Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Igoumenitsa, - Ηγουμενίτσα - GR / Brindisi, (I)

Igoumenitsa,  -  Ηγουμενίτσα  -  GR  / Brindisi, IT

Riding in Greece is a breeze if you take the highway, yes it’s a toll road, but worth it. The ride today was wonderful, despite some rather dense fog when we left Vergina. We rode past high, tree covered mountains. I never thought Greece would be covered with forest. The local roads would have become a bit more involved. I am glad we chose the highway to make better time.

Our goal for the day is the coastal town of Igoumenitsa. It is a small ferry town linking to other towns in Greece or in Italy. We want to go to Brindisi, Italy. Our plan is to visit Pompeii, then shoot north towards Germany. It beats going along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, with too many potential border crossings along the way. But first we need to get tickets for the ferry. I looked on line but found it too convoluted, too confusing to book the tickets via computer.

So we decided to just go to the harbor and book our tickets in person. We booked a hotel via and we arrived ‘early’ in Igoumenitsa. Our room was being worked on but yes, it was ready. From the hotel we could walk to the counters of the ferry companies to see who had the best rates, or the best times, etc. Or so I thought. All of the buildings and the port building itself are brand new, look modern and there are lots of options to book a ferry. When we walked over on this Thursday most of the ‘offices’ were closed. We asked who sells tickets to Italy, to Brindisi and were lead to just one ticket office. There is no real option to buy from selected companies. We were faced with the one choice and we bought the tickets. The price was 74 Euros for each of us. The ship would leave at 1 AM, next day. Yes, you read right, 1 AM (just after Midnight).  Immediately I thought why did I book a hotel room? There is absolutely nothing to do at the port. It’s a big parking lot with offices around a central space. So now it is something like 1 PM and in 12 hours we are on the ferry ship. What do we do here?

So am I glad I have a room to go to? Sleeping is a bit out of the question, the day is way too bright. We go back to the hotel and we are the only guests. We read some. We look out the window from our 3rd floor room and there is nothing to look at. I try to nap, no good. We walk to find a place to have some food, there is just one place open and we eat ‘something’. We go back to the hotel and just wait. We close the window shutters, set the alarm for Midnight and try to sleep. Impossible, I worry too much I will not hear the alarm and I toss and turn. Ah, after a while we open the window again, and read some more.
First In Line For The Ferry 
There is no way to book a hotel in Brindisi, Italy right? Well, there is! OK, I tried and found a hotel that suited me; I was pretty sure we would make Brindisi; now that we had our tickets so I went ahead and booked it. Hotel Orientale. We just laid on the bed and read but then, before I knew it, it was 11.30 PM. We had slept somehow and woke up despite all of our planning.

We were asked to be at the ferry by 12.30 AM and we were there at Midnight, almost the first people in line at the pier. We waited, and waited. At 12.40 it started to rain, pouring rain. There was no place to hide; we were standing on a very large parking lot, immediately at the water’s edge without protection of any kind. Luckily our riding gear is waterproof. It poured down on us. Other motorcyclists who showed up were not wearing rain-gear and were soaked to the bones.

We made the mistake of trying to enter the port building to get out of the down pour and almost got locked out from the ferry. We got in to the building OK but to exit, to get back to the bikes, when the rains somewhat abated we had to go through the border crossing again, and we had left our tickets with the parked bikes. A bit of talking, sign language and finally we were back standing in the rain, waiting for the ferry.
Blue Light In The Lounge
Finally, at 1.30 AM the ferry ship becomes visible. Now the hectic loading starts. First everybody gets off the ferry, and then the passengers without vehicles go on first, then the heavy trucks, then us, the motorcycle riders, then all the cars. It is a bit chaotic. Carol and I are given a spot along the walls of the ship to tie down our bikes, it takes time, it takes ingenuity, and the straps to tie the bikes down are not really made for bikes. I improvise, we should be OK.

People Piled Themselves On Anything
Now we need to climb the narrow staircase to the lounge but by the time we get there, most if not all the seats are taken because many other passengers are stretched out across 3 or 4 seats. This is an eight hour ferry trip. Where do we store ourselves? Carol asked a lady from the ship and she finds 3 seats together for us. They are small seats, like airplane seats. The whole room is crowded. There are so many people on this ferry that people crash anyplace and just lay down on the floors and try to get some rest. Blankets appear, kids hug their parents, and couples find each other and cuddle. It is definitely not organized.
They Slept, No Matter Who Watched 
Some Had Their Bedding With Them 
The ferry takes off and we are very lucky. The sea is calm and there are no waves, no storms. I can just imagine how a trip like this could be in a storm. For me it was a bit of a hellish trip. I do not like to travel when ‘humanity’ lets itself go and becomes unorganized. I know a trip like this could be a lot better but we were stuck with the tickets we bought. The next time I have to remember to not get a hotel room beforehand, to not sleep beforehand but to buy a sleeper berth on the ferry for the 8 hour duration. It would be a lot better and a bit more comfortable. Carol and I did the best we could while being caught on this ferry ride but it was not something I like.

Once we landed in Brindisi, we just had to find the hotel, get the bikes put into the garage, find a place to eat and take the rest of the day off. Well it was not that easy finding the hotel, we had to conquer cobblestone streets and back alleys. We asked directions, and turned around on a step hill and rode against a one way street, etc., but…hey, Brindisi is a nice Italian town, the hotel itself was 4 stars and we made it to Italy. We finished moving into the hotel, settling the bikes, eating a salad for lunch and by now it was 1 PM. Nap Time! We woke up at 7 PM and blinked. Some long nap!
Dinner was Pizza and all of a sudden, Brindisi, a town I thought slept like Cinderella was quite awake. Southern Italy is more active at night, it is cooler, and it is the way people have lived here for ages. Every 2nd shop sells ice cream so we had some, too.

Tomorrow we are off to Pompeii; this ferry crossing did screw me up with my sleeping patterns.

No comments: