Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Going Ashore With the Teeming Masses

Welcome to Italy
Last week we took a quick weekend trip to Naples and Pompeii Italy.  As we have done twice before, we took the overnight car ferry from Durres, Albania to Bari, Italy.  I'm not a fan of this method of travel but taking our car allows us to shop at the U.S. Naval Base in Naples and stock up on those "must have" items that we can't get shipped to us via the pouch.

When it is on schedule, the Adria Ferry departs Durres at 2300 and arrives in Bari the next morning at 0800.  The Port of Durres has improved greatly over the past year; what were rutted dirt parking lots and ramshackle ticket booths a year ago has been replaced with pavement, permanent sales buildings, and secure customs booths.  However, some things don't change.  Signage is still lacking and street lights are non-existent.  Being the good American doobies we are, we arrived at the terminal at the designated time of two hours prior to departure.  We were the first ones there and ergo our automobile was the first one loaded onto the very large, filled to capacity ferry.  On our past trips cars have been backed onto the ferry which allows for a speedier and safer departure on the other side of the sea.  This time they had us drive straight in.  Our "deluxe" stateroom had a small window, three bunk beds with the thinnest mattresses I have ever seen, and our very own, all-in-one toilet, sink, shower room (a.k.a. as the bathroom).  Despite the humming of the engines and the diesel fumes that permeated the air (these smells brought Glenn back to his deployment days) we all slept relatively well and awoke the next morning ready to take on Italy.

Our approach to the Port of Bari was calm and the ferry was on time.  We naively thought we'd be off the boat within a hour and then be on our way across the "ankle" of Italy to our destination.  How wrong we were. The port was especially busy on this particular morning with four large car ferries arriving within minutes of each other.  Of course ours was the last to arrive and we pulled up to a middle berth.  Immediately we saw the chaos that was going to ensue.

The ferry
As if on cue, all four ferries began disembarking passengers and vehicles simultaneously.  Only drivers are allowed in the vehicle holds so thousands of people toting luggage, pets, and small children milled around the edges of the piers.  Buses and tractor trailers backed out of the ferries and into the teeming human masses.  Bewildered passengers with luggage in tow walked aimlessly between vehicles looking for either the pedestrian terminal and public transportation or their own personal vehicles.  Cars stopped mid-ramp or mid-travel lane to allow their passengers to get in.  And each and every vehicle, whether driving in reverse or front facing needed to take a left turn in order to get off of the boat.  Needless to say, no one, whether on foot or by car, was getting any place fast.  Mediterranean machismo tempers flared and car horns blared.  Pedestrians ignored the few poor Port Authority employees who were half heartily attempting to direct traffic.  As time crept by and no progress was being made, the situation only got worse.  Drivers were getting out of cars to yell at the people in front of them who were also stuck in the non-moving traffic.  More than one smoking and sauntering man was nearly run over by backwards moving buses.  (Somehow this became the drivers' faults; I don't know about you but regardless of who has the right of way, I cede to larger on coming vehicles). Those vehicles that were fortunate enough to snake towards the immigration booths were stymied by only having two agents on duty.  We just gave up and waited as patiently as possible off to the side of the chaos. (This isn't always easy when you have already had a long, sleepless night).  There wasn't any point in Glenn's trying to get to our car since he would either be fumigated by the carbon monoxide that filled the ferry's vehicle hold or deafened by the echoing horn honks.  Really people, if cars are already log jammed, laying on your horn is not going to get them to move!

We experienced this on a single morning but this scene is replicated every day of the year.  I can't imagine the dread that port employees, immigration agents, and general laborers must feel (or should feel) when they see these ferries pulling in each morning.  The chaos is unbelievable and could so easily be eased with a few modifications.  Ferry arrival times could be staggered so only one ferry arrives at a time; ferries could tie up the piers in an order that would ease traffic flow; traffic and pedestrian laws could be enforced ensuring a safer and easier departure for all parties; immigration lines could be actual well marked lanes that are easy to understand.  Any of these simple measures could make this experience less dreadful.  Port management could take some cues from the management of German or Scandinavian port management; these Italian-Albanian behaviors would not be tolerated outside of the Mediterranean.  

Just when I think the ferry experience will not be that bad, it is.  Glenn is already talking about a return trip.  This time he is proposing that we visit a more northern area of Italy.  Unfortunately the ferry ride to the port of Ancona would be hours longer and I seriously doubt their conditions would be any better.  So here is the conundrum:  my love of Italy and all she holds vs the pain, agony, and chaos of dealing with the ports.  (Seriously, ferry travel in Southern Europe makes passing through TSA security seem like a breeze).  Less than one week out, I'm not willing to make the sacrifice.  Ask me again in a few months, and I'm sure Italy will be calling again. Without a doubt I know I will be going back...........

No comments:

Post a Comment