I must admit, one thing Greece has going for it is the ferry system. Apart from the ridiculous and inconvenient schedule, they are always punctual and spend a mere ten minutes at port unloading and reloading semi trucks, cars and passengers before they are on their way again. The Greeks don't mess around and their ferrys mean business, unlike those of Croatia.
On Sunday morning mom and I went to the port in Bari to check the ferry schedule and purchase my ticket to Croatia. The terminal was dead. Note to self: never try to get anything done in Italy on a Sunday because everything is closed.
In addition, every travel agency was closed, so I decided to buy my ticket online but the ferry line forbade me from purchasing my day-of ticket on the Internet. Panic. This was another awesome ferry schedule that only came a few times a week and if I didn't get the Sunday boat, I would have to wait until Wednesday night.
Luckily, when we arrived at the port that night, the ticket window was open and I got my fare. Mom befriended an Italian man waiting in line behind us and arranged for me to ride onto the boat with him in his car so I could avoid the security line. After he agreed, she immediately started regretting the decision to send me alone with an Italian we had just met onto a ferry boat...sounds super safe, right? It turns out he was a policeman (or so he said) and everything went smoothly.
The ferry was pretty ghetto. It consisted of five snackbar/restaurants with bright red carpet and a giant mural of an ice cream cone painted on the wall. Less than luxurious. Luckily, I bumped into a Canadian couple we had met earlier that day in Bari and we scoped out a few padded benches in one of the snack bars to stretch out on.
I was abruptly awaken from my slumber at four A.M. when a slew of italians invaded the snack bar for early morning espresso. Even though I had earplugs in, I still felt like I was trying to sleep in a Denny's on a Sunday morning, and the Italian's insistence to ignore the "indoor voice rule" and consistently speak at absurd decibel levels didn't help.
The ferry finally docked at seven A.M. and I was greeted by a hillside covered in white houses with clay roofs and a drizzly Croatian morning.
I left the boat, hit the ATM and was waiting for the bus when a car drove by yelling, "hey lady!" It was the Canadians! They had found a man at the port who would rent them a room in his house and were enroute to the city. The man asked where I was staying and I told him it was a hostel called Fresh Sheets. "Ooh rash sheeets I know where that is, 100 meter from my house, I give you ride!" he replied.
I was a little weary about about the way he said "rash sheeets" and repeated the name while skeptically thinking, "I hope were talking about the same Fresh Sheets." Oh well, it was bound to be an adventure.
He insisted on driving us around town and giving us a proper "orientation" before dropping us off. Finally, we arrived at my "hostel" which turned out to be a hotel called "Rashit." I was worried this would happen. I wasn't sure what to do the man was so helpful and I was appreciative of the free ride, but I was also now lost on my first day in a city I had never been to. I assured the man I could take the bus and find my way to the hostel no problem. Luckily, the hostel directions were good enough that I was able to find it without much trouble.
I was a little worried about being on my own for the first time, but everyone at the hostel was very welcoming and most of the guests were traveling alone also, so it has been easy to find friends to do day trips with. The city of Dubrovnik is part of the Dalmatian Coast and part of the city itsself (where I'm staying) is within castle walls.
Croatia is a gorgeous country, which I am becoming more and more obsessed with each day. My first thought was that it reminded me of the Oregon Coast. The country is clean, well organized, and everyone is calm (a nice change from Italy) and speaks English. It is hard to believe all of this comes from a country that was in a civil war just over a decade ago.
Night view inside of the walled city
Houses in the walled city
Im not gonna lie, mom and I were not terribly heartbroken to be leaving Greece. After one too many run-ins with rude Greeks, an inconvenient and incomprehensible ferry schedule and a non functioning bank card, we were ready for a change in scenery and language. Italy has everything I need to survive-cheap coffee, cheap gelato and delicious pizza. Unfortunately, I only have twenty-four hours to bask in its goodness, then I'm Croatia bound and mom is Rome bound.
Our final days in Santorini were wonderful. We rented scooters again and zipped around the island and spent a final night with our new American friends enjoying live music at our favorite Spanish-themed cafe before our one A.M. ferry departure.
This is where the journey starts to get really interesting, and we start wishing Greece was never even placed on the map. We decided to book a hotel 3 Km outside of the main city on Kos Island. It looked really nice online, and we thought something out of the busy city would be refreshing. Our ferry got in to Kos at 7 A.M. and we thought, "what better way to enjoy a new morning on a new island, than walk to our hotel?"
Needless to say, 3 Km+not speaking Greek+20 lbs backpacks+hot sun=no bueno. It took us a total of two hours wantering around the boonies and asking every passerby (there weren't many, only cats and chickens as far as the eye could see) where Oasis Hotel was.
We finally arrived, and it was MUCH different than we had imagined, or the pictures had depicted. I'll just leave it at that.
On Saturday we had a flight to Bari, Italy. Finally, we were escaping the island (or so we thought...I'm pretty sure it tried to hold us hostage). We were told in broken engligh where to catch the bus to the airport and at what time it would come. We arrived at the bus stop and started flagging down each passing bus--tour coach or city bus--to ask if they went to the airport. After about 30 minutes and 13 busses, things were looking down. I started rummaging through my bag for a piece of paper and pen right as mom suggested we try to hitchhike to the airport. Great minds think alike!
I scribbled, "AIRPORT" in bold letters and held the sign as mom put up her hitchhiking thumb. Cars passed and waved, but no luck. Finally, right as we were ready to flag a cab, a bus pulled over to pick us up. I asked three times, "airport, you go to airport?" just to make sure we were not being deported to some remote location.
Kos International Airport is truly an experience that I suggest you avoid at all costs if you ever get the chance to set foot inside. Another institution I suggest you avoid is Ryan Air. They do everything they can to make air fares low by finding every possible chance to charge customers fees for not complying with their ridiculous rules or failing to take part in pre flight requirements.
You need to check in online and print your boarding pass at home or you will be charged 40 Euro (60 USD). In addition, all your luggage must fit into one small carry-on, no luxurious carry-on plus personal item like in the United States, or you will be fined. We had to get our ticket stamped by someone before going through security (or we would be fined) then, thinking we were home-free, we grabbed two seats by the gate in an airport so full that there was only standing room, and one could barely walk through the crowds.
Our flight was delayed. We waited and waited, and finally heard our names called loudly over the intercom to report to the gate. We pushed through the crowd and met an attendant who manually checked our luggage to ensure that it complied with size regulations and checked our boarding passes once again. Then we waited some more.
I have always considered airports to feel somewhat homely since I do so much flying. I like seeing new airports, sitting by the windows and watching the planes come in and out--it's a pasttime. This airport felt like a prision. We sat sharing one seat surrounded by people standing and pushing through the crowd, and all I wanted was to get out.
Another announcement, "this is the last call for flight 7777 on Ryan Air to Bari, the gate will be closing in one minute." Shoot! We almost missed our flight, and if I had not heard the announcement, we would have. Mom and I ran to the gate where a bus took the two of us to the tarmack to board the plane.
We were shocked that we didn't hear any of the pre-boarding announcements and more so that we didnt even notice that enough people to fill an airplane had left the terminal. Fail on Ryan Air's part.
We got on the plane and waited another hour to take off because there were so many planes coming in and out of the airport.
We arrived in Bari three hours behind schedule and immedieatly found the first restaurant and enjoyed a delicious Italian pizza feast. Somehow that made everything better. We were relieved to be out of Greece and in a country where you actually get soap at the hotel and can drink the tap water. The Italians can even understand when I speak to them in Spanish which is a huge plus!
The moral of the story? Greece is like Hotel California, "come any day you like, but you can never leave." Ciao for now!