Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Petra is a small village in the north of the island close to Molyvos. It is situated in a plain area and built around a big monolith. On this big rock you will find the most famous building of the village: the Panagia Glikofilousa Church, which attracts thousands of pilgrims around the 15th of August, who haul themselves up the 114 steps of the stairway leading to the church in order to honor Maria.
The history of Petra is kind of dull. It is said that Homer before going to Troy anchored there to take provisions and than nothing but tragic events took place: in 1462 Petra was taken by the Turkish, in 1878 it was ransacked by the pirate Hugo de Crevelier who took as well 500 young villagers with him, in 1865 it was looted by Turkish troops and just before the village got freed from the Turkish in 1912, they set the houses on fire.
Petra did restore itself and from a little fishing town it became a nice and popular little tourist village. However, the year 2009 can be added to the years of disaster in the history of Petra. Although the worldwide crisis will help this disaster, the tourism in Petra will go down mainly due to incapable municipality people that have no vision and a lack of organization that has turned Petra into an ugly mess
I always say that Argenos (municipality of Molyvos) gets the first prize for the ugliest village of the island, mainly due to the building material business, that seems to be the visiting card of the village, having its mess right in front of the village when you pass it (these building material businesses that everywhere grow like mushrooms are a serious plague in the landscape pollution). But now it is Petra that passed Argenos on the list because Petra now looks like Hugo de Crevelier did pass again and took all the beauty with him.
Already for two winters the villagers of Petra (and everybody that visits the village to shop) are at the mercy of the street builders and other so-called specialists that have to put sewer pipes and other modern cables under the road. A winter ago they started with the main road (from Kaloni to Molyvos). Two years later and the road never recovered from this operation. Holes and puts form dangerous obstacles in the road, especially for the fast drivers and the motor riders. Do not think that somebody has drunk too much ouzo when he slaloms his car or drives at the wrong side of the road. People do this just to keep from damaging their cars too much.
This winter the works included as well the little village streets and the main road along the beach. So you could not get anywhere and even as a pedestrian you risked your life. Now the main street at the beach has been finished with a paving of nice cobblestones and that is the only thing the municipality of Petra can be proud of.
Petra is situated low, so many lands and gardens get flooded during wet seasons like this past winter. That is why many a villager thought: let’s get the debris that came free with opening the streets in order to make our land a little higher. The result is that when you pass Petra all fields that normally are full of colorful wild flowers are now filled with heaps of rubble. Welcome to Petra! Do these people really think that the tourists come to see there rubbish that not only pollutes nature but has now entered the village as well?!
Travel agents in Molyvos will not allow that their walks to pass the refuse dump above Eftalou, so the tourists cannot see it. But there is no way you can skip Petra coming to and from Molyvos and I feel a pity with the tourists that booked a room in the middle of this rubbish heap.
These rubbish heaps and very bad roads are not the only disasters that struck Petra. The tourist as well will arrive in quite an empty village. Many stores and cafes will not open again their doors because of different reasons. Two big cafes on the main square, one of the two is Cantina, has been closed down and the shop of Tsalikis has been moved to Agios Tsalikis (more about that further down), the two beach bars on the beach next to the harbor and according to the grapevine the café in the corner opposed the harbor will not open as well. Some owners thought they could get away with for years not paying the rent or their electricity bills, other ones did not have the right licenses or made too much noise.
Some Petra lovers will be very glad to hear this news. Many people who came for a quiet area were not at all amused by the loud music they had in Bay Watch. But I must admit that these trendy businesses made Petra into an attractive modern little seaside town for the young people. Now the beach is set up with the mess what was once a lively business. That now perfectly links well with the rest of Petra.
To have a good view over this messy village you can go up now to the new place of Tsalikis, built just next to the open air disco that closed it doors years ago on the road between Petra and Molyvos (and links now as well perfectly well with the rest of Petra). At night Tsalikis has that many lights that you think they built a new village. That is the reason why I call it Agios Tsalikis.
Tsalikis is known for the best cakes and pies of the island. You can see that with their prices. You pay a fortune, not only for the cakes and pies, but as well for a coffee and other consumptions. For this amount of money you can enjoy a marvelous view over the Bay of Petra and the mountainous coastline that goes west. When you bring your binoculars you can even map all the messy heaps of Petra.