Athens to Venice by Ferry.

Reluctantly, I left Athens for Patras by coach by the third day of my holiday. I loved my stay in Greece and didn't know for sure if I wanted to leave. For someone who speaks multiple languages and has traveled extensively, I still found the trip on public transportation complicated. That said, without incident I boarded the bus for a three hour trip to the western tip of Greece where I would catch my Anek ferry. If my trip was in any way touristy up to this point it was all about to change.

Ferries are a really cool way of travel. There is something nostalgic about spending two days on a boat to somewhere you've never been. Going out on the deck in the middle of the night, surrounded by nothing but water, no phone signal, and no one who speaks English on board, tends to either set one's perspective either very right or very wrong.

Arriving in Patras, the bus station is literally a hundred meters from the Mediterranean sea. I could see a giant Anek ship parked at a port upon arrival and assumed it was mine. After a brief walk and then discovering it was five kilometers in the other direction, I begin my trek to the International Port. First, the international port isn't readily accessible by foot (you'll get some weird stares crossing through the trucks queuing) and secondly, there's nothing around it, so if you prefer food and shopping options beside the lone cafe in the terminal, walk downtown first (about two blocks inward from the coast).

A few minutes before midnight I boarded the vessel with less than a dozen other people. Most of the ship was full of truck drivers transporting their lorries upon the ship. The great news was my deck ticket, for just under seventy-Euros, afforded me the ability to sleep almost anywhere because of the lack of occupants. I found a row of empty airplane seats and made camp. I was somewhat nervous and excited about leaving port. I had this romanticized idea of standing on deck as we left port, but loading took several more hours, and I exhaustively fell asleep in my nest of clothes and jacket.

I woke up later that night and realized we were at sea. Everything was black and the moaning of the ships engines combined with the waves made me feel like I had been transported back to a time before airplanes and modernity's rush-hour lifestyle. Of course, today, many would be unwilling to travel in such a manner, being one of three women aboard a liner where English is non-existent. I found freedom in it. Sure there were fifty truck drivers who probably hadn't had sex in days or weeks who wink and make comments, but its all in Greek so I had no idea what they were saying. Overall I felt safe, and the staff seemed to keep a watchful eye over us more "vulnerable" travelers. For the next few days, you become family.

The next morning we arrived in Igoumenitsa where we collected a few more people and vehicles, rounding out the entire occupancy to only about fifty to a hundred people (this was January). By far, things were still very comfortable. The single shower stall available to us might become problematic in the high-season, but I had no problem taking a shower on both days of the trip. Many had opted for a berth in the hotel-like rooms that my student status couldn't afford.

Eventually the seas got rough and I pulled out my emergency supply of Dramamine. I laid down and disappeared into dream land for awhile. When I awoke, the seas were calmer and I was starving! I had finally gotten my sea legs! I went to the cafeteria, and to my surprise found really lovely Greek food prepared for my choice. In preparing for the trip, many people advise to bring food on board, but I found the food I had purchased at the port was horrible, and honestly, the food on-board (likely Greek comfort food) was relatively delicious and affordable (about 10 Euros).  Considering I had eaten only street-food in Athens, I felt like a proper (though truck-stop like) plate of Greek Meatballs was deserved. It was actually fabulous. Wine is sold by the bottle and you basically just eat, drink, and relax for as long as you want. Time has no meaning on a Greek ferry, and I kind of liked that.

After a few sessions abusing three-Euro satellite WiFi, lots of writing, and sleeping, we arrived in Venice at 9 AM, three days later. My research on the internet had suggested we'd arrive near the city center with the other cruise lines, however what actually happened was that we arrived in the middle of nowhere in a half-constructed terminal with no public transport. Eventually, me and this other woman (whom only spoke French) found our way to a bus-stop in front of campground several miles out from the port thanks to the port's Shuttle (a blue van), and some helpful port employees. Another hour wait to catch the bus to the nearest city, a transfer, another bus, lots of hand waving, and eventually we arrived in Venice.

For the record "Yes bus" and "No bus" is not effective Italian. Knowing "Grazie" (thank you), is imperative,  and if you're wondering if you should take the ferry from Athens to Venice, the answer is undoubtedly a "Hell yeah".  Set sail for new shores while you can!

To often we live in a world where people count their travels in selfies. Gorgeous, perfected pictures we choose from our phones after fifty attempts. We delete the ugly parts of our lives, we take for granted that we can fly from the U.S. to London in the same day like it's ordinary, like it's insignificant. We drag our over-sized luggage through airports complaining of the poor food and cramped seats never recognizing how unprecedented this privilege is within the history of mankind. On a Greek ferry, you won't look pretty after sleeping on the floor for three days. You won't get that selfie on the bow of the ship with perfect wind blown hair. No you'll smell like smoke, walk crooked, have bloodshot eyes, and you'll eat such horribly great food that you'll disembark with an entire new intestinal flora, but you'll appreciate this world in a whole new way.


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