The fast boat to Piraeus from Hydra dropped us off at the port in the afternoon, leaving us with about two hours to kill before we could board the ferry. For those of you who have been to Piraeus, you’ll understand when I say it’s not the most enticing place. For those of you who have not, just know that it’s a busy port city with little aesthetic redemption other than the water and the distant view of the hills in Athens. It’s also not the safest place, especially at night. We wandered around the port for quite some time figuring out where to pick up our ferry tickets, which we had purchased online long before.
Boris and his language skillz got us to where we needed to be, but in the process I learned well that Greeks aren’t the most specific people when giving directions. In Hydra I thought it was typical of the small town, since it seemed like many of the streets didn’t even have names. It turns out, it’s likely that it’s a Grecian trend, instead. We were instructed at one point by a workman for our ship itself to go to a certain ticket stand. We trek—Piraeus is a huge port—to the other side of the dock to a ticket booth. The guy there instructs us to go back to where we had just been, and that there “should be people there,” even though we had seen no one. It turned out that he meant to the other ticket booth near where we had been that had appeared closed and on the outside was labeled “Tickets for Vehicles” or similar. Tickets in hand we set off to find a place nearby to eat.
The immediate surroundings of Piraeus aren’t really built for tourists. There’s a big cafe/waiting area at the port, apparently a Starbucks nearby, or we could venture outside the port’s fences to find a local place. We chose the last option, and soon found ourselves at a cafe that served a few souvlaki-type dishes, a traditional dish made of tripe (we politely declined), and drinks. I don’t even remember what we ordered, but I know that by the end of the lunch, we got ourselves an invitation to come back whenever we were in Piraeus, and possibly some free watermelon.
Finally we boarded our ferry. Technically I had been on a ferry from the US to Canada, but it certainly was not a ten hour trip. The boat was ENORMOUS, and it felt like a floating hotel, because I guess that’s what it was. We had booked a private cabin since it was an overnight ferry and I wasn’t particularly keen on losing an entire night’s sleep when we had such little time in Santorini. Our cabin was neat—small, but totally functional and we even had our own bathroom. The shower in the bathroom just was a shower fixture attached to the wall, so essentially the bathroom WAS the shower, too. A pretty efficient design, when it all comes down to it.
We explored the boat and found a spot to watch our departure into the Mediterranean waters. Sunset on a boat is incomparable, even when the boat is spouting some nasty fumes once in awhile and there are loud teenagers messing around on the deck. The view was stunning. At some point the self-service restaurant opened and we got some overpriced but tasty food (Boris was obsessed with the orzo-lamb dish…I’ll try to replicate it when I get home…) and that was when the rocking of the boat and the stuffiness of the dining room got to me and we headed onto the deck for some sea breezes. The moon and its reflection over the water reminded me of old Impressionist paintings: the water and the moon’s reflection only a little bit blurred with the brush strokes.
Trying to sleep on the boat was difficult, despite our comfortable setup. We weren’t camped out in the lounge or sleeping in any corridors, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like trying to do that. The boat’s rocking wasn’t even the biggest issue, it was more than whenever there was an announcement I was concerned when we couldn’t understand its garbled message, and we didn’t know how many stops it would be until Santorini, so at one point maybe around 3 a.m. The boat stopped and we weren’t sure what was going on. We hadn’t thought to ask whether they’d be waking us up upon our scheduled arrival to Fira (they did, a porter knocked on our door to give us the 20 minute signal, by which time we had already been awake thanks to our set alarm clocks, Just In Case), so every stop woke me and caused a bit of anxiety. Finally, though, we did arrive in Santorini, which you’ll hear about next…