Last weekend Patra hosted it's famous Carnival celebration which, after Rio's Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans is supposedly the world's third largest Carnival. It's a chance to indulge before the sacrifices of Lent take hold. They do throw a big party! Thankfully we had a break in the rain Saturday night so we didn't get soaked. We've had rain almost every day since I arrived three weeks earlier.
The manager of my client's Patra office, Dionyssis Kantas, arranged for us to join one of the groups that marches through the streets of Patra in costume for Saturday night's parade. This involves wearing custom-made costume; our was called "Every Which Way". Hundreds of groups, some with over a thousand people and each with it's own distinct and elaborate costume, marches through the city with music blaring and revelers watching, blowing whistles, drinking wine, and throwing confetti.
After the parade Dionyssis invited us to his flat in Patra where we sampled his homemade wine while waiting for after-parade party to begin at a bar called the Beer Society. Apparently it's called by it's English name even by the Greeks. It started at 11:30 pm. That's right - it started - at 11:30. It was fun, and several of my colleagues joined us there. Amy and I ducked out around 2:30 am to avoid turning into pumpkins, but Dionyssis partied til 5 am. I'm too old for that, I'm afraid.
On another parade on Sunday afternoon includes floats, many of them overtly political satires, although the political humor was lost on us. We brought the kids for this parade and joined our friend Dawn Lawrence and her three boys to watch. On Sunday the adults skipped the costumes but Dionyssis generously loaned the kids costumes for the day, which made it much more fun for them.
Sunday's parade lasts all afternoon and past dark, and the Carnival festivities end with fireworks and the burning of the "king of the carnival" on a barge in the bay. The King is a large paper mache' bust of a king figure. The rain was steady most of the evening -- so much that the King refused to burn properly, and kind of fizzled out. We watched the rainy climax from the comfort of our apartment rather than joining the thousands of drunk revelers under their umbrellas.
Fortunately Monday is a National Holiday - Ash Monday - so everyone can sleep off their hangovers. It's a tradition to fly kites and eat salt bread and a special kind of cake.