With more than 200.000 inhabitants, Patras is the third biggest city of Greece. Located at the Gulf of Patras in the north and the Panachaiko mountains in the south, you can go swimming in the sea and skiing in the mountains in one day. The city is located in a very fruitful area, well known for its grapes, which are processed to wine and raisins. It was the European capital of culture in 2006, its University is the third biggest in Greece and its harbour is known as the door to Europe, most of the ferrys from Italy go there. Due to the financial crisis, Patras lost a lot of its importance in the last years. Me, before I started my research, did not even know about this city. According to nearly every inhabitant I spoke to, the city lost a lot of its magic and is in a process of decline. Some speak about an ethical crisis. Here you see a visual inventory, accompanied by interviews of inhabitants over all layers of the society.
“Patras is an interesting palce. In the old times, here was a lot of music in the streets. You heared all the time this old kind of music, about dictatorship, war, drugs...this kind of music, it was very nice. When I was a little girl, there were many dancing bears in the streets. Everybody went out from their houses when the bears were dancing and threw money to them. And also they threw the garbage (laughing). In the old times, when I went out of my house, everybody said: „Good morning, how are you?“ to each other. Nowadays, it is very strange. When I go out of my house and say: „Good morning!“ to the people, most of them just look at me and ask themselves what I want from them. Here in Patras, people work only in making coffee and something to eat. The money that I make, it is only for survival. With all the people around me it is like this. But when I talk to some people which came here from Syria, they say that we have no crisis. I understand this, because when you come from a country that has war, you see your family die... but it is difficult. I think it would be helpful for Greece to go out of the Euro. There is no other solution. Because then we will be independent. My mother was working 50 years for her pension, and now she has only 400 Euro per month instead of 1500 Euro. I did not take money from the banks, so why should I pay for this? My life will be destroyed.” (Dimitria, 36, artist)
“We think Patras has not changed in the last years, the people have changed. Because of the economical crisis. They are poor. You can see the citizens go to the garbage to look fore some food. People are unemployed or work in part time jobs. Its hard to grow our children. We hope in the next years it will not become worse than now, just to keep it this way. The last years were very tough for all of us, because we loose three salaries a year to pay the taxes. But the muncipality of Patras tries to do something for the citizens. If anything will develope in Greece, we think Patras will start to breathe again. There is no way to go lower. Around Patras, there are many villages with farms, and many people from Patras have also some land there. They earn a bit of money from their olive trees, grapes and from the goats. About thirty years ago, Patras had the half of the population than it has now. During the last years, a lot of people came from the villages around, to work here for some weeks. But they still have their land and their family there. So the connection between the people in the city and their land around is really strong. It is not like in Athens, where the people have nothing else when they loose their job.” (Eleni and Pablos, 48)
“The city of Patras as well as the whole country is in a situation of decline. Not only financial and political. In contrast to what happens in other countries of Europe and the whole western world, here in Greece and especially in Patras we find ourselves also in a situation of a cultural and spiritual decline. The cause for this is a deep horrible lack of education of the population in this city. The fact that the most of the older citizens which were born here, and which parents were born here and had a real link with the city, went away to Athens or to other cities. People from the small villages around here came to Patras to find work, and they do not have any cultural connection and feeling for this city. When I talk about education, I do not only mean the education from the university, I also mean a real, deep cultural education. And this is the problem. I have the opinion that in the future we will get a shock, a real collapse. And this would open a window to a better future. Because after a shock and a collapse in our daily life we have the possibilty to rethink about our current life and our future. We all have to do our best that we love this country and this city again. I think that we face now the concequences of our inability to find an answer to a crucial question. In the last three decades we refused to find an answer to this dilemma: Do we really, as a Greek nation, want to transform? To make reforms and to accomodate our economy, our system, our state and our society to a standard of the Europeans without loosing our soul and our orthodox traditions? Or do we want to stay a special case for Europe and our neighbour countries? Now we find ourselves at a crossroad to make this painful but unavoidable decision. Go to a future with our European partners or to face a seperate way, without the europeans and without the other countries, which could bring us to a north Korean or Cuban situation. I dont know what the most of our politicians want, they do not say the truth to us. Are we able to change ourselves, our society to the standards of a modernisation? I am persuated that the place of Greece is in Europe.” (Georgious, professor of greek orthodox theology)
“Patras has changed in the recent years. It got worse and more ugly, but I hope things will be better in the future. I am not sure if the mayor or the inhabitants of Patras want to help the city to get better. For example our theatre: It had a great director. But now there is a new one, 83 years old. There is only one play a year, and the director is also the main actor. And all are happy! If you look outside of the theatre, there are grafittis everywhere, and the theatre goes to ruins. We had a very good theatre, and a very good orchestra, but now...nothing happens. It is very difficult for the people here to live and see something. You have to stay in your house, only watch television, play music or read. You can´t go out. I think in future, the city will be in ruins. And then something will happen. The people will understand that we have to make something with our city. The theatre was build in 1872 from the tradors of the raisins. Patras was very rich at that time. We had opera performances from Italy. And now, we have nothing. In Greece, they think: „If I don´t have a new car and if I don´t have new clothes every year, I have nothing to show to others“. This is normal here in Greece. We have the tradition of poverty. Poverty and dignity. Now it is poverty without dignity. People have money and think they are poor, because they don´t have what they have in mind. This is not normal. If my husband and me don´t have money, we have the music, we can read, we can talk with our friends. It is the same for us. But for others, who want to go to the mall, they have problems. We work, we have two salaries. Our salaries were downsized, but we have no problems, we can live. We have the money to help other people. Because there are other people that have serious problems. In Greece, we have an ethical and cultural crisis. But if I can live, I can help others. I think that we have to be careful, because our neighbour is Turkey. And Turkey now, if they loose some territories in Kurdistan, they want to take other territories here in Greece. We feel that we are in danger. Our country is small, and our anchestors tried very hard to set us free. And now, we don´t care about these territories anymore, when we get some money in our wallet in exchange. So if we speak only for our wallet, we have a problem. Now we have the choice: Do we want to live in Europe and cooperate with the Europeans? Help our neighbours, the other people who have problems, or do we only want the good future for ourselves? I think we have to be alltogether now.” (Maria, teacher)
“I live here in Patras since 1973, so it is a long time I am here now. Regarding the population in Greece, Patras is a typical third city. And it is a city characterized mainly by it´s harbour. An ex-industry that does not exist anymore. It is a city that now lives by thinking about its old, rich past that was based on industry and trade, mostly in raisins. Going to number three, the city has changed in the last years. It lost the intensity of the harbour traffic due to the crisis. It also lost services in the industrial sector. I think that Patras is going to be the number four in the next years, and will be strongly affected by the overall situation here in Greece. In case that we have a developement regarding the trade and touristic situation, then Patras can grow again. The problem in Greece, compared to the other countries in south Europe is, that we do not have enough production to stand by ourself. We are always connected with economies of the stronger countries.
I am strongly affected emotionally and ethically by the crisis. If, for example, in every family you know, there are at least one or two people unemployed. If there are personal problems of people that you know, that you meet every day ...this affects you. It makes you angry. You reorganize yourself ethically. This is the main point. Sometimes this anger and this sadness may lead people to non-ethical actions. This phenomen is produced by the crisis and affects everything. Some sensitive people may feel like that they are nothing, that they are garbage. This may lead them phenomenically to non-ethical actions.You may feel this emotional and ethical problems if you live in Greece and have in your family an unemployed person, a son or daughter that has to go abroad to find work. Only if you can solve the problem of human nature, then you can solve the crisis.” (Professor for mechanical engineering, University of Patras)
“I am born here, and I love Patras very much because it is a big, small town. The distances are very short, and I like that it is at the sea. It makes me feel more optimistic, because the sea opens the horizon. Also the mountains are very close. The people are more related to each other. They know each other, it is easy to make contact with them. The only thing that changed in the last years it that people are more and more depressed. They are more feared, not so open anymore and think more before they make a move. Most of the time they don´t do any moves. You can see in their faces that they are not happy. Here in Patras there are much more people unemployed than in the other cities in Greece, because some big factories closed in the last years. Most of the young people are leaving the city, and the others dont have any job to do and mainly live from the income of their parents. In the last years, the city became more empty. Many people went to other cities and countries to find their luck. The politicians have to change. And as we, the people, elect the politicians, we first have ourselves to change. It is a medical situiation, we have to change our way of thinking. We can work, but we were used to sit in a chair, drinking coffee and taking money with doing nothing. We have no longer to vote for politicians who say “give me your vote and I give you money“. If we do not change, it will be a slow death. Every year the income goes lower, and the taxes go higher. Before the crisis I had a good job and a good life. But now, the income goes lower and lower year by year. The last time I traveled was 7 years ago, I went to Berlin with my wife for four days. Nowadays, we think a lot to go even to some places near Patras. I have a shop for baby clothes, and it does not run well anymore. People does not give birth to children, because children cost money. Beside this job, I repair electronic things which are out of order, and I turned my hobby into a profession: I am a tango teacher. I started to make a school with a friend of mine, to increase my income.
A Greek man sayed to me once: „Another revolution here in Greece will come if the coffee costs 10 euro for one cup.“ Now, it costs 1,50 euro and we think we are ok, because nearly everybody has this amount of money. But if the price for coffe will go up, we will realize that we don´t have any money. Even for a coffee, so we have to take action. The crisis will take a long time, because people still have to think about it. Some already start to think that something is going wrong here (laughing). I try to see the things as they are.” (Stavros, 45)