Late in the afternoon, when the last sun beams were beginning to fade in the horizon, we were anxiously waiting in the immense Piraeus port, surrounded by a constant fuzz and crowds of tourists. Our ferry was of colossal dimensions, with several levels, destined for transporting vehicles, cargo, and passengers. After all cars and buses crept on the first level, it was finally time for the travelers to embark. And so we boarded on one of the most modern ferryboats in Europe, held by Minoan Lines. It was already nighttime when we stepped on the decks. We immediately headed towards the reception and checked into our four persons cabin, with bunk beds and bathroom.
We were nervously waiting for our ship to set sail and for the romantic ferry ride ahead, between the Piraeus port city and the Heraklion port in Crete. But the ancient city was just another quick stop on our way, as we were continuing our trip towards Crete the same day. Greece holds a well-developed network of ferryboats which connect all its small islands to the mainland. Opening up to the Saronic Gulf, Piraeus is the largest port city in Greece and one of the most important commercial ports of the Mediterranean. To make the most of our stay here, and make sure jet lag wouldn’t ruin our first days in Greece, JetLagFX came quite in handy.
Back on the ferryboat, everything around us seemed torn out from the pages of some science fiction book. Two words can perfectly characterize it all: modern and glamorous. The personnel greeted us with a smile. After leaving our luggage in our cabin, we set off exploring all the decks of the enormous ship. We visited saloons where passengers who did not make reservations for a cabin could sleep on the couches. We passed by luxurious restaurants, fast-foods, cafes, water pools, discos, and souvenir shops. The modern ferryboat was a small floating city which provided all commodities for a 12 hour ride over the Mediterranean.
We waited for the restaurants to open, where a wide variety of traditional dishes waited to be tasted and savored. When looking at the menu we realized we were facing a great challenge. With so many delicacies at our disposal, it was virtually impossible to decide upon a single dish. We finally ordered Greek salad, fish, and baklava for dessert. Bellies full, we continued our investigations throughout the immense vessel.
It was already nighttime when we heard the captain giving order to set sail. We heard the engines start and felt the ship moving. It was after ten o’clock and we were sitting on a bench on the decks and watched as Piraeus port was moving farther and farther away from us. It was a magic moment which I relieve as I write these very words. As we moved away from the mainland, a spectacle of lights was unwinding before our eyes. Piraeus and the neighboring islands shone life in the middle of the night. Words are too poor to reproduce this wonderful image. It was after midnight that we finally left the bench and retired to our cabin. We had a long day ahead of us.
The ferry traveled the 300 km between Piraeus and Heraklion in less than eight hours. With sleepy eyes, we woke up the next morning approaching Crete. We set off toward the Lasithi plateau towards our first objective, the Cave of Zeus. The ferry ride across the Mediterranean between the mainland and the small exotic islands is a must do, a unique experience and an ineffaceable souvenir from Greece.