Trolling the Docks of Igoumenitsa
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.
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
The ferry arrives...
The ferry loads...