The good news is that I’ve made it safely to Greece, and am writing tonight’s blog from the comfort of my apartment in Potos, Thassos – It’s been 5 years since I was last here – too long!
But first…a few words about the ferry.
The ferry crossing wasn’t too bad. I got a couple of hours sleep in my room in Venice before going to board the ferry; Boarding started just before 4 – that was an experience. Greek crew shouting directions and waving their arms in all different directions, to squeeze you in to a very tight spot.
I did have a shared cabin booked but it was an inside one, I found it rather small and a bit uncomfortable…so I didn’t really use it – Instead I spend the first part of the night sleeping in the airline-style seats – the trouble with this was there weren’t any windows, and the sound of people snoring loudly put me off, so at about 7am I moved (via the Self Service restaurant which had just opened for the morning service) to the Grand Bar and found this the best place to set up camp and I made the bar my base for the duration of the journey.
This bit of the ship was practically empty until more passengers joined at Ancona in the afternoon, but even after that there was plenty of space to lie down on one of the sofas overnight. The background noise – the hum of the fridges and air con, the sound of the TV going – didn’t really put me off (if anything it helped drown out the sound of people snoring).
On my second night sleeping in the bar, it took until between midnight and 1 for things to really quieten down, when most people would head towards their cabins, and those who were camping in the bar (by this time there must have been 30-40 people camping here compared to just 2 others on the first day) could reclaim whole sofas instead of one quarter of a sofa.
The above means I had broken bits of sleep – no more than a couple of hours at a time – grabbing what I could, when I could (I’m not sure I didn’t drift off to sleep while sitting up on the outside deck too). I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy the crossing – just that for the return journey I will be prepared (might take a book with me, and some snacks to nibble on, the on-board food was expensive).
This morning after about 3 and a a half hours sleep (the longest I’d slept since I left my room in Venice) when I woke up at 5am it was still dark but I noted that my phone had switched from an Italian network to an Albanian network… A good sign, as Albania borders Greece.
It was around an hour later that dawn broke and I could start to see the shapes of mountains on both sides of the ship. I went outside at 6:30 (having given up any chances of getting just a little more sleep – in any case, the fresh air would have done me some good).
By 7 we were on the «home straight» as we passed between Corfu and Albania and the tannoy announcement was requesting passengers for Igoumenitsa to vacate their cabins and await for the disembarkation announcement.
We arrived at 8 and for me, this meant a day of driving to my first Greek destination this holiday: Thassos.
From Igoumenitsa it was a case of get straight on the A2 Egnatia Odos motorway, and stay on it until I see a sign for Thassos. I used the sat nav not so much as a navigation aid, but rather it would give me an ETA and display the remaining distance (in km).
I did stop a few times on the way – Once was just for a minute or so to take the car’s ferry ticket off the windscreen (I found it a bit distracting having it flapping away undeneath the windscreen wiper while I was doing 130 km/h) and to put a CD on instead of the radio; I can only really channel-hop when listening to Greek radio on the move as the signal is forever dropping in and out: It is a bit frustrating at times.
The only scheduled stop I had on the way was in Stavros, just beyond Thessaloniki, where the rest of my family are coming for their holidays this year – I thought I’d check it out. Not a bad place, the beach looked OK, the market was just clearing up. Good selection of bars and restaurants (I sampled one of them at lunch time).
From Stavros it was a simple 90 minute drive along the motorway (stopping to fill up with petrol on the way – only the 4th tank since Cirencester (that includes filling up in Cirencester before I left), not bad for the distance I’ve driven).
On the way in to Keramoti – it’s not often this happens – I got stuck behind a slow moving Audi. It took me a while to work out the Audi had something to do with the slow moving boat in front of it; The driver had been waving to tell me OK to overtake, but as a result of sitting on the wrong side of the car for driving on the right, I wouldn’t see that.
Eventually I got the message and went Greek: I overtook the Audi, the boat, and the car towing the boat in one go – Only to get stuck behind them again on Thassos. (Limited opportunity to overtake on Greek island roads). The boat had taken so long to get to Keramoti that by the time it arrived at the ticket booth I had already bought my ticket, had a walk about and got back in the car ready to board. The trouble was that as the boat we were on only had 1 entrance/exit, anything which got on after me would get off before me.
On arrival in Thassos I drove straight down to Potos, checked in to my room It’s a place I’ve stayed in a load of times before, so I feel quite at home now, after a few days driving in unkown territory.
I’ve never driven in Greece before and had worried that driving an English car in Greece would be more difficult because of the standard of Greek driving.
In truth, it hasn’t really felt different to driving anywhere else I’ve been to this week. The only difference is – a bit like in Italy – No one pays attention to the speed reductions on the motorway so when the speed is limited to 80 through a set of roadworks, everyone else seems to speed up!
I just need to keep my eyes peeled in case anyone does something stupid (people walking in the middle of the road…there’s lots of those!) Try not to bump in to anything, and I’ll be fine. Perhaps with it being low season in Thassos now, it is not as busy as I have seen it in recent years.
After the long drive I changed out of the jeans I’d been wearing in Venice in to some shorts (its nearly 30 degrees here!), swapped my shoes for sandals, and went to the beach to enjoy the last of the sunlight before sunset.
One final thought: I’ve driven to Thassos from the UK – and have had relatively clear runs most of the way meaning that while there have been small traffic jams and slow bits, the last major hold up I had was on the M25 last Friday night. Not bad going!
I’m starting to drop off to sleep now (It is nearly midnight here) so I’m off to bed, ready for a relaxing 3 day stay in Potos.
Today’s Mileage: 360.9
Accumulative Mileage: 1540.9