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Ferry tales - Crossing the Black Sea on a cargo boat

Ferry facing Tschornomorsk in Ucraine. 

There is real beauty in ferry rides: Sunrises over the ocean are stunning. And looking across the wide waters can be both impressive and relaxing.

But ferry rides also offer a great deal of social awkwardness. I do love awkwardness, so of course, I do also love ferry rides.

Getting to and fro in Istanbul by ferry. 
"Sleepzone" on the Dublin ferry. 

Absurd moments between two worlds 

There is the moment when you enter the ferry from Calais to Dover for the first time in your life. You sort of look down on these rude people who dare to use the seatings in the restaurant as a kind of camping area. Everyone is lying down for a good night's sleep on the benches that - you believe - were made for sitting on a table whilst consuming food.

Looking out of the window on my way to Patras. 
And there is the moment when you get on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry at 3 o'clock in the night and you do the exact same thing: "This lady here looks like a reasonable person. So I will just sleep next to her on that bloody bench!" 

There is the giant lake of children's vomit that flows together on a rough trip to Scilly.

The ferry from Cornwall to Scilly. Looks like a cruise in the Carribean, but can be quite revolting as well. 

Not to mention when you fight the very same symptoms because the Atlantic decides to  be a bitch after a rough night out in the pub. Sitting in a tiny boat called "The happy hooker" one sailor suggests, grinning: "You know what sailors do against sea sickness? Kissing and cuddling!"

And then the scene when everybody has to get off the bus in Holyhead harbour, take all their luggage out of the boot, and walk through a building in order to present the luggage to the customs control. However, at 2 am they just cannot be bothered to do anything, so you bring the luggage back on the very same bus and continue your journey to the ferry.

The camper van on its way to Greece. 

And there is your first longer ferry ride ever: 30 hours from Venice to Patras. Sleeping in your cabin is not possible because of all the announcements they do for the horrible food over the speakers.

This lovely view of Ancona could be seen for four hours when we waited for the passengers to board and unboard. 

So you find yourself in the bar, endlessly bored, together with a school class that is dressed up for a fun night out anyway. But there is nothing to do except for gambling machines and booze. So you are crossing the Mediterranian, feeling like somewhere in the middle of everything: Here and there, now and then.

And in this big emptiness, suddenly an entertainer enters the stage and plays a very bad version of "Walk on the wild side" accompanied by some midi files on the keyboard.

Nowhere else in the world will you be able to experience the absurdness of human existence as much as on a ferry boat! 

Generally, long ferry trips feel like a cheaper version of a cruise. 

Sunrise in Albania, picture taken from the Venice to Patras ferry. 

Crossing the Black Sea 

That was also true for the cargo boat trip from Odessa in Ucraine to Batumi in Georgia.

Instead of driving the 2000 km from Romania via Turkey to Georgia, we took the ferry. The journey itself took 44 hours. However, disembarking and passport controls added another five hours in each harbour.

The passenger office in Odessa was extremely helpful. The friendly service agent gave us a detailed description of the payment, procedures on board, and the directions to the harbour.

Cabin with bunk beds. 
Lovely view out of the cabin. 

In Odessa, tourists who came with their own vehicle had to wait a long time in the sun. I guess, we could have saved some time, if we had not declined one of the officers' claim for ten Euros that he apparantly needed very urgently for a Coffee. My first ever bribe experience!


Lorries on the ferry to Batumi. 

The food on board was fresher and better than everything I had ever eaten on a ferry. However, the cuisine was not quite a vegetarian's paradise. So in this case, preparing your own sandwiches turned out to be a very useful German habit.

Food on board: Not 100% suited for a vegetarian, but fresh and tasty. 

On board were mostly lorry drivers but also 16 tourists - a nice crowd as it turned out. There was a motorcyclist planning a tour through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan on his own, and a nice German couple.

And there were two pensioners who travelled the world. One of them, an US American, had a slight resemblance to Donald Trump. Despite my expectations he had a bunch of experiences and a vast knowledge on history and politics to share.

Easy to get lost on the ship. 

In the first night the tourist crowd mixed with the trucker crowd. A few Vodka shots and very basic knowledge in Russian and Turkish on our behalf was a kind of fertiliser for human connection.

The longer the night, the more often poor Natalia who spoke both English and Russian was commanded to translate ("Nataliaaaaaa!") So we heard lots of kind words about friendships beyound borders and the fact that people can connect - no matter what their governments may quarrel about.

Ferry ferry lady.

In the end, we were all invited to Azerbaijan by one of the truckers and to the sailing boat of Donald Trump.

The sea was a bit rough on the next day. The motorcyclist had already "fed the fish" as he put it. After breakfast, I started to feel very miserable as well. Luckily, the reception gave out tablets against seasickness. Everyone who took them - including me - actually slept until dinner was announced.

I love going by boat if the sea is that calm. Here was my favourite spot to watch the sea. 

I felt pretty suspicious because after my second tablet, the rest of the evening disappeared in a blur and I felt quite drowsy until the next afternoon. Back on land I found out that we had actually taken Promethazine, a strongly sedative neuroleptic. I guess that was an applied course in psychopharmacology!

Sunset in Batumi. 

If you would like to get a cruise feeling for less money, and if you have some time, I highly recommend such ferry adventures. But never accept pharmaceuticals wrapped in a tissue and provided by the cleaning lady. 

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