You may never have to get from Zakynthos, the southernmost of Greece’s Ionian Islands, to Corfu, the northernmost of those islands, in a single day. But I had to do just that last week while on assignment; the two islands were part of a single story. Flying was not an option, and renting a one-way car involved an astronomical drop charge.
Getting information on-line about public transportation from Zakynthos to Corfuwas nearly impossible. The ferry sites were unclear. Bus information was even murkier.
A clerk at the Zakynthos bus terminal had no specific information but assured me I could get to Corfu in a single day. It seemed to make sense and gave me hope.
The bus that left the Zakynthos terminal at 8:30 a.m. brought my husband and me to the ferry; the ferry ride to Kilini was smooth enough, and we continued on the bus to Patra. It was nearly noon when we reached Patra and discovered that the bus (which was continuing to Athens) was dropping us ten long blocks from the bus terminal.
When we finally got there—a building that reminded me of Greyhound terminals in the southern United States in the early 1960s—we were in for a much bigger surprise. Though there are several ferries daily from Igoumenitsa to Corfu, the only bus to Igoumenitsa would be at 10:15 p.m. Arrival in Corfu would be at 4:30 a.m. Not what we had planned at all. There is no train service to Igoumenitsa.
But the helpful clerk at the bus terminal suggested another option: a ferry directly from Patra to Corfu. Another ten-block walk brought us to a brand-new ferry terminal where we learned that yes, there was a direct ferry and it would be leaving at … midnight. Earliest boarding was at 9 p.m. and we would arrive in Corfu at 7 a.m.
Returning to the bus terminal was so unappealing, we decided to stay put. At least the ferry terminal had air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a café, and shops.
The ferry itself, the Europa Palace, was quite luxurious, but in the cheaper section, which had airplane-style seats, it looked as though we had unwittingly stumbled on an international convention of the homeless. Young people from many countries were stretched out on the floor in sleeping bags, their heads tucked inside or covered with jackets.
The lone consolation was meeting a very bright student from Hong Kong who had just graduated from a university in Holland and planned to spend the coming year as a volunteer teacher in a village in rural China. He said he hoped to change a child’s life, just as one of his teachers had changed his.
This Zakynthos-to-Corfu story has a happy ending: Corfu more than made up for the difficulties getting there. More about that soon.
Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No portion of this text may be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Esther Hecht.