Jan 24, 2006

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
I just finished a Travel Age West piece on Patras: "Newly cosmopolitan, Greece's third-largest city is the European Cultural Capital for 2006".

The carnival grows pretty wild in this port and includes a “chocolate war,” which I'd love to witness someday. Karnavalos, the king puppet, leads the final, wild procession on the day before Orthodox Lent. After a solemn farewell, he is burnt on Agios Nikolaos Pier, as fireworks ignite the sky and dark gulf.

Research spotlighted two compelling characters from Patras' past. Giannoula Koulourou believed she would wed a US President between the World Wars. Ash-smeared revelers (boules) still stage mock weddings, satirizing her thwarted ambitions. Also, a Bavarian raisin-import-lackey, Gustav Clauss, founded a winery there in 1861, heavily fortified to ward off brigands. Was his sweet purple Mavrodaphne vintage named for the grape or an unrequited love? Either way, his legacy was more dignified: the Achaia Clauss "imperial cellar" today is home to 128 rare barrels worth millions of euros.

Valentine's is fast approaching, a Hallmark holiday I prefer to avoid. But I can't help wondering: what of my affection for IB will last 50 years? 150? Besides some snarky comments in cyberspace perhaps?

I'd feel worse, if not for this month's National Geographic cover story, which explains: "Studies around the world confirm that, indeed, passion usually ends. Its conclusion is as common as its initial flare ... If the chemically altered state induced by romantic love is akin to mental illness or a drug-induced euphoria, exposing yourself for too long could result in psychological damage."

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