Part 5 - a Saint's Day
Tuesday 6th July 2010
Just after midnight we embarked on the 1991 Japanese-built IONIAN KING (ex Ferry Lavender, ex Hooligan) of Agoudimos Line and hurried on board to find our accommodation. The ferry POLARIS (1975, Danish-built) was newly laid up in Igoumenitsa so our ship had to load her intended passengers and cars as well as our own, making for a very full ship.
After a quick look around, our beds called; we altered our watches back to Italian time and woke in time for coffee and croissant
before arriving at Bari at 10.30 a.m. One of the first ships we could see in the port was APOLLON, the ex-SENLAC, so there was great excitement. Our luggage was left safely in a Ferry Terminal locker, so we could set off for a particular tourist attraction.
I wanted to visit the Church of Saint Nicholas, dedicated to the man who was born in Asia Minor in the 4th Century. After various good works, he was appointed a Christian Bishop and, despite persecutions and imprisonment, he is said to have performed miracles, and became known for his care of sailors (in the East) and children (in the West). After his death, his relics were kept safely until the area was taken over by the Saracens. The Italians vied to take over the relics, and the town of Bari won, so in May 1087 the relics of Saint Nicholas were put in the crypt of a Church dedicated to his name.
He was known and revered both in the East and the West, and the Middle Ages saw miracles claimed in his name. His patronage of children gave rise to the giving of presents at Christmas time, apparently started by the Dutch Protestants of New Amsterdam (now New York) converting his Popish name from Santa Claus to Sint Klaes and then Saint Nicholas. His popularity continues with the Russian Orthodox Church recognizing his Saint’s Day on 6th December and this has spread through many parts of the Christian world.
So today I could visit the crypt under the church and see the casket believed to contain the head and skeleton of Saint Nicholas. It was a splendid and gilded piece of craftsmanship, set behind a gilded grille before an altar, on a magnificent plinth, and I was glad of the chance to see it.
Outside in the heat again it was a contrast to remember that the port of Bari was devastated in 1943 by what is described as the worst World War II Allied shipping disaster after Pearl Harbour. Enemy aircraft attacked the ships in Bari harbour, causing an explosion; this included 100 tons of American liquid mustard gas, with 17 ships totally destroyed, and thousands of casualties.
Emerging from the Church into the brilliant sunshine, we started crossing the car-free square, only to look at a small car approaching the kerb. The female driver stopped the engine, got out and looked towards the person she was collecting from the pavement, only to notice also that her car had started to move backwards. She had forgotten to apply the handbrake! We all shouted and started to move towards the little car but she managed to drag the door open and reach in to put the brake on. Phew, that was interesting, and must have put her blood pressure up a bit.
Our previously sombre mood lightened with the location of a local back street restaurant so the afternoon continued in holiday mode with food, fun, and photos.
Soon it was time to reclaim our luggage and check in for our overnight sail on the beautiful little LIBURNIJA of Jadrolinija Line.
We were really excited about sailing on her from here in Bari to Korcula in Croatia, with lots of time at sea. After climbing the little rope-sided gangway, we were directed to cabins way down under the car deck, accessed by a wooden staircase that was almost spiral in parts, but all was highly polished and clean. The bed sheets had the Jadrolinija logo on them in very large letters. Built in 1965 in Holland, the ship is an absolute treasure to see and experience. After I unpacked I visited the Ladies bathroom just next door (I wondered if I was walking on linoleum in the alleyway, but that was just wishful thinking) and could hear the water slapping outside against the hull.
It was very basic, but clean, with plentiful hot water in the shower cubicles; I soon realised how low down I was in the ship when I was standing in the shower cubicle and saw the water running back towards me down the curvature of the hull.
The posh frock and heels were soon donned and it was time to get up on deck to join the other friendly passengers in the evening heat. This little ship of 3,910 tons can carry 700 passengers but seemed about half-full; she may not be fast, but she is just memorable on board with her public rooms, open decks and full-width cambered restaurant. We enjoyed a meal there, sharing a bottle of wine that had a most unusual flavour to it.
We loved seeing the forward panoramic Belvedere Bar (not open) Lounge, although the curtains were all pulled across to stop the lights affecting the Bridge.
We left Bari at 10.40 p.m., just a little later than scheduled, but were all lulled to sleep on this little gem of a ship.
Ships seen: Apollon, Flaminia, Superfast II, Costa Fortuna, Guguielmo Mazzola, Arberia, Bari (the ex Isla de Botafoc, ex St. Anselm. She was renamed Winner 9 for her scrap delivery voyage, but then Ventouris swapped her with M/S Athens at the last moment and re-named her Bari), Liburnija, Ionian King, Azzurra
Wednesday 7th July 2010
“My Cappuccino froth blew away”
The early alarm call meant we were soon on deck and enjoying the sail up to Dubrovnik in the morning heat. The light and warm air was glorious.
We noticed the usual picture of the previous Pope leaving a Jadrolinija ferry, a copy of which seems to be displayed on all their ships.
Breakfast was included in the price of our tickets so we sat in the middle of the Restaurant, enjoying the feel of being ‘on the top of the camber’ in the full-width room.
All the staff were cheerful, and I was reminded of the last time we were on board LIBURNIJA in July 2007. It was then we had a waiter who had so obviously dyed his hair a very dense and unnatural shade of black.
As we slowly made our way along the approach channels between the islands and mountains towards Dubrovnik, we realized that THOMSON SPIRIT, ZENITH and POSTEIRA had all been held up so that we could berth first. We had wonderful views of them, and I must admit we felt a certain sense of superiority as we glided past to the quayside.
As we were not disembarking here, but would continue up the Croatian coast to Korcula, we were able to leave our luggage on board but go ashore for the 40 minutes of our call here in Dubrovnik. A friend was actually on board ZENITH, finally berthing nearby, but a phone call established there was no possibility of us all meeting up in such a short time; we all had to be content with waves and shouts as we sailed past the cruise ship on our little lovely.
Going up the coast after leaving Dubrovnik,
we enjoyed the most beautiful scenery, of misty mountains, and hot sunshine, with glorious blue sea: all reasons why so many of us enjoy being at sea. I bought a cup of cappucino and sat on deck to enjoy it and to my huge amusement a slight breeze caused a lot of the froth on the top of it to lift up in one quick movement and blow away.
We called at the little port of Sobra for 15 minutes and were amazed at the clear and deep water;
100 cars boarded and passengers got off and others on, and then we set off again for Korcula. We arrived exactly on time at 12.40, and disembarked happily in this little water-side town.
There was time for tea before catching the local bus at 2.10 to take us over the mountains to Vela Luka for the night.
The views were spectacular as we wound our way along the mountain top road. The journey was enlivened at one stage by our bus following a road-mending lorry. It had obviously finished its work for the day, because from the side of the open-backed lorry one of the workmen (in his orange safety gear) was leaning precariously over the side and picking up the ubiquitous ‘cones’ from the middle of the road with his left hand, whilst the lorry was moving quite fast along the road. We watched in amazement, and some awe, as the man collected probably fifteen cones, and then the lorry turned off onto a local village track.
Once at Vela Luka we found rooms in the local pub/bar,
in the middle of the wide horse-shoe shaped bay below the mountains, and settled down to some necessary laundry. This was done and dried in a couple of hours in such extreme heat and gave us great satisfaction. The extremely spacious and comfortable rooms and beds called so loudly we had to obey and sleep soon claimed us all for a few hours, before the evening happenings.
The late afternoon sun gave a golden light to the mountain-backed surroundings as we strolled around the bay; the flowers were prolific, and the waters of the bay calm. I loved seeing the blue plumbago plants cascading from several hillside gardens, the olive trees, the pine trees and pine smell,
the little mosaic tiling set beside a stone hut with a cross on top, the local water-polo team just finishing an energetic game in another part of the bay,
and the local fishing boats preparing to go out for the night.
My friends wanted to take photographs from another part of the bay, near the narrower entrance channel, so I watched the world go past from a water-side café balcony and enjoyed a Croatian coffee. On the other side of the bay the ferry KORCULA arrived and turned, ready to off-load her cars and passengers.
She sailed away and then the ferry VIS arrived, to disembark her load and tie up for the night. The photographers appeared again, very happy with their ship pictures, so all was well with the world. They had also found a man with a bottle of something alcoholic which he invited them to share, so in the interests of good international relations they did so.
Now reunited, we could then go for a meal and enjoy the rest of the evening in the calm of Vela Luka. What a glorious day again, appealing to all the senses.
Ships seen: Zenith, Thomson Spirit, Posteira, Lubenice, Vis, Korcula, Hannibal Lucic, Nona Ana