You can picture me writing today’s blog update from the top deck (Deck 11) of Minoan Lines’ ship Cruise Olympia, sunbathing as we travel across the Adriatic Sea from Ηγουμενίτσα / Igoumenitsa to Venezia / Venice.
However as the ship’s wifi is expensive I won’t publish the blog until I get to my hotel in Italy [Update: I arrived safely in my hotel, a 6km drive from the Port, at 03:00 local time – keep in mind that Greece is an hour ahead so really for me that’s 04:00).
Tuesday morning in Λευκάδα / Lefkada was still very overcast but at least dry so after breakfast at the apartment, I wandered down to the beach – not for swimming but to take some photos.
I had the whole day ahead of me and, in terms of distance to travel, really I was just trying to find things to do in order to kill time; The drive to the ferry wouldn’t take more than 2 hours but I had 15 hours to do it in.
After leaving Lefkada I drove through the Aktio under-sea tunnel and went in to the city of Πρέβεζα / Preveza. By this time it had unfortunately started to rain again – there isn’t a massive amount to do in a Greek city when it’s pouring with rain, other than sit in a café bar with a drink in one hand, and my mobile in the other catching up with the latest BBC News.
I have to say the t-shirt, shorts, sandals and coat look isn’t particularly trendy but it seems to be acceptable… As far as I was concerned, this was my holiday and when I’m on holiday, t-shirt and shorts it is.
The rain passed before too long which gave me a chance to walk around the city, explore some of the tourist shops, get some postcards, take some photos.
After leaving Preveza my next destination was to Σύβοτα / Sivota – a coastal village opposite Corfu where we have been on holiday 3 times since 2005. I was interested to note that, while in Lefkada and Preveza I’d seen more British cars than everywhere else in Greece put together, in Sivota there were hardly any. In the car park was just one other car – on GBG (Guernsey) number places. Prior to arriving on Lefkada I’d not seen British cars in such a high concentration since the German Autobahn near Cologne 17 days earlier.
I had loads of time in Sivota and while it was dry it was still very cloudy so not a beach afternoon…yet! I had a late lunch in a café, moved on to a bar for a drink, wandered the tourist shops and supermarket.
My car is now fully stocked with 2 coolbags full of Retsina (Greek wine) for Mum and Dad; numerous cartons of fruit juices which aren’t commonly available in the UK; On top of that there’s a few packs of Lay’s oregano flavour crisps (again, can’t get them in the UK). I’ve got to take advantage of there being no luggage restrictions, and no weight restrictions! Unlike when travelling by air I’m not limited by the size of my suitcase. By the time you squeeze in with all that: my suitcase, my laptop, beach rug and chair, then there’s all the general junk which just lives in the car – it’s quite a tight squeeze to get everything in, but it just about does fit!
It wasn’t until gone 6 that the cloud finally cleared and it warmed up enough for me to spend a couple of hours on the beach – my last swim in Greece this year. After getting clear of Venice the next Sea I come to will be the English Channel and I don’t really think I’ll be stopping to swim in that!
Then my last meal as I watched the sunset; I had a starter of grilled saganaki cheese followed by beef stew in a tomato sauce (κοκκινηστό μοσχάρι) served with rice – I remember eating that on numerous occasions during our first visit to Sivota 14 years ago.
By 21:30 I was back in the car, ready to make a move – Although I had only used a little over ½ a tank since Athens, I filled up with petrol here as Italian prices are more expensive than Greek – This means I’ll arrive in Venice with more or less a full tank and should mean I can get as far as at least Switzerland, if not in to Germany, on 1 tank of fuel from Greece.
The drive to the port from Sivota only takes about 40 minutes or so but on arrival at the port I was greeted with a queue of truck, after truck, after truck. It took me a few goes at driving round in circles to figure out that the only way to get to the check-in desk inside the terminal building, would be to join the queue of trucks and then turn off as the queue passed the terminal – then I could come out of the terminal in to the car lane to the right of the trucks.
The queue was caused by very tight security – I’ve never seen anything like it! Forget Dover / Calais and questions at the border when re-entering Britain – that’s just a formality; Here, the queue of trucks and cars stretched back in to town. Trucks were being opened up and car drivers questioned as to where they were going or had come from – me in particular, being a solo driver from so far away.
Both Greece and Italy are within the borderless Schengen area but border controls do take place when travelling between the two, and the controls are much tighter when going North. I suspect the main concerns are illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.
You’re not out of the woods if you choose to travel completely overland either; While it is possible to travel without leaving the EU, Romania and Bulgaria are not yet within the borderless Schengen area. The shorter route, through the likes of Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia – just becomes a paperwork nightmare. That said if I ever get the chance – time & money being the main hurdles – I would drive the whole way to/from Greece overland, although to be honest I’m not sure coming on the ferry has really saved me much in terms of time or money. It’s just saved a whole day of sitting in the car.
I got through security OK – then it was just a case of sit and wait for the ferry. It was supposed to be in at 00:30 and leave at 01:00; Actually it was more like 01:00 when it came in, and closer to 03:00 when we left. Cars were loaded on quite quickly and I enjoyed standing watching them reversing all the trucks on before we set off. That must have taken the best part of an hour. In the end 2 trucks couldn’t fit on (one of them already half way up the ramp) – and were sent away.
I should find this ferry a bit easier than the one on the way out here – I’ve got on the ferry having had a good meal before going to the port, rather than gone to bed and got up half way through the night. I was able to get on the ferry, sit on top deck and see the lights from Greece disappear in to the distance, before going to the bar to find a sofa to lie down on for the night.
At the other end, not such a long drive. We’re due in around 1am (I think it’ll be closer to 02:30 which isn’t uncommon for this ferry) – but early enough that I’ll probably just stay up after I’ve eaten, maybe read my book in the bar. Besides, they call people out of their cabins an hour before arrival so there won’t be space to lie down and try to sleep. I’ve got a hotel booked about 3 miles from the port where I can lie down properly and grab a few hours sleep before I get on the road later in the day.
I’m getting hungry so I’m going in search of food – They’re serving souvlaki at the bar on the top deck. Don’t get that on the Dover-Calais ferries!
Today’s Mileage: 99.2
Accumulative Mileage: 2631.4