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Santorini to Crete

June 28, 2007

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Greek music played in the background as I quickly packed for Crete, Rhodes and several weeks in Turkey in the wee hours of the morning. I had just read a few hours earlier about a man on a fast ferry from Santorini to Crete who got extremely sea sick along with sixty percent of the rest of the passengers and how it ruined his vacation. Yikes!

We had been planning to take that same fast moving “cat” ferry, so quickly changed plans thanks to some good input from friends on the Fodor’s Greek forum. I had just stumbled upon this true story on Virtual Tourist or Trip Advisor while perusing the internet for ideas for our upcoming travels, but it struck a chord as we had been on this same type of ferry earlier while in Santorini.

We had planned to meet some friends from home in Amorgas for a few days, but we ended up with engine problems so we got off our “ferry to no where” and missed our opportunity to meet them because of the long delay. It had left a bad taste in my mouth about this kind of ferry, as it was very different than the other ferries we had taken. 

It was much smaller, so people are packed in like sardines and there is no where you can go outside. It is more like being in a crowded plane and I noticed when we were stuck in the water that it was very unstable and rocked a whole lot. So I was already nervous before I read this story and wanted more reassurance before I got on another one of these as several hours of extremely wavy seas in such a boat did not sound like family fun to me.

I guess they are not a problem if the sea is calm, but it is hard to know ahead of time if the sea will be calm or not. It turns out that Santorini to Crete is a particularly unprotected voyage because there are no islands in between to soften the winds. The bigger the ferry, the less chance of problems with seasickness and they are also much cheaper than the fast ferries although twice as slow.

Personally, since time is not a big issue for us, I would rather get there calmly on a big, uncrowded ship, rather than a crowded small plane or fast ferry. I like the idea of saving money along with avoiding chances of extreme seasickness and the difference between two hours and four hours did not seem like a big deal.

The problem was that we did not even know we had another option until the last moment as both travel agencies told us the fast ferry was the only option, so our timing was geared to that which gave me a whole other day to pack. Thanks to my forum buddies, I found out that there were more options, thus we quickly shifted gears and that had me packing very late at night as there is a lot to do before a journey like this.

When we travel outside of the RV, we carry only three very small backpacks and sometimes add the violin. With a long trip like this one, we need to be very efficient as we need to take equipment like the laptops and camera gear as well as home school material, books and toys along with our clothing and bathroom supplies. As someone who was famous for over packing in my younger days (like when I went to Russia with a group of friends), I am particularly amazed that I now can make backpackers look like they are over packed as we carry about one fourth the amount that they do. They even ask us how we can travel so long with so little and they do not even know how much space is taken up with non clothes items.

I only wish we all had a backpack like Mozart’s as she has one that can be carried or rolled and that is a real advantage as each of our bags gets heavy when carried for any distance. She looks like a pro these days getting on and off a ferry, train, bus or whatever transport we are using. She is such a good little traveler and loves the adventure of moving from place to place.

She does all her own carrying unless it is up steep stairs and I am able to pack hers quite heavy because she is rolling it. She has the most clothes, but they don’t take up much room, so she gets to carry the bathroom bag along with her toys and books.

Dad picks hers up and sometimes mine too if it is a tough or fast climb with his free hands and heaviest of all pack on his back. We have done it enough now that we pretty much have the process down pat which makes it fairly easy.

I did not get to plan this trip in as much detail as I would like as I am limited by the books that I can carry in the RV and what I can pick up on the internet. I did not feel like I had enough time to feel confident about this phase, but with this quick change I had run out of time and had to hope for the best. I had been reading like crazy on the internet the last few days, but it takes a while to absorb the information about an area and this was an ambitious leg.

Originally I had wanted to camp in Crete as it is Greece’s largest island and is suppose to be a great place to camp, but we had spent so much time in Santorini, I thought I was going to have to cut it out entirely which made me sad. We were also originally going to drive to Istanbul from northern Greece. Then when our Amorgas adventure got cut because of the ferry turbo problem, I realized that I could go this way to Turkey and add a few days of Crete and Rhodes to the journey.

I am really glad that it all worked out like this and we made that very quick decision to drop the fast ferry and go with the large ferry. It was the older GA ferry, so nothing glamorous, but also no worries. The great bonus was that it left very early in the morning and arrived in the morning. I had been agonizing on how to avoid the capital and largest city Iraklio which is also the main port and since it is noisy and polluted, most books suggest leaving it as fast as possible.

The fast ferry left at night and arrived too late at night to spend the first night anywhere else but Iraklio. I was much more interested in pretty Chania which is two or three hours drive away and the less toured areas of the island, but Knossis Palace was also a must see and it was very near Iraklio. By taking the slow ferry, we would arrive in the morning with plenty of time to spend a few days in Chania  in one place and then catch Knossis when we had to come back to Iraklio to take our night ferry to Rhodes. Since several problems were solved at once, I was not upset at all to be packing in the middle of the night.

Iraklio was crazy and we met a very unhelpful person at the bus station who tried to trick us out of some of our money. (This was a woman who worked there who at first could not give us our money back). They wanted to charge us fifty seven euros for a two hour bus ride!  Most of the people in Greece are great, but perhaps some of them have had an overdose of summer visitors.

Just like the crazy taxi driver in Athens, I am finding that my camera and camcorder, are my best weapons for solving injustice. Thinking quickly, I pointed it at her and asked again about our money with the video on. Suddenly, with the camera on her, she transformed into instant sweetness and we now could get our money back. Later we met some fellow travelers in line for the bus (from Argentina) and they said it was the most expensive bus they have ever heard of .

Mozart caught up on a little sleep on the bus (since we had gotten her up before dawn to catch our ferry) as we enjoyed the beauty of the island. It got more lush and mountainous as we headed towards Chania (pronounced “Hahn Yah”). As soon as we got to the old town, I instantly understood why I had read so many raves about it. What an enchanting  spot and it reminded me more of a village in Provence than a typical Greek island town!

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