Merry Christmas to you all on this way too. And as it is, since we have removed ourselves from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and have found this year, especially due to Corona, to reduction and calm, I now also take the time to do a little review of 2020 .
All in all, we are really very satisfied with this year, which turned out completely different from what was planned. When we were in Panama and Paraguay in January and enjoyed the beginning of the move from Austria, we noticed the masks of the Chinese travelers for the first time and we laughed at them and couldn’t dream that the whole world would soon be doing it the same. Back from Central and South America it was about packing the last unpacked belongings and organizing a suitable vehicle for our move to Greece in the marina and on our boat. After some back and forth it was clear that a small truck from Mercedes has enough loading space and can be rented at a reasonable price as long as we bring the car back ourselves. A one-way lease would have cost just as much as a relocation transport – around 3,500 euros. So we decided on the “return empty” option, which seemed OK for us at a rental price of almost 1000 euros.
On February 11, 2020, the time had come: Everything we wanted to take with us was stowed on the loading area, the cat, our little girl, in the cat basket in the driver’s cab and Jutta next to it. Check the air in the tires once more, fill up the tank and off we went to Greece. We took the EU route because we hoped to travel easily within the EU with all our junk on the loading area – because of customs. So our journey startet in Eisenstadt crossing the Hungarian border and on through Romania, Bulgaria past Sofia and then near Thessaloniki to Greece and on to Preveza. The trip lasted about 25 hours, with a few breaks to close our eyes a few times and have a bite to eat. The plan to be barely bothered at the borders worked out quite well. Except for Greece, where we least expected it. When crossing from Bulgaria to Greece, we were asked to put our small truck on the scales with our 3.5 max total weight.
We were then told that our car would weigh 4 tons and that we would now have to pay a fine of 2000 euros. That after almost 21 hours of driving felt a little inappropriate. But I was smart enough not to mess with the border guards. On the contrary, I just opened the loading area, showed the officers that this is all private stuff and that this is all we have now that we want to get on a boat and sail around the world. In doing so, I effectively pulled my trouser bags out of my pants and explained that that in the car is all I have and that there is no money left for fines. Then the older of the two officers laughed and after a brief whisper he waved us on and we shouldn’t tell where we came across the border and continue carefully. I was in the cab in no time and off we went. After several days of intensive unloading and placing our boxes on deck under a tarpaulin, I made my way back alone in the empty Mercedes. This time trough North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. I thought “Empty is uncomplicated and shorter”. Far from it: I was able to learn to drive across the border with an empty truck than with a full one. Because at every border I had to show customs and officials that the border station in front had certified that the truck was empty when it crossed the border. And every further customs station had to confirm this for the next one. Fascinating. At least this official act did not cost anything, I was amazed at that too.
Anyway, after about 20 hours I arrived in Eisenstadt in the middle of the night and stayed one last time in our apartment, which we had rented to a dear friend from March on. The next day I brought the Mercedes back to Vienna and stayed one night with a friend to fly to Athens on February 19, 2020, and then took the bus to Preveza to see my girls. At around 7:00 p.m. we were united and I fell into my bunk.
That was the last opportunity to travel before the Corona restrictions, and we were expecting to get our ship afloat by May so that we can start a farewell party as planned. Thanks to Corona, nothing came of this and we discovered that it would take more time to adapt the ship to us and to renew one or the other place in the boat. For us, Corona was really something this year that helped us to let go and to live the natural flow of life without constantly putting pressure on ourselves to meet certain deadlines. If everything goes well, we will have overhauled and adapted our ship by the end of March 2021, so that we will only have to do the maintenance work or come up with desired conversion projects over the next few years. The experience with our Greek hosts was wonderful. Here in the marina there is a high degree of competence and the will to provide good and relatively cheap service. We have already made some friends in the boat community, even if many did not come to your ships this year. We are currently in an apartment in Preveza until January 11, 2021, as the marina is completely closed for holidays and we are enjoying this break from the ship with the cat. We are going on a city break, so to speak, and live above the roofs of Preveza in a nice, small, affordable 2-room-with-bathroom apartment. We should have a dovecote on the roof, because they can be heard all day. What fascinates us less than our cat.
We have done many projects and repairs on the ship this year, which I would like to tell you about another time. Due to the Corona situation, we didn’t allow ourselves any time off and exploring Greece, except for a very nice 3-day sailing trip with a rented 23 foot sailboat and friends from Austria who visited us spontaneously in the summer at times of relaxation and a Week, and then sailed with us to Paxos and Antipaxos. That was completely entáxei (alright) for us! We have not yet learned Greek, except for the expressions of courtesy when greeting and saying goodbye and a few terms for minimal communication. Everyone here speaks wonderful English and many even German.
Well about 50% of the Greeks live abroad and many have lived in Germany and Austria and are back again, especially the older ones. The rest live mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki and otherwise mainly the islands and coasts where tourism is possible are populated. Preveza, for example, is a city of 20,000 and is one of the larger. So everything is very relaxed and cozy here. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year in which it is easier to be together again.
Stay tuned until the next post!