρυθμούς, δεν θα σταματήσει μέχρι τα ξημερώματα.

Αν κάποτε θελήσετε να πάρετε μέρος σ’ ένα τρελό περιβάλλον που εορτάζεται το Καρναβάλι, μην παραλείψετε να επισκεφθείτε την Πάτρα. ...και μην ξεχνάτε... Καρναβάλι της Πάτρας για πάντα!

Φωτεινή Ελευθεριάδου


Leesa said...

WOW! Great shots.... I didn't realize that Carnaval was celebrated in Greece... I mainly think of Brasil and the Carib... and of course some other countries, but I never really thought of Greece!!! See, you learn something new every day!!!

I LOVE the pics... Leesa

Mediterranean kiwi said...

thanks for sharing this - i've never been to a carnival procession, but i much enjoy reading about it from a computer!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

@ Leesa. Great shots indeed. Have in mind that the Carnival is celebrated all over Greece and not only in Patra.

@ Mediterranean kiwi. Well, Maria they don't celebrate the Carnival in Crete?

the donG said...

wow! so festive. i need to check if it's in the list of the book "a year of festivals by the lonely planet".

looks like everyone can participate and enjoy!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

The donG. It's really fun!

Debbie said...

Very interesting post. I've never been to Greece but given that my last name is Petras, maybe I need to check it out!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Debbie. To understand better the western civilization you must pay a visit to Greece. Your last name in Greek means stone! (Petra=stone).

Nicole Ducleroir said...

Great post -- both informative and entertaining. I loved the pics, and you captured the joy the carnival tradition brings to the people of Patra, of Greece, and of the world.

Thanks for sharing this with me!

Akis said...

Greece’s 4th biggest city has just launched a planet-wide internet channel to show off the biggest event of the year – a first for any city in the world!

The Patras Carnival is the largest such event in Greece and one of the biggest carnivals in Europe with more than 160 years of history.

Our carnival is not a single event but a variety of events that includes balls, parades, treasure hunt game, kids’ carnival and more.

The high point is the last weekend (5th and 6th of March) with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of King Carnival at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf in the harbour of Patras.

This year an enlightened organization committee the PCPWME * are pleased to announce a WORLD WIDE FIRST – an initiative that will allow anyone with access to the internet across our whole planet to watch and join in the festivities.

The Patras Carnival web channel is already broadcasting extracts of older and more recent Carnival events.

Friends of the carnival will be informed about the activities of the carnival from the Carnival Press news channels on the site, culminating in three internet LIVE broadcasted carnival events:

Don’t miss!!!