Archives for posts with tag: Cephalonia

In a previous episode I proudly displayed my 3 page trip itinerary in 10pt font just before our flight to Greece.  It turned out to be as good a travel guide as the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. itinerary  Our adventure started on the Isle of Cephalonia.

The original itinerary:
Day 1: Ferry & 2 buses from Ionian island of Cephalonia to Ioannina, the connection town for a bus to Corfu.
Day 2: Bus to port of Igoumenitsa and ferry to Corfu
Day 3&4: Relax in Corfu before returning to Igoumenitsa and a ferry to Italy
Day 5: Ferry to Italyitin-map1

What actually happened:

Day 1: Ferry 3 hours late due to weather. Rough crossing. rough-seasOn the mainland we only get as far as nearby town of Agrinio and book next day tix for Ioannina.
Day 2: Just as we are getting on the Ioannina bus we see one next to us pulling out that is going directly to Corfu. KTEL, the Greek bus line, must be run by the Greek secret service. They only give out information on a need to know basis and I guess we weren’t on that list. We boarded the bus to Ioannina where I pictured the Corfu bus on the ferry as the warm sun set over the island. Meanwhile we were headed for the frozen mountains.
Day 3: Frost on the ground. itowns-001As we board the bus for Igoumenista the driver asks, “Do you want to be dropped at the port for Corfu?”. “Yes please, how nice.” When we arrive at the port the driver tells us there is a seaman strike that started this morning and the ferries aren’t going for 2 days. At least we’re now on the need to know list. I again picture the Corfu bus people sitting in sunny Corfu cafes. We book into the little port of Igoumenitsa and wait for the strike to end.
Day 4: The strike is extended for two more days and threatening more. The Seamen’s Union is striking against higher taxes and reduced pensions. It’s a little strange to think that the government is going to reduce taxes because of a sailor’s strike.  Meanwhile people are stranded everywhere. There are 5 people  recently released from a mainland hospital who are trying to get home to Corfu and are stranded along with us. I realize we were lucky to have missed the infamous Corfu bus. That night over a cheap bottle of Greek wine we came up with a brilliant plan B (or is it C, D or E by now?). The plan was great, the wine, maybe not.itin-map2
Day 5: We boarded a bus for the Albanian border. Apparently it’s no longer a communist dictatorship and ferries are still running there. As we neared Albania there were only 3 passengers, Erica, myself and a shepherd who was dropped off at his flock. After the border we found a taxi to the first town 50k away. alb-013There we changed money and found a minibus leaving for the port of Vlore. Four hours and hundreds of switchbacks later we arrived at our ferry. alb-026We loved the 24 hours we had in Albania.
Day 6: Ferry to Italy. Now my only problem is that I’ve caught my second cold in two weeks. Spaghetti sauce is full of vitamin C?
Day 7-10 Greek seamen union strike extended.  Feeling sorry for the Corfu bus people. Like Papillon they might be making straw rafts and waiting for the seventh wave to carry them back to the mainland. papillonSo much for itineraries.

In a week we’ve met six Greeks who have repatriated. In our first hour in Greece, on the metro from the airport, a drunk who was ranting about the EU had repatriated from California. Two hotel managers, a restaurant owner, a farmer and even a bus ticket taker all took time to tell us their story. Most were bittersweet stories about problems in Greek society and usually some family intrigue that brought them back. The most interesting may be Billy, real name Visili. He is magical because he is the only one in Greece that could tell us connecting bus information. We’ve been to 8 intercity bus stations and none of them could tell us about buses we needed to connect to in another town. Billy made one phone call and got it. He lived 30 years in New York City and  built a multi-million dollar real estate business in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. His Achilles heal (as it were) spawned from his two marriages and divorces in the US, which must have included large settlements because now he complains of just scraping by, running a small hotel in the sleepy port town of Poros on Cephalonia. ionia-010His first marriage was to an American, his second to a Greek American. Now he’s married to a Greek. Let’s hope he’s found the right pedigree this time.
You’ve heard of slow food, slow living, how about slow travel. In two days of travel we managed only 80 miles overland and 40 miles at sea, mainly due to bus schedules and bad weather. We spent hours holed up in a port cafe waiting to find out if our ferry was going to brave the weather. Not wasted time. We stuck in with some locals ionia2-007 and got to know the cafe cat, Bella. ionia2-008  It took twelve buses and four ferries to make it around the Peloponese  peninsula and on to Cephalonia and  Corfu. We’re anxious to see it Italian bus schedules are more available and helpful.