As we left Bosnia and Herzegovina and headed back into the lower part of Croatia, we began a period of several travel days. We were excited to see Dubrovnik, but with the high prices of the summer season in the area ($$$), we opted to make it a shorter visit on our way down to Greece.
Only a couple countries stood in the way between us and our Greek adventure. However, we quickly learned that no matter which way we chose to travel to Greece from Croatia (rental car, bus, train), there were several layovers or complications we would have to contend with. After researching and reading others blogs (go figure!) we found that many people choose to go by ferry from Croatia to Italy, then Italy to Greece. We chose to do the same, and below is the path we took, cities we encountered, and a few anecdotes from our travel days along the way.
Many people who travel through Croatia say that Dubrovnik was their favorite city. So, even with limited time we had to check it out. We mostly walked through the city and people watched, but we also found time for a couple of the major attractions.
- City Wall – Dubrovnik’s old town is ringed by an old defensive wall. In its glory days, the wall served its intended purpose and played a role in a number of battles over the ages. Today the wall is primarily a tourist attraction and visitors can buy tickets to go up and walk around it in its entirety. We spent about an hour and a half walking the wall and getting some great panoramic shots of the city. This was a sweaty endeavor as shade was scarce and temperatures hovered around the mid 90s. But then again, nothing seems quite as hot after our visit to Mostar.
- Accommodations in Dubrovnik – Our “guest house” in Dubrovnik was certainly….interesting. It was less like a guest house, and more like staying with very quirky relatives. The room was basically just an extra bedroom in a private residence which we also shared with three generations of the owners family. This isn’t the first time that this happened to us, but it was the first time that we were given very little privacy, and dealt with lots of oddities as the family went about their daily routine. All-in-all we tried to keep a good sense of humor and chalked it up to just another travel adventure.
- Dubrovnik Beaches – Our ferry to Italy did not leave until the evening, so we decided to spend the majority of our last day relaxing at the beach. The Aegean Sea was a beautiful sapphire blue, and was relatively calm the day we visited and provided great scenery before our back-to-back nights on ferries.
Ferry Number One
We crossed the Adriatic Sea between Croatia and Italy on the first leg of our travel to Greece. The over night ship definitely hit some rocky waters, but we made it there in one piece! For this first ferry we booked reclining chairs that are akin to airline seats and shared a room with a few hundred other people. These chairs allowed us to at least grab a few hours of sleep that night.
We arrived in Bari, Italy early the next morning, and had the day to explore before we caught the next ferry that night. Unfortunately, for such a big port we did not find a place to store our luggage, so we had to carry it around the town with us. While Bari certainly is not a top tourist destination, it did give a brief, but authentic taste of Italy to Andy who has never been. We enjoyed seeing the comically narrow streets (which cars still traverse), the tiny local restaurants selling all sorts of delicious food, the cracked facades and worn cobble stone streets, and many other quirks that make Italy, Italy. We also enjoyed people watching from the stairs of a local cathedral for an hour or so. Andy quickly learned that, yes, they do kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting and that, as he put it, Italian appears to be 50% sign language and 50% verbal (they are VERY animated when they speak).
Ferry Number Two
Whats better than taking one over night ferry in one day? Taking two overnight ferries in two days!
The ferry itself was nice enough, picture a small cruise ship complete with dining halls, lounge seats, a small casino, and plenty of outside catwalks to get some fresh air. But that is where the niceties stop and the freak show began for us. This is mainly due to the fact that the the reclining chairs on this ship were sold out by the time we booked, so we purchased ‘deck’ tickets. We knew that this night would not be pleasant, but traveling long term means that you know these nights will happen sometimes.
Deck seating does not come with an assigned seat, but rather includes open access to all the aforementioned areas of the ship. From the moment they start boarding, the deck seating areas turn into a ravenous free for all as people frantically try to claim prime seating real estate by staking out their own personal area. It is a VERY territorial game. Once a seat is claimed, do not count on the person leaving for the duration of the trip.
The ship starts boarding about 2 hours before departure, and all seats seemed to be claimed within the first 30 minutes or so. Late arrivals wore a bewildered expression as they wandered the ship hopelessly searching for an empty seat, most of them ended up in the corridors or siting on the metal catwalks.
As night settled in, all manner of makeshift bedding came out and we truly get to see who is a seasoned traveler of the seas, and who is not. The top end of this spectrum includes those who brought fully inflatable air mattresses. The mid range includes yoga mats, inflatable camping mats, as well as the inflatable floats you would see in a pool. Lastly there are those who are wholly unequipped to face the night and must suffer the hard wood floor (that was us). However, the king of the boat as we dubbed him, was one man who brought an entire tent to camp in…he was truly living the dream.
The lounge area we camped out in did not have great air conditioning either, so we spent the night in a constant light sweat as well. The following morning we woke up a little achy, a lot smelly, but really excited to finally be in Greece!
Buses within Greece
We made it to Greece! However, the city which we arrived (Igoumenitsa) is mostly just a port town and not a major attraction. This meant that we still had about 6 hours of connecting buses before our transit was complete. Greek buses are run by each individual state in Greece (as far as we can tell), which means you will usually need to take more than one bus if you are crossing through a couple Greek states to get to your final destination. At the end of the day we crossed over the last mountain pass and saw Meteora, Greece… our first stop in our Greek adventure! We could not be any happier after 3 days and 2 nights without a bed or shower.