Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The funny ferry ride

First things first - I am sitting happily in sunny Dubrovnik. I can hardly believe that this ferry ride actually happened. The German in me actually squirmed at the dysfunctionality of the entire organization. You will remember that I spent the better part of Saturday getting my ticket. This was partially because the Bari terminal is a place one needs to see to believe - upon arriving, the shiny new terminal is EMPTY on a Saturday afternoon. Not one agency appears open. After walking back and forth, we finally find a worker that is closing up and tells is that to buy tickets, we need to take a shuttle bus to the ticket offices 3 km further along the pier. But they only open at 4pm. Since it was 3.30, we waited 20 minutes to catch the bus and arrived at the offices on time - only to learn that they actually open at 6. Huh. So at a quarter to 6 we repeat the entire procedure and I am actually able to acquire a reservation ticket - please return tomorrow for your real ticket and check-in at 8pm. Because it would be too easy to automatically get the real one, right? So the next day, we go all the way to the other end of the harbor again, while we see our boat standing right there, in order to re-check-in. At this point general foreign traveller bonding ensues since literally everybody asks "wait, are you sure? But the boat is right heeeere!" no, no, everything needs to be in order. So we wait 20 minutes for the shuttle bus, take 10 minutes to get there and approximately 30 seconds to check in, and take the bus all the 3km back to the terminal where we started (and in which our travel agency had a shiny new ticket counter sitting there, unused, while everybody is trecking out west. Now we are allowed to queue for bording - but not according to the pretty destination-country-differentiated signs, of course, but merrily mixed altogether. I chat in line with two guys on their way back to Albania and an American couple that says "we haven't been on many ferries, but this one is definitely the most bizarre yet." I concur. After our passports are checked we find ourselves outside in the harbor again, now on the side of the fence where the ships are - but nobody tells us where to go next! I am in fits of giggles at this point, and decide with fellow travelers that the boat called "Dubrovnik" might have a good chance of getting us to the city. We board through the car access ramp. Inside is a huge pandemonium as cabin reservations are sorted out, with a guy with a huge Croatian accent yelling random names and worried-faced middle-aged couples hurrying forward when they think they hear their own names. Thank goodness I only have a deck ticket and don't have to worry about cabin reservations whatsoever. As I amble through the deck area dedicated to my fellow low-budget travelers, I nearly collide with a guy who has his hand clasped over his mouth and only gestures before running into the restroom - and we haven't even started yet! The whole deck seems to be divided in creepily empty cafe and self-service restaurants, in one of which inexplicably an American Western movie dubbed in Spanish is being shown. Thankfully at this point I meet 2 Kiwis and a German who raided the bar and with whom I bond during the 9 hours of travel (we also try to sleep curled up on the bar chairs, with varying success, I slept maybe two hours). On the other hand, we are up early enough to watch the sky change from deep blue to purple and red as the sun rises over the Croatian mainland towards which we are heading now - unforgettable! And after we get through the Croatian passport control (during which one of the three officers, when the line is most backed up, decides she needs a break and all passengers have to be divided among the remaining two counters), we are actually in Croatia! If only all travel were so adventurous...

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