Greek Island Hopping - Crete to Kos

Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
Trip End Nov 04, 2011

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Flag of Greece  , Dodecanese,
Monday, April 18, 2011

When looking at a map of the Greek Islands, it's hard to work out why one boat takes only a few hours to reach its destination whereas another one takes an eternity. Basically it's because some of them are hovercrafts. As luck had it, my boat from Santorini to Heraklion was a hovercraft and it made the journey in only two hours. Seated immediately around me were familiar Australian and New Zealand accents and it made me wonder if perhaps certain nationalities are drawn together magnetically or if it's just coincidence. Oh well, I do a lot of thinking while travelling alone.

Heraklion is the capital city of Crete and if I'm not mistaken, the third largest city in Greece after Athens and Thessaloniki. I beg to differ. I think Melbourne is the third largest Greek city! It's not a very inspiring city at first glance and it's really just a base for tourists who arrive and then go to remote beaches or ancient ruins. I wouldn't recommend staying in this city for more than one night. I was only able to book a hotel that was very far from the port as there wasn't much on offer on the hotel website I used. Heraklion just isn't a very popular option. So it was a taxi ride through the beachside suburbs and fifteen minutes later I was at the hotel. There was no one at reception and the door was locked. In fact, it looked like the hotel was....closed?

Eventually someone came out and found me sitting on my suitcase. The hotel was very quiet and as I never saw a single hotel guest in this four story building I'm going to guess that I was the only guest. Breakfast was the same when I went downstairs. No one. It's eerie but half the hotels I check into seem to be extremely quiet. I know it's not peak season but this hotel was absolutely dead. Where is everyone? After breakfast I left my suitcase at reception and went into town as I had quite a few hours until my next ferry. It's sometimes nice to use local public transport - as a tourist, I mean. Commuting to work is another matter.

I decided it'd be a good idea to take in some culture for a change, instead of just walking around. I went to a museum as I thought, "this is Crete - it's full of ancient history". It was only after I paid the six euro entry fee and saw dozens of stuffed animals in their natural habitat that I realised that this was the Museum of Natural History. Ah crap! I came to Crete to look at stuffed birds? Natural history? Where's the stuff about ancient civilizations? Actually - there was one good thing about the museum. It had an earthquake simulator. I went into a pretend classroom with a bunch of Greek school kids and we had to hold on to the tables while the room went through a Richter scale of six. It was awesome! Well, not so awesome when it's the real thing. A six is quite destructive. One kid was flung out of his table which was entertaining. Oh, come on - you can laugh when it's not a real earthquake. Besides, he was laughing as he hit the ground.

That afternoon after heading back to the suburbs of Heraklion to collect my suitcase, I had to brace myself for a massive journey of thirteen hours on a boat. This was going to be a killer. I was told to buy a regular ticket and then try for an upgrade on the boat, which is exactly what I did. There were no single cabins and the minimum number of beds in a cabin was two. Normally it wouldn't be a problem to share a room and it'd work out much cheaper. Most of the time you end up getting a cabin to yourself any way, as it's not peak season. That's what happened to me going to Dubrovnik. However, this was different as the boat had four stops before its final destination of Rhodes and I didn't want to chance it by having someone come into my room half way through the night. So I paid for a whole room and it set me back 110 euros. It meant I could sleep though.

There's nothing like privacy and after I hung out in the bar for a few hours downing a few beers and playing on my I-Pad, and having a meal in the restaurant, I went to my cabin where I would not be disturbed until we arrived. Or so I thought. There's a speaker inside the cabins and every single announcement comes through those speakers. Everything from "restaurant will close soon" to "can Kosta come to deck four, please". My favourite announcements were when I was dozing off each time and I'd hear "we are now arriving at the port of blah blah blah where you won't be getting off but you're awake now". Finally, at about four o'clock in the morning, I was just about to fall asleep again when I heard a loud knock at the door. What now? Time to get up - we're landing soon. Really? Can't we go a bit slower? I mean, it's already taken twelve hours to do what would take about two hours by car or about fifteen minutes by plane. Why can't you let me sleep?

The ferry arrived early at the port of Rhodes - at the convenient time of 4:30am. Now, normally it would be a godsend to arrive somewhere earlier than expected but I had to wait until 8:30am for my connecting ferry to Kos. What the hell was I going to do here in the dark? My advice is to avoid those long haul ferries and fly instead. I mean, if it's an overnight ferry you can't see anything and there are too many stops. The distance is minimal which makes it seem like you've hardly made any progress and unless you pay through the nose for your own cabin, you won't get any sleep. Come to think of it, neither did I. Also, my suitcase took a real battering on that boat. Too many stairs. Now I had four hours to kill in Rhodes.

As I had my massive red suitcase and as the whole island was still asleep, there wasn't much to do. I walked to the nearby castle and hid my suitcase behind a tree while I went exploring. Good idea, I thought. Eventually the sun came up and before long I was on my next ferry - this time a fast hovercraft - to the island of Kos. On one side was the mainland of Turkey and on the other, small Greek islands. Surreal! Arriving in Kos was like an oasis after that grueling trip and the town of Kos is absolutely beautiful. I found the hotel within minutes from the port and I was upgraded to a larger room, which seems to happen quite often on this trip. A quick breakfast in the main square and then back to the hotel for a brief nap to make up for a million ferry announcements. Bliss!

This was my last stop in Greece and as it's become my favourite country so far on this trip, it was a little sad to leave. Kos was a great send off, and the fact that you can see Turkey only a few kilometers away makes it a great last stop before arriving in Turkey. Before taking my ferry to Bodrum, I had one last meal in a Greek tavern and I was greeted by a familiar Australian accent. The owner of the tavern, Max (and his brother) have been on the island for twenty years. According to Max, he is one of the four thousand Greek Australians that call Kos home. That's almost a quarter of the town.

So I asked him, "is that why you don't put chips (fries) inside the gyros like they do here?" "Exactly!" he said. "When I noticed you were Australian I put the chips on the side and you'll see that it's twice the size of the usual ones here. Just like back in Melbourne." I also asked him why he had Thai dishes on the menu.

"We're Australians. We can't go without our Asian food, can we? All the locals come here for our Thai food. You can't eat moussaka and souvlaki every day - you'll go nuts. If it weren't for this view, I'd go nuts." So I asked him, "Does it bother you that you have to look at Turkey every day from your tavern? "

"Nah. We don't notice it. They don't notice us either." And with that, I left Greece behind and all its connections with Melbourne and took the ferry to Bodrum - my first stop in Turkey.

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