June 30 will be remembered along our beautiful southern Aegean shores as a rather special day: we just got access to a brand-new ferry service linking Turkey with Greece. And no, I am not talking about just another short distance route as scenic and important as they are; the jackpot is the Greek capital, Athens, itself!
For many years in the making this year saw the inauguration of the seven hour long route linking the port of nearby Cesme with Lavrion close to Athens. For passengers living here in town (as well as in Bodrum) a free shuttle bus will be offered with similar arrangements at the other end.
Let us first talk about the wider sea-farers picture then address a few local issues that matter as well.
First, motorists will at once realize how practical the ferry ride will be when compared with the long and winding road via Istanbul. Second, bikers and foot passengers will equally benefit. Third, for people intent on staying longer no worries, too, as strict budget airline luggage restrictions will not apply. And last not least, there are the onward ferry connections by the same company up until Venice albeit from a different port; however, another free shuttle service links both ports for those without their own private transport.
We should not forget the positive bi-lateral relations dynamics either. More and more Turkish citizens will explore Athens and the wider region whilst an ever increasing number of Greek visitors shall arrive at our end.
It will bring business and thus money to both port cities. If we now add other nationalities into the travelers mix we will at once understand that for example an American tourist visiting Greece now has a chance to say ‘let us hop over to Turkey for a few days’ whilst a British tourist holidaying in Turkey can easily spend another night or two across the waters before returning to base, i.e. Kusadasi. If ever more public relations were needed, it rock-solidly puts Cesme and Kusadasionto the map of world travelers.
With regards to the local dimension hinted at in my preceding paragraph it seems appropriate to write that having a chance to spend a night or two in Athens and then return in comfort, basically port to port with a short shuttle ride either end thrown in for good measure, adds even more clout to an already star studded list of attractions found here in Kusadasi and beyond. For us as expats it will becomea cherished add-on bonus so to speak. No one is going to leave this fabulous town and country but gaining better access to affordable international travel to much sought-after nearby foreign destinations is nothing to be ashamed of. As I always say, live and visit Kusadasi but explore all of Turkey and the adjoining countries.
We spoke about the bi-lateral issue already. One separate noteworthy fact is that this new route enables our Turkish neighbors who live side by side with us friendly foreign imports to so much more easily take the ferry first to Greece and then another one to Venice and then hit the road north including to Austria or to Germany. It saves enormous time and reduces stress and the risk of accidents during peak travel months and if booked well in advance does not break the bank either.
Now picture the reverse route: Turkish nationals living in Europe or European nationals with family in Turkey can travel by car and thus bring so much more personal belongings as and when compared with going by plane; besides, driving across the continent and then into Turkey was a stressful undertaking.
Journalists should not get overly optimistic about no particular single issue but once in a while we are allowed to express our satisfaction should something out of the ordinary catch our attention.
In a nutshell: Turkey and Greece just got closer, figuratively as well as literally speaking. Incoming tourist numbers between both countries will increase. Local businesses will benefit as more people come and spend their hard earned cash. International travelers who would never have thought of doing a two-country trip now might feel tempted doing just that, either way.
And then think of the actual voyage: no road rage or crammed overland coaches or packed planes, no trips to the airport with five bags and two kids in tow, just a smooth stroll onto board upon embarking. Relax in a Pullman seat or book a family cabin depending on budget. Have a meal overlooking our shared Aegean waters, visit the duty free or try lady luck in the on-board Casino (of course with moderation and never exceeding pre-planned modest budgets).
A special thanks to Bulent Ipek from Aegean Seaways who in his capacity as Director furnished me with all the vital information both pre-launch and today whilst penning this article.
May I wish our dear readers a simply fantastic start of the peak summer season whether on shore or at sea indeed.