Sprawling Patras (pop. 155,000) Greece’s third-larg-est city and one of the official cities for the 2004 Olympic Games, serves largely as a transport hub for island-bound tourists. During Carnival (mid-Jan. to Ash Wednesday), this port city becomes one gigantic dance floor consumed by pre-Lenten madness. During the 2004 Olympics, the Pampeloponnisiako Stadium, known around the city as the Jewel of Patras,â will host swimming and soccer events and serve as the athletic training halls. To get there, take bus #7 (20 min. â‚¬1) from outside Europa Center. Follow the water to the west end of town to reach Agios Andreas, the largest Orthodox cathedral in Greece, which houses magnificent frescoes and St. Andrew’s holy head. (Dress modestly. Open daily 7am-dusk.) Sweet black grapes are transformed into Mavrodaphne wine at the ElAchaia Clauss Winery, the country’s most famous vineyard. Take bus #7 (30min. â‚¬1) from the intersection of Kolokotroni and Kanakari. (Open daily May-Sept. llam-8pm; Oct.-Apr. 9am-8pm. Free samples. In summer, free English tours every hr. noon-5pm.)
Trains (2610 639 110) leave from Othonos Amalias for: Athens (34-5hr. 8 per day, â‚¬10); Kalamata (54hr. 2 per day, â‚¬5); and Olympia (1 Lahr. 8 per day, â‚¬3-6) via Pyrgos. KTEL buses ( 2610 623 886) leave from Othonos Amalias for: Athens (3hr. 33 per day, â‚¬13); Ioannina (4hr. 4 per day, â‚¬16); Kalamata (4hr. 2 per day, â‚¬15); Thessaloniki (8hr. 3 per day, â‚¬30); and Tripoli (4hr. 2 per day, â‚¬11). Ferries go to: Corfu (6-8hr. daily, â‚¬21-25); and Italy. The tourist office is on Othonos Amalias, between 28 Octovriou and Astingos (2610 461 740. Open daily 8am-10pm.) The Pension Nicos 0, Patreos 3, is cheery and conveniently located. ( 2610 623 757. Singles â‚¬20; doubles â‚¬35; triples â‚¬50. Cash only.) The friendly, cafeteria-style GlEuropa Center O, on Othonos Amalias, serves cheap, large portions. (Entrees â‚¬3-7.) Postal Code: 26001.
In ancient times, every four years city-states would call truces and travel to Olympia for a pan-Hellenic assembly, which was as much about peace and diplomacy as about athletic ability. Modem Olympia (pop. 42,500), though set among meadows and shaded by cypress and olive trees, is anything but relaxed. As the 2004 Olympic Games rapidly approach, this small town is in a frenzy, ready to show the world proudly where it all began. The ancient Olympic arena, whose central sanctuary
was called the Altis, draws hordes of tourists. The gigantic Temple of Zeus dominates Ancient Olympia, although KHera’s Temple, dating from the 7th century BC, is better preserved. The Archaeological Museum has an impressive sculpture collection that includes the Nike of Paionios and the Hermes of Praxiteles. Maps, available at the site (â‚¬2-4), are essential for navigation. (Site open in summer daily 8am-7pm. Museum open M noon-3pm, Tu-Su 8am-7pm. Site or museum â‚¬6, both â‚¬9; students and seniors â‚¬3â‚¬5; under-18 and EU students free.) The Museum of the Olympic Games, or the Sports Museum, on Angerinou, two blocks uphill from Kondili, houses a collection of Olympic paraphernalia that includes a silver medal from the 1996 games in Atlanta. ( 26240 22 544. Open M-Sa 8am-3:30pm, Su 9am-4:30pm. â‚¬2. Children and EU students free.)
Buses run to Tripoli (4hr. 2-3 per day, â‚¬8). The tourist office, on Kondili, is on the east side of town toward the ruins, ( 26240 23 100. Open M-F 9am-4pm.) To reach the Internet Cafe ( 26240 22 578), turn off Kondili with the youth hostel on your right and walk uphill two blocks. (â‚¬3 per hr. â‚¬1.50 minimum. Open daily 9:30am-2am.) The friendly Youth Hostel , Kondili 18, is cheap. ( 26240 22 580. Free hot showers. Check-out 10:30am. Dorms â‚¬8; doubles â‚¬20.) New Olympia , on the road that leads diagonally to the train station, has spacious rooms with AC, TVs, and large private baths. ( 26240 22 506. Buffet breakfast included. Singles â‚¬25-52; doubles â‚¬45-70; triples â‚¬90.) Minimarkets, bakeries, and fast-food establishments line Kondili. Restaurants on Kondili are overpriced, but a walk toward the railroad station or up the hill leads to inexpensive tavemas. Postal Code: 27065.