Exploring the island of Zakynthos...
The ferries in Greece are exasperating.
Anyone that enjoys even the most imperceptible smidge of organization will have a difficult time fathoming the Greek ferry system. The ferry that goes to Zakynthos, anyway. There are no proper signs directing you to where one might line up... at all. I rarely like to compare things to 'how it is back home' or 'how I think it should be,' but... hmmmmmm...
I think we all can agree that most ferries encountered usually require you to enter into the terminal area and then you're required to drive through a designated ticket booth. You are then subsequently directed to a numbered lane, where you queue patiently, awaiting instruction for boarding. Simple enough. Sometimes you make the ferry... sometimes you have to wait for the next one... depending on where in the line you are located.
This was not the case for the ferry to Zakynthos.
I'd purchased a one-way ticket online and had seen at the bottom of the email, instructions to be there early in order to get my physical ticket.
Ok. I could do that!
There was a recognizable ticket booth upon arrival at Kyllini, but it was more like an elongated concession stand at a carnival. You had to park your vehicle, get out and stand in line to speak to someone at the window. Then... life became increasingly more difficult. It was a free for all at the pier, which was merely a colossal concrete lot dock... and quite frankly, a guessing game.
Of course, even if there had been proper signage, I wouldn't have understood any of it as. It's all Greek to me.
But… there are no signs.
And no one to direct you.
I drove in circles, desperate for anyone to point me in the proper direction.
I did roll down the window and ask a couple people, but everyone, for lack of a better expression, was in the same boat…
We all just put our vehicles into park and sat there, willy nilly, in absolutely no manner of alignment. When the ferry finally did arrive, all vehicles were aggressive in their move forward to board. The ferry crew squeezed us all in so tightly, I was convinced something would happen to the vehicle. I was confident the sides of my car would be destroyed.
I managed to arrive in the small town of Zakynthos in one piece though and set off to find the Yria Hotel. From my booking, I could vaguely remember it was located along the seafront... and that was all I had to go on. Without WIFI, data, a paper map or proper directions, it was a bit of a crap shoot. I figured I would drive the promenade until I found something remotely familiar...
Didn't take long.
I found it.
Once situated, I took off in search of a place to sit down, take a load off, enjoy some Greek grub and toast myself in celebration for finally making it to Zakynthos. It had been a long time coming! The toasting was good, but the meal was utter crap. At first, I figured they'd forgotten to add garlic into the tzatziki. Something just didn't taste right. Something was off.
I kept having another taste... trying to like it... or at least figure out what was wrong. Then it dawned on me... the yoghurt was rancid. Even the salad I ordered was bad. The cheese was off, the tomatoes were mushy... and mushy to the point of being almost rotten. Every single bite screamed “You’re going to be ill tomorrow.”
I stopped eating and went back to the hotel to rest my stomach. It was probably life's way of telling me I’d had too much tzatziki over the past few days... but who's to say?
I was fine the following morning. No repercussions whatsoever.
With a car and the freedom to do what I wanted, I decided to spend the day exploring. This delightful little island is famous for its picturesque coastline, scenic seascapes, white pebble beaches and the most stunning blue water I've ever seen. Seriously. It was a really great day. Perhaps slightly too much driving, but at least I saw almost everything the island had to offer... for the winter season. It was March, so nothing was open.
The trees were barren. The shops were closed. The streets were dead.
I had Zakynthos almost entirely to myself.
One of the most famous attractions is Navagio beach and the view of the 1980 shipwreck. Apparently this smuggler ship ran ashore during a storm. I pulled into the parking lot and I was the only one there, save for a little old man selling olive oil & oranges. Navagio beach is a secluded bay beach surrounded by impressive soaring white cliffs and water the colour of an electric milky tanzanite. Imagine that.
I have never seen blue this blue. Its radiant aqua is almost hypnotic... that's how intense it is. I guess it's like that due to the abnormal amount of sulphur in the water when the sea is rising.
Driving through Zakynthos was picturesque... but required much caution, as the roads were winding, narrow and could be quite dangerous in certain sections. There was something very bizarre I couldn't help but notice... if you’re heading in a particular direction to a specific attraction, there will be only ONE sign directing you.
This really became evident in Zakynthos, but yes, it’s all over the Peloponnese and I'm assuming the same in all of Greece. Once you’ve passed that sign, it’s over. NO more signs. There will be many lefts and many rights… but hardly another sign in sight. You’re left to your own devices. And when I mention devices, one rightfully must depend on a fully functioning phone with valid WIFI… and I think we’ve covered that I don’t have that. So there was a lot of exploring, shall we say?
A lot of left turns, right turns, u-turns, turning around, tuning in, tuning out, cursing, backtracking and more cursing. The amount of times I found myself at a dead end, circling round or winding my way down a dirt path through an olive grove. Ahhh… Greece.
The olive groves are interesting. I couldn’t help but wonder how many horror films take place in olive groves. If not, they should. The fully grown mature olive trees are like twisted variations of Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Quite haunting.
Greece is full of cats. There are cats everywhere. BUT - I've noticed there are an abnormal amount of dogs that like to lie in the middle of the road and sleep. AND people stare at you when you drive by. Maybe it's because it's off season and they're wondering who the heck is invading? It's a little unnerving. All of it.
After a day of island exploration, I was done... and happy I'd only booked to spend a couple days here. I had originally planned on almost one full week.
I would have been quite bored...
I think July/August, more time would be great to swim, stroll and cruise around, in and out of the famous blue caves... but March?
Two nights sufficed...
That is why it's so good to listen to the advice of locals and travellers.