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April 25, 2007

Trolling the Docks of Igoumenitsa

Waitingforferry_80days
Still waiting for their ship to come in

When it comes to long drives, Greece would seem to be a country of happy endings. Like the drive to Papingo, the drive to the port town of Igoumenitsa climaxes with a soul-stirring views. This is due to the fact that Igoumenitsa is a port town, which is exactly the reason that most Greek people will tell you not to visit the place. If you tell them there's no time to visit Iouannina because you have to make a ferry in Igoumenitsa, they will say, "You must come back, then." If you ask them if Igoumenitsa is a nice town, they will say no. If you ask them why, you'll get the following answer: "It's a port town."

Odd, then, that the most striking thing about Igoumenitsa should turn out to be the port. The first view of it hits you on the highway as you approach down a long and high-speed decline into town. As you scan the road ahead, registering median, lane markers, the car passing to your left, a patch of shimmering water steals your attention. There are islands in the view, too, and for whatever reason-probably something to do with brain chemistry--it's very difficult to steal your eyes away from islands floating together in blue water. This is the Ionian Sea.

Fisherman_80days
No fly-fishing rod required

The view stays this way right until port because the view is the port. Igoumenitsa is one big natural harbor--a lagoon, practically--and the city spends its days looking out onto a gigantic pool of calm, waiting for the next big ship to arrive. The ships are almost all ferries, and they steam in from exotic ports of call: Bari, Brindisi, Corfu, Patra, Venice. On the dock, people stand and wait. A snake of trucks pours in and the trucks park in diagonal lines, like flanks of soldiers preparing for battle. The truckers get out and join the other passengers, which only adds to the building sense of anticipation.

A ferry appears on the horizon. It chugs into the harbor, makes a large swooping turn and backs its rear end up to the dock. Lashed by a set of extremely thick lines to dry land, the ferry lowers its enormous steel ramps and a cargo of passengers and trucks stuffed with goods is disgorged. As soon as it is empty, the ship sucks in a fresh load, without time to catch its breath. It takes only minutes for the people to get on board, but the trucks lurch and honk for an hour.

All the while, the ferry keeps its propellers spinning to keep tension on the lines, and the swirl of water attracts anchovies, which attract predatory fish, which attract fishermen. The fishermen stand on the dock, throwing in lures attached to spools line. The lures sit in the current, wiggling, and eventually a fish will hit. The fisherman pulls the fish in, a small crowd gathers to watch it flop to death on the concrete pier, and then the fisherman goes back to fishing. The ferry leaves, the dock stands empty, and the process starts again. It's far more thrilling than any airport, and if you should happen to find yourself in northern Greece, I recommend a visit.

Posted at N39 29.352 E20 15.519

Ferryarrives_80days
The ferry arrives...

Loading_ferry_80days
The ferry loads...

Ferrydeparts_80days
Next stop...Italy

Comments

Hey there--I've really been enjoying reading about your travels. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure with us!

I have a quick question: you talked about the success of other fishermen, but did you indulge in that pasttime as well?

Finally, you've reached a place outside the USA that I've been too.

My partner and I arrived in Igoumenitsa from Brindisi. We spent the night aboard in a cabin as part of Eurailpass (we had to pay a surcharge though). I wrote about it on my website at http://www.paulcilwa.com/Expeditions/Europe/Europe1999/Greece/index.htm.

First - I love your blog! I like waiting a few days between readings so I can read a bunch at once and experience (vicariously) the rush of travel.

I noticed that lately you've stopped prefixing your posts with "Day ##". Could you please start doing that again? For me it adds to the 80 Days Excitement. Although you are certainly far enough along that I don't doubt you'll make it. :-)

Thanks again for the wonderful posts! I hope at some point there will be more photos available in a gallery or something. I'm sure you are taking more than 3 photos a day!

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