From Corfu to Athens to the US of A (of all my euro travel stories, this might be the most ridiculous)

Monday, July 2, 2012

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My last day in Corfu was spent just where it should have been: on the beach.  At 10:00 that night, I was scheduled to board a bus to the airport so that I could catch a midnight flight to Athens, sleep at the airport, and then board an 8:00 am flight outta there the following morning to…. America!  When I checked out of my hostel that night, I made sure to confirm that the bus departed Corfu at 10:00 and arrived at the airport at 10:40.   The hostel receptionist confirmed all of these things, so I packed my bags, a little sad to leave beautiful Greece (and all of Europe!) behind, but anxious to get home and see family and friends.

When 10:00 rolled around (it was still light outside!), the bus pulled up.  I tossed my ginormous backpack in the luggage compartment below and climbed aboard.  I asked the driver (in English, as I do not speak a lick of Greek), “I’m going to the airport.  This bus goes to the airport, right?”.  He stared blankly at me and said nothing.  I asked again, “Does this go to the airport?”, to which he replied “Ah, port, ya”.  I shrugged, thinking “Good enough!” and took my seat. 

There weren’t many people on the bus, and the number of fellow passengers dwindled with every stop the driver made along the way.  As the bus approached each stop, I made sure to look left and right to ensure that I was not missing the airport.  I felt confident that we had not passed it, yet at 10:40, as we pulled up to what appeared to be a harbor on the water, I became very confused and doubtful when the driver announced with a thick accent, “Last stop!”.  I glanced around; there was one other passenger on board beside me – a scrawny teenage boy who looked all of 15 years in age.  I frantically asked him if he spoke English and – thank the Lord – he did.  “Does this bus not go to the airport?!”, I inquired in a panic.  He spoke to the driver in Greek, and then turned to me and said, “It does, but you have to tell the driver when you board.  You have to let him know you need to go to the airport”.  I tried not to shout as I explained to him, “That’s what I did!  I asked him if it went to the airport!  He told me it did!”  The boy turned again and spoke to the driver, who looked at me half-annoyed, half-embarrassed, before answering the question.  The boy turned to met yet again and reported back, “He thought you meant port; the place where boats come and go”.  At this point, I wanted to laugh, scream, cry, and die all at the same time.  The driver continued speaking to the boy, who then translated to me, “He says, in the future, you need to make a hand gesture and an airplane noise when you tell him ‘airport’.  Otherwise, he does not know if you mean ‘airport’ or ‘port’.” 

I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face upon hearing that statement.  It was April Ludgate at her finest.

I then asked the boy – this young, unsuspecting adolescent who had somehow involuntarily become my translator and saving grace – if the driver could take me to the airport.  I explained that I absolutely had to catch a flight and that I could not get there from the port; as I did not have a clue as to where I was, and there didn’t seem to be a taxi in sight, not to mention it was now pitch-black outside and I did not feel safe walking.  He graciously asked the driver, before answering me, “No.  He says this is the end of his route.  He cannot go to the airport now.  It is too late.”

At this point, the bus driver stepped off the bus, grabbed my bag from the luggage compartment below, and tossed it on the sidewalk.  In other words, I was not welcome here anymore.

I stepped off the bus and asked the boy if I could call a taxi.  He paused, thought about it, and then said, “No.  It would take too long.  You’d miss your flight…. Is your backpack the only thing you have with you?”.  I nodded and he said, “Okay.  Climb on.  I’ll take you myself”.  Confused, I watched my new little friend jog over to a fence, along which several Vespas were parked, sit down on one, turn it on, and drive it right back to me.  I paused for the briefest of moments and thought to myself, “Climbing aboard an unknown male’s Vespa in a foreign country is not the smartest idea.  This could end badly.”, before realizing that this kid, who probably weighed 90 lbs. soaking wet, not only posed no real physical threat to me, but was my only hope of getting to the airport on time.  If I missed my flight to Athens, I’d most likely miss my flight home to the States and that’d be a real pickle.  Once I’d worked through that initial apprehension, I climbed on the Vespa, hugged the Justin-Bieber-size-child around the waist, and away we zoomed from that (stupid, stupid, stupid) port.  The wind whooshed by – we were in the city now – and I couldn’t help but laugh.  That laughter turned into a fit of hysterics, though I don’t think “my driver” could hear it over the road noise.  It was just one of those moments where you stop and think:  I am riding around on a Vespa in the middle of Greece with someone I met less than 10 minutes ago; what in the world is going on?!  I mean, we’ve all been in that situation at one time or another, right?

When we pulled up to the airport, I reached into my wallet and grabbed every Euro I could find.  He shook his head and said, “No.  Go!  You’ll miss your flight”.  I asked, “Are you sure?”.  He nodded and put his helmet back on.  I called,“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as I ran inside to check in for my flight. 

Sidenote:  it might help, for visualization purposes, for you to realize I was wearing my swimsuit, a cover-up, and TOMS throughout this entire debacle.

The  Corfu airport is quite small, so it took me about 3 minutes to check in for my flight and find my gate.  It was 11:00 then and I had an hour to kill before boarding my flight.  Just past my gate, I bought half a dozen Nutella-filled croissants at an airport shop, planning to eat one now, and then another for breakfast, and then bring the rest home to my family the next day.

All 6 croissants were gone before I boarded my flight at midnight.  Sorry, family….  Spontaneous Vespa rides really take a lot out of you; what can I say?

Pretzel Thief said...

Okay, this?

Greatest story EVER.

No joke. Thank you for making me piss myself laughing, tee hee!

Here was one of the many parts that had me chortling: "'[...]you need to make a hand gesture and an airplane noise when you tell him "airport". Otherwise, he does not know if you mean "airport" or "port".' I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face upon hearing that statement."


Also, it's skinny and generous boys like these that restore one's faith in humanity.

Finally, I wish I had a hilarious anecdote like this that I could whip out as an icebreaker. I have one where Yogi and I miiiiight have been very nearly murdered at a 17th century fortress but that being useful as an icebreaker?

Not so much.

Plus it's just scary and creepy and shiver-inducing.

(Hey, maybe I'll blog about it one day, heh heh.)

Niken said...

you know that the worst events make great stories, haha.

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh. How amazing is this story. I wish instead of a justin bieber sized man he was actually a dashing greek man with a killer smile and big muscles, but really that's only because I've watched too many romcoms involving vespas.



Unknown said...

who knew skinny vespa riding boys were superheroes?

Rachel said...

Amazing. Hilarious. It reminds me of the time I was trying to catch the bus from Basel to Kandern on a Sunday night and got kicked off the bus in another random town because only every other bus went all the way to Kandern. It was within my first few months so I didn't have the German to properly ask, though I did look straight at the bus driver and ask, "KANDERN?" To which he replied, "Ja, Kandern, ja." I ended up having to beg some ladies in a bakery to use their phone to call a friend, and then they charged me a boatload of Swiss francs to make the call.

kim @ a positive peace said...

hahaha amazing!! isn't it crazy how things work out? like, imagine if that kid hadn't been there?! so fun & it makes such a great story!!

Sarah Pete said...

Good grief! What a story! I don't know how you kept from screaming. WOW. That bus driver . . . what a piece of work . . . haha. Thank goodness for you 90 lb savior on a Vespa! Too cute!

Kim said...

Great story! You needed this kid to balance out the thieves.

Alex, Speaking Denglish said...

yep that is defintiely the greatest travel story ever - late, greece, vespa dude

k said...

this stressed me out!

Amber Nicole said...

Oh my gosh! You held it together way better than I would have. I would have broken down crying and freaking out!
Thank goodness for that little 90lb boy! How nice to know that good people still do exist! I'm glad you made it on time!
Quite an adventure getting there, but I'm glad you made it.
I'd have eaten all 6 of them as well!

Three said...

AMAZING this!!!! Totally following your blog.

Bridget said...

OMG. i would've cried. and laughed later but cried too. justin bieber size child waist - HA. and you have to make a motion of a plane for him to know the diff between port and airport?! COME ON.

oh, to speak many languages. what a wonderful thing that would be...

awesome story, jenni.

K said...

such a fantastic only-would-this-happen-in-Europe story! So glad you made your flight and with a belly full of nutella to boot!

Alex said...

hahaha oh my gosh. This sounds like something from those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies! Please write a memoir one day. I would totally buy it!

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