I got to Athens around 7am and wandered around the Piraeus port looking for where to get a ticket to Chania, Crete, my next destination. I eventually found a ticket desk that was open but all the ferries for Chania were booked for the next day or two, but if I wanted, I could get a ferry at noon for Heraklion, and then get a bus to Chania from Heraklion. I settled on this and decided I would wander around Athens for a few hours before getting on the ferry.
I was told at the ticket desk that if I wanted to go to the center of Athens I should get off the metro at Omonia square. Once at Omonia square I realized that central Athens is not quite as picturesque as central Istanbul. I wandered around a while and eventually made my way to the area by the Acropolis and wandered around below the Acropolis (not enough time to walk through it) before getting back on the metro to Piraeus to get on the ferry for Heraklion.
All this while I’d been popping ibuprofen to keep my fever down and I was quite tired from the ferry ride the night before. I was quite dismayed on the ferry to realize that the deck seating this time around was worse than the deck seating before. This was during the heat of the day and most places I went to had no airflow. For the last hour of the ferry I found a corner inside where I could crouch for a while in the air conditioning. It was a long 7 hours and I was not feeling well at all.
Upon reaching Heraklion I tried to find the bus station. I went to the tourist information center where nobody was at the desk, but there were a few people at the ticket desks selling ferry tickets. I asked them where the bus station was but they just shook their heads and pointed to the tourist information desk and pretended that they were busy. So I looked at the map, which showed the bus station to the left of the fortress. The ferry dock was basically at the fortress so I went out and turned left. I walked about 45 minutes and people kept telling me to keep going and I’d see the bus station. I eventually was back at the ferry dock, having walked 45 minutes with my backpack on in a large circle. After asking a few people I realized that had I turned right out of the ferry dock, it was only about a two minute walk to the bus station.
I was just in time for the next hourly bus to Chania, so I boarded the bus and put my bag down below. I tried to read on the bus but after an hour felt so ill that I couldn’t focus on anything. I realized that I hadn’t taken any ibuprofen to keep my fever down for quite some time and it was coming back with great fury. I asked someone how long the bus would be, hoping for just a short journey, but Chania was still about two hours away. So I sat with my arms around my knees shivering, going in and out of feverish delirious slumber until we got to Chania. I borrowed a phone from someone at the bus station, called my friend whose house I was to stay at and shortly arrived at their place. I was glad to be able to rest for a few days to regain my health and relax.
The following week in Chania was very relaxing. I got rid of my symptoms except for a cough I was stuck with for weeks. I read Hunter S. Thompson’s Hells Angels and had nightmares about crashing Ducatis, then read The Remains of the Day on the beach and got horrifically sunburnt. I was basically very lazy for a week. For me, though, going through Greece wasn’t of great importance on my travels. Had it been, I would have made more time for Athens or Thessaloníki or made more of an effort to see more of Crete. As it was, though, I was just happy to spend time with friends (from teaching at the university in Istanbul and who will not be back next year) and to rest for while. After about a week of relaxing though, it was time to hit the road again and head north for a jaunt through Albania.
On my last night in Chania we went to a very nice fish dinner before I was dropped off at the ferry. I had another night ferry to Athens adventure. Once again, the deck was hot and stifling and uncomfortable. I was able to sleep a little bit and upon waking in Athens I looked around at the various backpackers and decided to ask the cutest ones where I might find a bus to Albania. They advised me to go to Monastriaki but to my disappointment did not express any interest in joining me. After riding the metro to Monastriaki and being redirected to another area, I found a street that was basically Albanian bus street: there were about a dozen different bus companies offering services to Albania. I found one that was leaving within the hour and boarded the bus to Gjiirokaster, famous as the town where Ismail Kadare, the famous writer, and Enver Hoxha, Albania’s dictator, were from.
I was excited to see Albania. I basically wanted to go to be able to tell stories about going to Albania. It seemed silly to me: who goes on holiday to Albania? I had been through all of the Balkans but hadn’t dipped down into Albania and everything I heard was that it was just rural, corrupt and strange. I also wanted to see some of Enver Hoxha’s 700,000 pillboxes built for the invasion that never came. I was looking forward to getting some good weird stories to tell.
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