The summer sun was uncompromising as we pulled into the line of vehicles waiting to enter the ferry. Often times -- especially on hot and humid afternoons like this -- we wonder why so many people flock to Greece in the summer as shoulder seasons - spring and fall - offer far kinder weather for travel.
Perhaps, this year the visitors are like we are, making good on a promises made during COVID lockdown to travel again as soon as possible. . . no longer put off trips to some future date. 'Carpe Diem!' we think, even if the sun is baking our brains while we await boarding.
|Bound for Crete|
This trip in late June, our second 'ferry tale' since Greece reopened to travel in May, was to Crete, the largest and the most populated island in Greece. This ferry took us and our trusty Hi Ho Silver (our Toyota RAV) from Gythio, a town just an hour's drive southeast of us in the Peloponnese to Kissamos, the westernmost port in Crete.
|Our ferry route in red and orange|
Often times ferry departure and arrival times are at odd times of the day, such as in the late afternoon and in the middle of the night, as was the case for this trip. Our projected midnight arrival time was actually delayed when one of the semi trucks got high centered on the loading ramp . . .thus we didn't get to our hotel in Chania until 1 a.m. That delayed arrival made us even happier in those wee small hours of the morning that we had brought our car and didn't need to search out a rental car lot along the dark perimeter of the ferry dock.
|Ready to drive a car onto a Greek ferry are you?|
But taking a car on a Greek ferry is somewhat 'a trip' in itself - and certainly not for the faint-of-heart or timid driver. It is especially hair-raising for Americans who are used to having space, lots of personal space. It just isn't that way in Europe. So I must tip my hat to The Scout, who had the duty of driving the car into the ferry.
|Drivers wait for cars to move so they can get into their car|
The cars are packed so tightly into the belly of the ship that passengers aren't allowed to stay in them when they are driven into the ferry. So The Scout drove the car in and I waited at the ferry entrance for him to emerge. (When we disembarked passengers were allowed to go to the car and wait and thus I was able to take these photos.) This vessel had a gargantuan loft on which we were parked which required driving down a narrow and steep ramp, 'Tap your brakes! Tap your brakes! Tap your brakes,' the staff shouted as we began our descent.
|Tap your brake! and down we went in a blur|
Now before I prompt an onslaught of 'unsafe' and 'overloaded' comments, let me assure you that every ferry on which we've ever traveled in Greece with a car has looked this same way. The staff carefully load by vehicle size and destination as these ships often have buses and large semi-tractor trailer rigs filling the center sections. This ferry route operates once a week so they make use of every bit of space.
|Inside look at Greek ferries|
|Approaching Potamos port in Antikythira island at 10 a.m.|
|Tourists wait for the ferry at Kythira port|
A number of you've written, saying you hope to experience a Greek ferry trip one day. We encourage you to do just that but do keep in mind a few key points: first, weather can impact ferry schedules, up to and including, keeping the ferries from sailing, so make sure your schedule allows for possible delays. Also check which days the days and how often the ferries sail to places you want to visit. You might be thinking two nights and the ferry may only come once a week. Check arrival and departure times as they could be 2 a.m. in the morning.
Ferries, still our favorite way to visit Greek islands, are conducive to 'slow travel' -- but that doesn't appeal to everyone so pack your patience or book a flight if you can't sit back and relax.
And they aren't the cheapest way to travel either. Our tickets, for a small SUV and two passengers traveling between Gythio and Kissamos cost 150 euros or $177US each way. (Now I have to admit it was great buying things like big jars of Cretan honey and simply putting them in the car, not worrying about fitting them into a suitcase!)
We were gobsmacked to realize that it has been seven years since we spent time in Crete. How had we let that much time slip by without returning to the island where we had actually looked for real estate before settling in the Mani?
Would Niki still have a bakery in Chora Sfakia on Crete's southern coast? Did they still make those Cretan meat pies at our favorite restaurant in the village? Would Elounda to the east be as charming as we remembered it?
I have Facebook friends on Crete who I've known for years now. It was time to meet as many of them face-to-face as I could. The ferry travels between Gythio and Crete every Wednesday. . .we had a week. in which to travel down Memory Lane. Hope you'll join us next time as we do just that!
Until then, thanks for your time and stay safe!
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