Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Slow boat to Paros

An entrepreneurial opportunity of gargantuan proportions is waiting for someone in Greece. All you have to do is create a central scheduling office for ferries to the islands. Every company has its own set of routes and schedules and there is no way to get an overview of who's going where when. If you could maintain an updated database of schedules, prices, and which trips have open seats, I'm sure you could do a brisk business just telling people where to go for tickets. The importance of such a resource struck us with the force of a revelation when we decided to leave Hydra early. Carefree fools that we are, we hadn't booked a return trip to Piraeus or the trip to Paros, our next destination. On Wednesday, we attempted to book this two-part journey for Friday. After much back and forth between Hydra's two tourist agencies it seemed that we could get to Piraeus, but not to Paros. We felt like we were trapped in that joke where the old Maine guy says, "Yah can't get theah from heah." Finally, we decided to book a fast boat to Piraeus for Friday morning and trust to luck once we were in the port.

Come Friday morning we bid farewell to the mangy cats of Hydra and set off. We arrived in Piraeus in about two hours. I stationed myself on a shaded bench with our luggage and K went off in search of transportation. While I amused myself by taking pictures of random travelers, K hoofed it all over the port trying to find us a way to get to Paros. An hour later, we were the proud owners of two tickets to Paros on the slow ferry leaving at 9pm. For the rest of the day we cruised the Archaeological Museum, where we saw this incredible vase, among other things, and hung out in the passenger terminal, which is a large air-conditioned cafe with surprisingly good cheese pies.

The ferry looked like the QE2 compared to the fast boats we'd been traveling on up to this point. We boarded, along with what looked like half the population of Athens, and a fleet of cars and trucks, only to find that our economy class tickets did not guarantee us seats. If we wanted to sit we had to snag a table in one of the on-board cafes or out on the open decks. We opted for an open deck, but soon discovered that the reason we had found an empty table so easily was that it sat directly under the vent from the McDonald's-clone just inside. After half an hour of being bathed in a constant flow of warm greasy air, we decided to try the indoor cafe experience. To our surprise, the cafe area in front of the McD-clone was a no-smoking area where people actually weren't smoking. And that's where we sat: in the middle of a mall food court on board a slow ferry. For four and a half hours. Fortunately there was a bar.

As we drew near the port of Parikia on Paros, most of the many hundreds of people on the ferry got up and moved to the stairway on the port side of the ship, where we had entered. The ship tilted. We looked at each other and, in one voice, said, "Poseidon Adventure." Picking up our bags, we headed for the other staircase, trying to be as heavy as possible. I don't know if our quick thinking saved the ship, but it did mean that we got out faster than most, since both sets of stairways led to exits.

Waiting for us on the dock was a mob of yelling, gesticulating people holding uniform white and blue signs bearing the names of hotels, pensions, and camp sites. We quickly spotted our host from Pension Sofia and were whisked away to our room, grateful to have arrived safely on the isle of Paros.

A note about getting to and from the Greek islands: there are several different kinds of transports (ferry, fast ferry, flying dolphin, catamaran). Tripadvisor has a good description of the travel options and how to book.


Sylvie said...

Hi Maggie! We miss you so much! But so happy you are having the time of your life on vaycay! The pics look breathtakingly awesome. We are anxiously awaiting your return to share them with us. Until then......: )

Helen | Pepperina Press said...

Your post took me whooshing back to my ferry trip(-from-HELL) to the Greek islands... I didn't know the ticket didn't guarantee a seat, nor even standing room inside. It was the middle of a sweltering summer and yet I spent the most *bitterly cold*, wretched, miserable four hours of my life on that boat.

I love your blog. I feel like I've happened upon something very good.

TrueMirage said...