So here’s a commentary about bus and boat travel on Crete.
Before Kathy and I left on this little jaunt there were a few people who suggested that travelling by bus would be an exercise in frustration and futility. I did mention in an earlier blog that we had no trouble, but we’ve decided to provide a bit more enlightenment.
While I’d travelled by Cretan buses 10 years ago with no problem, I was a bit worried the austerity measures may have contributed to a decline in the high level of service I’d previously experienced.
To anyone considering buses as a main mode of transportation while visiting Crete – do not be dissuaded by nay sayers!
They run on regular printed schedules.
They run precisely on time.
They are spacious, very well maintained and comfortable. They are in fact tour busses which put our worn Canadian Grey Hound buses to shame.
They are very affordable.
They are pristine clean!
If a person isn’t interested in sitting back and letting the scenery unfold before them with frequent stops to let passengers off and on – the bus may seem a bit slow. However we found the people watching interesting. Buses are a normal way of travel in Crete, so local people use them daily to go shopping, to work, to visit friends etc.
Ticket checkers are fierce. They are usually very officious young woman. If one doesn’t have their ticket immediately available for frequent and random ticket checks – beware! We did always have our tickets at the ready for the inspections!
The ticket checkers’ other job is to sniff out illegal food or drink consumption on the bus. One of the reasons buses are so clean is that no food or drink is permitted to be enjoyed while riding! We witnessed a woman being refused boarding until she got rid of her fancy drink. Another couple were firmly chastised for eating and made to put everything away. Again – Kathy and I obeyed the mandate and so didn’t get ourselves into trouble.
Another anomaly about buses includes drivers. They generally seemed very competent but somewhat blind to stop signs. Busses it would appear don’t stop at them. They sort of slow down but, I guess being the biggest beast in the pack, they feel no need to actually obey the signs. Also drivers, having their own lives, tend to carry on with cell phone conversations and texting while driving. We took a picture of one of our drivers in full text mode as our bus rolled along a twisty road. We are reasonably sure he did in fact keep one eye on the road, however he was steering with an elbow, both hands being occupied with the phone.
Now about the ferries.
Here the story is a tad different.
They do have published schedules. But the adherence to these seems somewhat random give or take a few hours. Now to be fair we were riding, or attempting to ride, the ferries during a period of very inclement weather. We found it frustrating however that the ferry company would not advise the ports of call that ferries were either cancelled or running late.
The ferries are also getting a bit long in the tooth and some resemble rust buckets.
That said, ferry travel in Crete is part of the experience and some of the places we visited are only acceptable by ferry (or foot).
Ferries in and around Crete come in carrying sizes.,we were on an overnight boat on our return to the mainland. It was quite large and accommodated,a great number of trucks and cars. Bigger than our biggest BC ferries. The smallest one was a passenger only boat, accommodating about thirty passenges in a small cabin on very crowded bench seats.
The ferries, large and small come sliding into their births sideways or backwards or forwards with alarming speed and very little fan fare. They are barely stopped when gangways are dropped with enormous clatters. Immediately, people, and vehicles disgorge in all directions with no obvious direction. Some of the turn-arounds are amazingly short.
Ferry food and overnight berths. Hmm. What to say?
Well many readers of this blog are familiar with BC ferry food. Not very good. Kathy and I were looking forward to our first class cabin for our over night trip from Heraklion Crete to the mainland. We boarded with a good hunger on. We were shown to our stateroom with great formality by a very finely dressed gentleman. The door opened and what did we see but bunk beds. Oh my. Kathy took the top. She could sit up straight. In the bottom I could not but the bottom was cooler being closer to the ground. The cabin was very hot and stuffy. There was no window. If this was first class we wondered what second class might be like.
We sorted ourselves out as quickly as possible and went up to the launge. Very nice with good service, we had a couple of drinks. Finally 9pm, the ferry pulled away from its berth and the a-la-cart dining room opened. Nice white table cloths, comfortable seating. Lovely setting. We ordered our meal.
We are still not sure why we ate it. It was outstandingly awful. There was fish – battered – old and dry – from a freezer for sure. There were carrots, soggy and also boiled from frozen. Then there was the broccoli. We know it was broccoli becasue it looked like broccoli. But it was so soggy I’m not sure how it held together. It had a baby food sort of texture when smushed with a fork. We assuaged our disappointment with a bottle of inferior but drinkable wine.
The moral of this tale is don’t eat on either busses or ferries when travelling in or around Crete!
Pictures coming shortly in the next blog.