Author Topic: The reason why it's been nearly 10 years since our last holiday! - PART 1  (Read 1171 times)

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Offline thecorfiot

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I originally published this true story in 2002 on one of our websites that no longer exists! Much will probably have changed but looking back on it, it was great fun. Remember that we were in our early fifties having left the UK that April.  We were still in 'Holiday mode'. Bob.

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to Kefalonia!
Now we know that you all think that life is all one big holiday for us. We have to report that it is not! That was until 7th August 2002! After three and a half months hard slog we had finally managed to get away for a short break from Corfu to Kefalonia, the largest of Greece's Ionian Islands.

I must confess that we would probably have waited until a little later in the year before visiting Kefalonia. However our friends, Mike and Cathy and their children Matthew and Emily, were on holiday there and so we decided that was an opportunity for a break combined with catching up on the gossip. As they regularly visit Kefalonia, their knowledge of the island was invaluable.

We thought that a brief report might interest you and hence this special newsletter. As you will see if you read on, even our holidays are hard work!

The Journey From Hell!
Everything started well for us. We got up on time. We (Tricia) had packed everything and I even managed to remember our E111 and tickets. Our accommodation had been confirmed and so all that remained was to arrive at Corfu's port on time, park the car and get onto the hydrofoil for our three hour journey to Kefalonia.

The port was reached without incident and we sneaked into the car park of the Ionian Hotel and found a space for the car. A good start.

At about 8.20am we could see a few people heading towards the hydrofoil and so we decided to join them. I presented the ticket and we were ushered onboard. Being early we had the pick of the seats and positioned ourselves near the entrance and had a table next to the window. So far, so good.

Departure was delayed until 9.20am by a couple of tour buses that turned up late, their passengers having booked a day-trip to visit the spectacular caves on Kefalonia. Now the more astute reader may be considering this last bit of detail a little excessive, even for my verbose style. Trust me it has a bearing on our account! Read on.

We're Off!
We finally got under way about twenty minutes late and the hydrofoil soon got up to speed. For the benefit of those that have not experienced this form of marine transport, we can report that they are quick - something like a 100 seater powerboat on Speed!

And Then ...
All was going well. The courier accompanying the daytrippers began his 'spiel' over the intercom outlining the finer points of Corfu's coastline. Then about ten minutes out of port, the vessel reduced speed - to about walking pace. Upon reflection, it was like the walking pace of a one legged man who had mislaid his artificial limb!

This occurrence was accompanied by a variety of ship's personnel striding purposefully backwards and forwards between the back of the vessel and the captain's bridge. Manfully, the courier continued his commentary. However, because of our lack of progress he was having to reduce his speed of delivery. To drag it out, he translated the commentary into German, then Italian and as our progress slowed further, I'm sure I detected Gudjarati, Punjabi and possibly a dialect of Celt. What a professional!

Finally, there was some whispering stage left of the courier, who paused his by now unintelligible commentary. He suddenly perked up and with a brave smile announced that the reason for the reduction in speed had been caused due to the captain's concern over a strange noise that was coming from one of the engines.

The crew were apparently checking things out and he was sure that we would be up to full speed in a few moments. We were not to worry! Those are not really the words to use in front of exciteable Greeks and Italians let alone English tourists who had heard all those dire stories of Greek ferries!

We're Off Again!
A lot of questions were fired at the courier in a variety of languages and in truth he did his best but was in severe danger of suffering a breakdown himself! He was saved by the sudden increase in speed to about half power.

I had memories of some of the old cars we had owned and imagined the captain going through the same procedures that I had previously. You hear a strange noise and so you slow right down. Then coast for a bit and see if it goes away. If nothing falls off (or in our case you don't sink) you ease the throttle open, very gently at first and as your confidence increases you wind things back up to full speed.

This was a worry to me as I recalled that in the past when I had adopted this course, something usually fell off and usually just when I thought that everything was OK!

All went well for an hour or so, during which time, cheese and ham baguettes were served with juice. Then we reduced speed again. Not so much this time but a reduction in speed never the less. The courier had given up on his commentary by now! The speed reduction was again accompanied by the frequent scurrying of a crew member from fore to aft. (Notice how quickly one can become adept at this nautical terminology!)

Was This The End?
At least we were making headway. 'Were' being the operative word. Then we stopped. We were, to paraphrase Monty Python, stationary, motionless, without movement! The engines were deceased! So we wallowed in the middle of the ocean. I reflected that I should have realised that something was wrong when an ordinary ferry overtook us. By the looks on the faces of some of our fellow passengers, the same thought had entered their heads.

The Englishman next to me merely slumped into deeper unconsciousness than he had been for the entire journey. To this day, we are unsure whether he suffered sea sickness or had exceeded his quota of 147 pints of lager for the previous day. (This apparently is the laid down quota for Englishmen under the age of 35 years whilst on continental holidays!)

The waves, which by now were hitting us broadside on, became bigger. Not enormous, you understand, but big enough to make it uncomfortable in a vessel that is designed to skim along above them.

After about thirty minutes had passed along with the designated arrival time in Kefalonia, the scurryings of the crew members were joined by both the courier and the female representative of Ionian Cruises. The fact that both had mobile phones clamped firmly to their heads was a little discouraging.

Was This Truly The End?
The engines restarted and we recommenced our journey at a snails pace. The courier took hold of the microphone and looking a little sheepish, he cleared his throat. I thought, "This is it! Abandon ship! Women and children first!" Had this have been the announcement, I am afraid that Mrs Papadopoulou opposite and her two sprogs stood no chance. I was one row from the exit and life raft and I was definitely going through before them! I suppose Tricia would have followed ...............

Blame The Police!
Fortunately, the announcement, when it came, was to the effect that the captain had shut one engine down on the grounds of safety based on the fact that nobody had a clue as to whether something was wrong with it. Because of this, the Port Police had ordered him to make for the nearest port which happened to be Vasilikis in Lefkada. I remembered thinking, "Why do they always blame the Police? Nothing changes."

Minor pandemonium broke out which was well handled by the courier. The rep from Ionian Cruises succeeded in winding up the Greek contingent to the point where she 'lost it' and stormed off to the front of the vessel for her own safety.

A Slight Change In Itinerary!
The daytrippers were informed that instead of visiting caves on Kefalonia, they were to be treated to a coach trip to Igoumanitsa and a further ferry trip back to Corfu. Most seemed happy with this change in itineracy. At this point we should point out for those that are not familiar with the region that the island of Lefkada is joined to the Greek mainland by a series of bridges spanning numerous islets.

Those of us that had one way tickets to Kefalonia were informed that we would continue our journey on the 3pm ferry from Lefkada to Kefalonia. Then sheepishly, the courier added that we would be landing at Fiskardo not Sami. Again for those not familiar with the geography of Kefalonia we should point out that Fiskardo is about 40 kilometres from Sami.

If the Greeks on board had earlier kicked up a fuss, the English proceeded to whip themselves into a frenzy! One individual was quite obnoxious and it was evident that he intended winding up everyone else. I mention this fact with some relief because up until that point I had been less than complimentary to the seamanship of the captain and crew (in private to Tricia!). This man was voicing all the thoughts that I had expressed earlier. Hearing them from this plonker, I was glad that I hadn't voiced them aloud!

Tricia, it must be said, was the image of a calm and steadfast English lady abroad. Does nothing phase her? Real stiff upper lip and all that! God knows what she would have been like at Rourke's Drift - probably serving tea and reloading the rifles between Zulu attacks most likely!

Eventually we landed at Vasilikis at about 1.30pm and I have to report that it is a very pleasant little port. It is quite picturesque and serves all kinds from those with the 10 million pound motor yachts, to ferry boats, to wind surfers. There are several tavernas, small supermarkets, apartments and rooms to rent and even places offering showers!

Having been informed that the ferry would arrive at 3pm and that a bus would take us from Fiskardo to Sami, Tricia and I retired to the Miramare Taverna for a spot of lunch. I had visions of them hearing of the plight of the stricken hydrofoil and frantically doubling the prices for the unexpected influx of clientele. I have to report that this was not the case. The prices were comparable with Corfu if not slightly cheaper and the food was excellent.

The 2nd Sea Voyage Of The Day
Our ferry, the 'Captain Aristides', docked, unloaded and loaded in 'double-quick' time. We were on our way by 3.20pm for our hour or so journey to Fiskardo. The crossing was thankfully uneventful save for the occasional car alarm going off when we hit a large wave. (What kind of plonker thinks that someone will nick his car onboard a ferry?)

Again a quick digression for the uninitiated.....
Kefalonia was stricken by a catastrophic earthquake in 1953. Everywhere except Fiskardo was flattened. Because of this, everything that the tourist sees is relatively modern except in Fiskardo. Our immediate impressions of Fiskardo is that it is particularly pretty and unfortunately circumstances dictated that we had no time to explore it. This is a shortcoming that we will rectify one day.

It is strange for us to see Greek villages set out like English villages with straight roads having footpaths and houses on both sides of the road. We can only assume that this is where the inhabitants left the island to make their lives in foreign countries only to return and bring ideas back with them. Greeks always seem to return to their homeland.

Back to the story ...... Fiskardo
Upon landing in Fiskardo, there was no sign of any representative of the ferry company. Our fellow passengers were milling around all looking in vain for the bus. Some decided to cut their losses and headed for a nearby port side Taverna. This was ultimately their undoing as they were eventually left behind!

I recalled seeing some buses up a hill as we were docking. We also saw some of our fellow passengers from the hydrofoil heading that way, including the obnoxious man who had previously tried to wind everyone up. He was packing a rucksack the size of a mountain and huffing and puffing like a cart horse.

The English Abroad!
We got to the first bus immediately behind 'Mr Obnoxious'. Tricia and I immediately found out from the driver that this was indeed the bus laid on for us. 'Mr Obnoxious' then appeared and placing his face about a foot from the driver's bellowed very slowly and loudly, "Do .. You .. Speak .. English?" The poor driver was wrong footed and hastily replied that he did and that this was the bus to take us to Sami. This seemed to appease 'Mr Obnoxious' who hurled his rucksack into the luggage compartment and stormed off to find a seat.

Because of this man's performance, I have vowed to tell all our Greek friends involved in tourism that if faced with a similar situation, they are to pull themselves up to their full height (usually about 5'7") and bellow back, "Do .. You .. Speak .. Greek?" in impeccable English!

People like 'Mr Obnoxious' are a total embarrassment and I only wish that I had had the presence of mind to bellow "Milate .. Eleniki!" at him ... probably accompanied with the word "Malakas" thrown in for good measure. This is, of course spelled phonetically as none of you will have Greek fonts installed and if you don't know what the last word means ... good!

The Bus Journey
Under different circumstances, the bus journey would have been well worth paying for. Our journey followed the west coast of the island as far as Mirtos Bay where we turned inland towards Sami on the other side of the island.

The coastline is absolutely stunning and the beaches are sandy in the main. The water is quite the bluest that you will see anywhere and made even more beautiful by a milky whiteness around the shores.

The tale continues with Part 2.....
« Last Edit: February 13, 2012, 11:30:16 PM by thecorfiot »
Grammar lesson: "I before E except after Old MacDonald had a farm!"

Offline Steve

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Great story Bob,


I don't know how the Greeks and English get on so well?

Yes i do! Temparence (Sophrosyne) in Greek and Tolerance do mix.

Steve,  8)
The "Corfu Villages Printed Book" is now available as the Corfu villages website. Price 9.95 it contains 60 stunning pages in high gloss featuring 50 villages with text and unseen photographs. All money raised will go to the Corfu charities and the less fortunate on the Island.


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