Sunday 28th August 2022
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today is a long travel day taking me from Stalis in Crete all the way to Aegina close to the mainland. I had set my alarm for 6:15, giving me time to shower and pack the last few bits into my suitcase and rucksack, before walking down to the main road to catch the 7:05 bus to Heraklion.
I was a bit nervous that the bus might not turn up and I could miss my ferry, but it arrived on time and was busier than I expected given the early hour. There were still plenty of free seats, though, so I got my case stored in the luggage compartment and found an empty row towards the back of the coach.
Heraklion and Ferry
The journey took about 50 minutes, stopping several times to pick up other tourists, most of which seemed to be heading to the airport for their flights home. We arrived at the main bus station just before 8. I got my suitcase and made the now familiar walk across the road to the ferry port – though this was the first time I’d actually boarded a ferry rather than disembarked.
I wasn’t sure where the ticket office was located for the ANEK Lines boat I was planning to take, but I saw the ferry straight away so headed in that direction. As I approached, I saw people walking to a kiosk just to the side of the ferry, so I figured that was a good place to try for a ticket. Sure enough, I was able to get a ticket (€36) and made my way back to the boat.
Unlike my previous ferry experiences, it seemed that large cases were being loaded into a storage container outside the ship, rather than being stowed manually on board in the cargo area. Some passengers seemed to be dragging their cases on board, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Erring on the safe side, I joined the small queue for the storage container and had my suitcase loaded onto it, receiving a luggage ticket in return. I then boarded the ferry and found a quiet spot to sit, ready for the journey to begin.
The Longest Ferry Crossing
The crossing from Heraklion to Piraeus was scheduled to take 8 hours and 45 minutes – my longest ferry journey in Greece, by a long margin. I was mentally prepared, though, so it didn’t trouble me much. I spent the first hour or so sitting outside on the rear deck reading my Kindle and enjoying the morning sunshine. As time passed, though, it got more crowded and with quite a few smokers making the atmosphere a bit unpleasant, so I got up and decided to look for a more peaceful spot.
I strolled around the ship to stretch my legs, while searching for a quiet corner to set up camp. Unfortunately, most areas had already been taken and I was close to admitting defeat and heading back outside when I spotted some doors to the dining area. The restaurant wasn’t open yet, but the doors were unlocked and a few people had entered and were sitting at the large tables. It was the perfect spot, so I grabbed an empty table near a window and set up my laptop to pass the time working on some YouTube videos that I’d started but not yet finished.
I stayed at the table through the lunch service, luckily keeping the table to myself. I’d brought water, biscuits and crisps on board with me which I’d been snacking on throughout the journey, avoiding the need to buy expensive ferry food. Towards mid-afternoon, though, I needed to stretch my legs and I was getting hungry, so I packed up and went for another walk, buying a chocolate doughnut and freddo espresso coffee on the way. I found a nice quiet shaded spot outside down the side of the ferry, where I sat to enjoy my snack and caffeine hit.
Time had been passing fairly quickly for most of the day, but by 5 pm I was starting to feel restless. I checked my phone and managed to pick up some signal to track the ferry and see how far from Piraeus we were. I’d expected to arrive about 6 pm as we’d been 15 minutes late departing, but I could tell from our position that we were at least 30 minutes behind schedule, possibly more. Knowing this only made the time slow down even further.
I tried to distract myself with my Kindle and Spotify music but kept checking my phone to see if we were getting closer to the port. Finally, at 6:30 pm, we entered Piraeus harbour and docked at about 6:45. I made an effort to be one of the first off the boat, but I still had to retrieve my suitcase from the storage unit and wasn’t sure how this process worked. I joined a small crowd waiting beside the boat, figuring (correctly) that they were waiting for luggage too. With a bit of luck – and some tactical pushing and shoving – I got close to the front as the container was opened and was the third person to get my bag.
Rushing in Vain
I was in a rush to get my suitcase in the hope of making the 7 pm ferry to Aegina that I’d been planning to take. I still needed to get a ticket, though, and our ferry had docked at gate E3 which was the other side of the port from where the Aegina ferries departed – something that was confirmed to me by a lady in a ticket kiosk as I headed around the dock.
Despite half-jogging to the main ticket counter at gate E7, I only arrived dead-on 7 pm. As I suspected, the guy behind the ticket counter confirmed it was too late to purchase a ticket for that ferry. It wasn’t a huge problem, as there are multiple evening crossings to Aegina as it’s a short distance away. A ticket for the 8 pm service was slightly more expensive at €19 instead of €12, but it was a quicker boat and would get me there in 40 minutes instead of 70.
Somewhat grateful for the opportunity to relax on dry land, I wheeled my case around to the cafe/bar next door and settled myself at a table with a cold beer.
Ferry Number 2
About 20 minutes before the Aegina ferry was due to depart, I left the bar and headed round to gate E8 to make sure I was in the right spot. As it’s quite a big area, I asked at another kiosk where the Aegina ferries depart from and was pointed to a spot just around the corner. It had been a long day and I was looking forward to getting settled in my new hotel.
The ferry turned up and it was one of the strangest vessels I’ve ever seen:
The Flying Dolphin is a long, narrow boat with hydrofoil-like legs that stick out at the front of the craft, raising it up in the water when it picks up speed. I was a bit unsure what it would be like to travel on, but I was about to find out!
Quite a few passengers got off, but only myself and three other people boarded so we were soon ready to depart. Once we got clear of the port, it picked up speed and we were soon racing along towards our destination. At first, it was exciting and the calm water made it seem like we were flying. However, whether it was a random wave or when the boat changed direction I’m not sure, but we occasionally tipped quite sharply which was a bit scary the first time it happened. I got used to it, but was glad it was only a short journey and was looking forward to getting off!
It was close to 9 pm as I disembarked at the port in Aegina. I’d booked 3 nights at the Hotel Aegina, which fortunately was just a 10-minute walk from the harbour area. I got checked in straight away and shown to a nice, if plain, room on the first floor with windows overlooking the front of the building. As usual, my first order of business was a shower to freshen up after the long journey. I contemplated just going to bed, but I was very hungry and also keen to see a bit of the main town straight away.
Walking back to the harbour front, it was still buzzing with activity and seemed quite a popular place to be. Tavernas lined the front, so I strolled along looking for somewhere that took my fancy, making mental notes of appealing menus to try in the coming days. For tonight, I settled on a fancy-looking Italian called Miralice. With my healthy appetite ready to be satisfied, I ordered a starter of mixed bread with olive oil, followed by spinach and ricotta ravioli. It was nice food, though the ravioli wasn’t quite as tasty as I had hoped. It definitely filled a hole, though, and I returned to my hotel room feeling satisfied and ready for a good night’s sleep.