The Great European Adventure

The Harrowing Ferry Adventure

Katie and I left Athens to take an off-season jaunt to the Greek island of Kea. Our couchsurfing host in Athens helped us choose Kea because it’s a short ferry ride away from the mainland (as opposed to Santorini) and it’s a lesser known but lovely island, which still had ferries going to it regularly.

By November, a lot of the smaller islands have limited ferry schedules, with boats departing every other day or once a week. Kea still had two ferries per day (most days) and we were hoping to make the 5:00 pm boat. At least, we were pretty sure it left at 5:00 pm… Even with a Native Greek speaker (our couchsurfing host) reading it for us, the information online was a little unclear. First, we had to take a 2-hour bus ride from Athens to Lavrio to get to the ferry and, after a struggle to find our bus, we were on our way.

Now, I’m trying something a little different on An Opportune Moment today because I wrote an account of our experience with the ferry immediately after it happened. So, although I’ve edited this story a bit to make it flow better, I want to share the original version with you.

The ferry between Kea and the mainland with really strange lighting.
The ferry between Kea and the mainland with really interesting lighting.

I feel like I just performed a death-defying feat.

We arrived in Lavrio around 4:35. Our couchsurfing host said she thought the ferry left at 5:00, but there was no exact time listed online.

We are clearly at a port. We can see the water and lots of boats. No idea which is ours. The bus driver stared straight ahead and said nothing to me when I asked where we could get the ferry to Kea.

Then he drove off.

Katie walked into a restaurant to ask where the ferry to Kea was while I waited impatiently outside. Luckily, a man there spoke fluent English, and told her it was “that blue one over there.”

Commence walking.


The sidewalk disappears, so we’re walking in the road now. We reach a gate, but it has a hefty lock and a chain wrapped around it. This must be wrong.

I’m exhausted. I’m frustrated. And then I’m in tears.

That was sudden.

Katie is saying it’s fine, let’s go back and ask again. So, we do. English-speaking guy says it’s the second gate and, also, the second blue boat that we need.

Um… why didn’t you tell us that the first time?!

Commence walking.


The sidewalk disappears.

Church bells chime from somewhere signaling it’s 5:00, although, that may or may not be the time our boat is leaving.

The second blue boat hasn’t moved yet.

The second gate is stupidly far away.

I tell Katie this with a smile, finally starting to see some of the humor in the situation. I’m trying to think of back up plans if the ferry pulls away without us on it, but I’m failing. It is the last ferry to Kea of the day. I think the first order of business will be to collapse on the ground crying.

Katie frowns at me and tells me to just keep walking. We do.

It looks like the boat might be pulling away, but it’s hard to tell. We’ve made it through the gate and I’ve arrived breathless at the ticket booth ahead of Katie.

(I have longer legs.)

I ask for 2 tickets to Kea, but the woman behind the counter says to head to the next booth because we might not have time. I say, “okay” not sure where this next booth is because all the nearby booths appear closed.

Katie catches up and we continue to book it toward the ferry. There is a car still trying to get on the boat. That’s a good sign right? The car backs up and off the ferry — apparently it is neither trying to get on the boat, nor a good sign.

I try to run, but I can’t with my hefty backpack. Neither can Katie, although, she fares slightly better than me.

We wave to the people on the ferry–a helpless plea to wait. Then the car speeds toward us, window rolled down. “Where are you going?” a middle aged Greek man asks us.

“Kea!” We tell him.

He drives back to the ferry. We are still walking as fast as our poor legs will carry us. It is a very large parking lot.

“Are you going to Kea?” I shout.

The people on the ferry reply, “Where are you going?”

“Kea!” Katie and I chorus.

The boat appears to be waiting?

We stop at the boarding ramp and tell them we’re going to Kea. They wave us onto the boat so they can pull in the ramp, and ask again where we’re going.

Again, we say “Kea.” How many times have we answered this question? At least our response seems to be acceptable this time.

Now the bad news.

“We didn’t have time to buy tickets, can we get them from you?”

A man asks if we have ID, and we nod, obviously, and apparently that’s good enough. He waves us in and on to the escalator, says, “Wait for me up there on the left.”

My calves are burning as we step onto the ferry’s escalator. Part of my mind registers that an escalator on a ship seems sort of fancy, but most of my thoughts are concerned with the aforementioned calves on fire.

There are four men at the top of the escalator — two behind the counter and the two who were at the ship’s boarding ramp when we arrived. They take down our passport info, ask where we’re from, and joke that the ferry costs 35€ per person, but it’s a special price for us — 20.60€ for both of us. We aren’t terribly amused.

They ask about hurricane Sandy when they hear we’re from the East Coast of the US.

As we go to sit down, we are sweating and our legs and shoulders hurt, and we can’t believe we made it, but I guess we did?

Katie doesn’t like boats, so, we have to hope the sea is calm.

Let me know what you think, both about our almost missing the ferry and about this style of story-telling.

I wrote this account down while we were on the ferry and, if you like it, maybe I’ll share some stories from India the same way. It’ll be like you’re there with me, but, hopefully, there will be less confusion and crying.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.


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