CULTURE

Patras: The famous raisin basket

Among the major ports that developed during the industrial revolution in the Mediterranean basin, Patras, due primarily to its geographical position, was an example of a maritime trading center that flourished in the period up to the end of the 19th century. Between 1794-1814, the port of Patras handled 30 percent of all Peloponnesian exports; in 1867 it handled 54 percent, and the volume kept rising until the opening of the Corinth Canal in 1893 – an event that marked the beginning of a long period of change in the Patras economy. Urban class This period of economic prosperity had a catalytic effect on the city’s image. It helped shape local society and the attitudes of its citizens, creating a new urban class. Immigration increased the population and gave the city a cosmopolitan character, forming a society in which foreigners were active members. The city had to evolve its local trading habits to suit the needs of the international market and, as is common in these cases, Patras was soon cultivating export products exclusively, especially raisins. Starting with the year 1828, writer Christos A. Moulias, in his book The Port of the Raisin: Patras 1828-1900 – Trade, Industry, Banking, Insurance (Peri Technon Publications), has attempted to record the history of the city of Patras. He relates how the then-head of state, Ioannis Capodistrias, planned to promote a number of public works, renovate the city’s old, unused aqueduct and redraw land ownership, all in order to create a new city. But his assassination meant that few of these plans were realized. Another plan was drawn up to create a new Patras, this time by Stamatis Voulgaris, an engineering captain in the French army, city planner and painter. His designs included many Renaissance influences, which were aimed at giving the city a European character. The marketplace in the old town was indeed built along those lines, but the rest of the plan was destined to remain on paper. The book also tells readers of how the Patras Municipality was created, how the first public transportation networks were organized, and about the rebirth of the port and the founding of trade and foreign language schools. As the practical aspects of the city were being built and modernized, Patras acquired its own cultural identity, drawing intellectuals and scholars from many countries – especially England and the Ionian islands – all of whom gave the city’s society a new cultural air and a local identity. During this period of intellectual flux, Patras circulated over 100 newspapers (dailies and weeklies), most of which were political and some of which were satirical or religious, as well as 19 magazines. The second part of the book is dominated by the raisin, including the growth of raisin farming and how its trade was controlled by the large British trading companies up until 1840. Moulias offers many details on the first raisin crisis (1850), on the rebirth of the raisin trade in the 1880s and on the creation of the first wine factories of that time. In general terms, the second part of the book focuses on the way in which an entire financial system was created around raisin farming, such as wine making, trade, and small and large-scale industry. The Port of the Raisin takes a spherical approach to the economic and cultural evolution of Patras, and although much of it is dedicated to the economics of the subject, the writer makes a point of showing the unique cultural characteristics of the city that evolved with time, and, eventually, by the late 19th century, made Patras stand out as one of Greece’s most important ports. He never met his grandfather. I was born six years after the death of Michalis Karagatsis. I have, however, read all his wonderful books, as everyone has. I have met him only through his narratives. His name wasn’t a problem; the burden goes from the father to the son or daughter, and the next generation escapes. I never had this ‘your grandfather was Karagatsis’ problem. I was a naughty and lively child; under other conditions I would have become a football player. He became, however, an actor. He finished drama school at the National Theater in 1986. His dreams changed when he met the Embros theater team: Bantis, Oikonomidou, Kataleifos and Kentros. I didn’t know what I wanted until then. New roads opened up for me in 1991 because this was the first time that dedication had been demanded of me. Even if he was only 26 years old. The flesh was young, but the spirit had already begun to suspect that something was not going right. Like when you have a little cough and you realize you’re about to come down with something. I suspect that had I continued like that I would have collapsed into bed ill. He went to New York’s Actors Studio, with a reference from Andreas Voutsinas. In the beginning, the theater for me was an adventure that was worth having. We did things that whet our appetites for even bigger adventures. The dream for the Poreia Theater is to fit a lot of people in, says Tarlow. Actors, directors, playwrights who want to try out their own thing within a particular work method so the audience will know that, coming here, they will see work of a certain standard, open and with variety.