Thursday, June 18, 2009

Planes, Trains, Automobiles AND Ferries

I feel like I HAVE to blog about our travel over the last two days - our trip from Crete in southern Greece to Napoli in southern Italy. It all started when we discovered that the ferry service from Hania in Crete to Gythio in the Pelloponese was cancelled. So we thought we'd go to Athens and take a bus to Nafplio - but it turned out that there was no accommodation available in the town at all. So fed up with Greece we decided to skip the rest of the country and head to Italy.

Our journey started at 5:30 am on the 16th of June. We woke up and took a taxi to Hania airport. After some delays we got a flight at about 7:30 from Hania to Athens. From Athens airport we took the local train to a town just outside Corinth. After a couple of hours there we took an old, decrepit train to Patras that got us into town at about 3pm.

So there in one day we covered planes, trains and automobiles!

From Patras we got a ticket on the overnight Ferry to Bari in Italy. After yet more running around we managed to work out how to check in (it wasn't easy) and got on the Ferry (Superfast I, 200m long and 25kts top speed). We got a private cabin with beds. I must say that we were both very impressed with the Ferry. It was clean, new and well designed.

After a quick dinner we went to sleep and woke up on the coast of Italy! Now that's the way travel!

From the ferry station in Bari we made our way to Bari Central Station, where we just missed the train to Naples. So we had to start another long journey. First a slow train to Taranto, which is an industrial town to the south of Bari. After spending some time in Bari we caught a bus to Napoli - which took about 4 hours and stopped at every little village along the way.

So there you have it. A shortened version of our journey from Hania to Napoli over 48 hours.

Euro 2009 Update 2 - Greece

So a look back on Greece. From my travels in 2004 Greece turned out to be one of my favourite destinations, so my expectations were high. To say that I was left feeling down is a bit of an understatement.

I was expecting Greece to be much better post Olympics - and it was in a sense. The metro in Athens was great, as was the new pedistrian districts of places like Heraklion and Patras. But the same old problems were still there, and it seems worse than before. Everything is in chaos - be it the traffic, the trains, the planes or the buses. Most places we visted didn't really know what whas going on and the staff were untrained and unhelpful.

One of the biggest dissapointment was the food. I remembered some really good meals in Hania and Gythio from 2004, and it was not to be. We had one good meal in Hania at Tamam - but almost every other place we tried was a dissapointment. Not that we just picked a place and went - we almost always went to places which were recommended by guidebooks or had good reviews in travel mags/newspapers. A meal costing 20 euros per person without drinks should be at a decent standard - but we almost always were dissapointed.

Also if I ever needed evidence that the Meditteranean was being overfished it is in the price and quality of seafood in Greece. It is expensive and terrible! The best fish we got was a baked red snapper (quite nice) - but it was 19 euro each and the fish was TINY! Anything that size would have to be thrown back in Sydney.

Perhaps a lot of the mismatch in expectations is that the last time we visited in April/May and this time we were there in June. The crowds are terrible and everything is terribly overpriced.

My only recommendation for Greece would be to go well outside the main seasons and avoid the popular places like the plague. Santorini was terrible. We couldn't even get any accommodation in Nafplio. The ferries are full and the prices are high. There are lots of nice places off the beaten track - but you really need your own car to get there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Euro 2009 Update 1

Just a quickie - as my wireless access is dodgy.

So we're 6 days into the trip and it's mostly going well. We are currently in Santorini enjoying the view and the heat (did I mention the heat? It's hot!).

Started off by spending 4 days in Athens - more than necessary I would have thought - but it was quite good, actually. My last visit to Athens in 2004 left me thinking that I'd never come back, but I enjoyed it quite a lot this time. A lot of the city has been cleaned up for the 2004 Olympics - the Metro for example. We also stayed in Plaka this time, it's very touristy but nice. A lot nicer than Omonia, where we stayed before.

One thing that really shits me about Greece so far is that the anti-smoking laws haven't really caught on. Or if they have, people ignore then. They smoke EVERYWHERE, indoors, outdoors.. we've seen women nursing babies chain smoking through the whole time! Our ferry trip to Santorini was a 9 hour ordeal trying to find a place where we could escape the smoke!

Anyways, Santorini is as nice as always - except for the first hotel we stayed at. It is built right next to the only major road on the island, without any sound proofing! After 2 sleepless nights we left the place and moved to a much better hotel. That was 100 euros down the drain. Last time we allow a travel agent to book accomodation for us.

OK battery almost dead that's all for now.

Next stop is Crete.