It was finally time for our ‘Grexit’, with the country still very much in the throws of its economic difficulties and contemplating their own Grexit. We knew we had to set off early if we were to make it to Patra in time for the ferry to Italy and so I slightly regretted our lovely long, ouzo fuelled evening the night before; listening to traditional local music (songs of lost and missing love from the 1930s, we were told), just us, the restaurant owner/singer and his mandolin playing friend.
We edged our way through the sprawl of Patra following the sporadic signs to the port. At first the rabbit warren of tall buildings packed with people, cars and mopeds felt quite frenetic and suffocating after our quiet weeks in rural Greece but once we had settled in to the rhythm, we saw what a great place it could be to live, with its vibrant streets lined with contemporary cafes and restaurants and both hills or coast for weekend escapes. It made us even sadder that finally time for our Grexit had come.
After a few wrong turns finding first the old ferry port, then a ticket office that did not have any tickets for a camper for any of the ferries that day, we finally found the newly built port out of town. A huge concrete plateau of car park and one way system extending into the sea. We were directed to one of the half built concrete buildings where each of the ferry companies displayed their vibrant colours.
All three companies have ferried sailing every day at 5 or 6pm to Bari and Brindisi so it is difficult to see how they differentiate themselves. Our choice was made easy when we were offered ‘camping on board’ with Superfast.
A really great idea, they allow campers and caravans to hook up to electric points, positioning you at the open end of the deck, with a view out to sea. They even provide showers, toilets and a key so that you can access the rest of the boat for the bar and restaurant and then re-enter the car deck when you like to sleep in your camper van. We filled the time to sunset with a shower and did some overdue washing of clothes.
The ferry was eerily empty and our VW camper van looked a little odd on between the standard campers on the deck. So finally our Grexit turned out to be a much better experience than we thought. We joked that this must be what being on a cruise is like, with our own cabin and sea facing balcony. It’s probably the closest we will ever get to going on a proper cruise!
Upstairs just us, another couple and several truck drivers enjoying the amazing stews and salads from the restaurant, as they all anxiously watched the riots in Athens unfold on the TV, following the Greek parliaments decision to accept the bailout terms. During the night, the ferry slowly filled with more trucks and tourist campers after stops at Igoumenitsa and Corfu ports.
We woke with the sun after a unsettled night disrupted by the on boarding activities at the different ports. Feeling human again after an espresso doppio sitting out on the deck, we watched Dolphins swimming near the boat before we entered the harbour at Bari. Sadly, after several wonderful weeks finally time for our ‘Grexit’ and goodbye Greece but good morning Italy and onwards.