Day 129-LV, Ηγουμενίτσα.
We left nothing in the square in Bari but a single piece of cardboard. “Thanks to the Baresi, thanks to the Apulians, thanks to the Italians. From North to South, from East to West, the struggle continues, whatever the cost.”
Then we marched off to the harbour in parade, singing.
It took a while before we could get on board, because all the contents of our shopping carts had to be checked. It was the hour of sunset.
“The boat! The boat!” comrade Mary cried, full of joy. And she started running. We climb the ramps in between the trucks, we park the carts on the deck and tie them up with ropes. Then we install ourselves in the lounge room with the drivers. They came from all over Eastern Europe, there was a Dutch trucker as well and three Iranians who drive up and down the Silk Road.
At the hour of steaming off we gather on the windy deck for a last salute to Italy. After that we sleep. Some of us in the lounge room. Others pitched their tents right on the deck.
This morning some of us were up early enough to see the solar wagon of Apollo rise over the hills of Greece. A magic moment. We’re navigating in between the green islands. On the starboard side you can see Corfu.
It’s a familiar panorama, I don’t know why, because I’ve never been here before. Maybe it’s the imprint of western culture. Greece is a part of our collective memory. As far as Europe is concerned, this is where the great story began.
We disembark. There is no customs, no police, no nobody. We stand on the tarmac outside the port terminal. So know what do we do? The answer is simple, like always, we take the square.
Igoumenitsa at first sight is a tourist transit town in the low season. From here people take the boat to the western islands, or to various Italian ports. Apart from that it doesn’t look interesting, even though it’s surprisingly clean. Along the streets you see French owned banks, German insurance companies and supermarket chains, Italian brand names and lots of bars. The Chinese have arrived here as well.
Once we take the square we awaken the curiosity of the locals. Unfortunately, we have no-one in our group who speaks Greek, but in this particular place it isn’t so hard to communicate. A bit of Italian, a bit of English, a bit of Spanish, and you understand each other. Some people speak German, because they have lived there for years or because they have family who emigrated there.
Finally, police arrive on motor bikes.
When we got off the boat we had been warned by a local squatter to be careful. “This is not Europe. This is the Balcans. Here police don’t talk, they beat you up.”
The officers on the edge of the square observe us, but they don’t approach. So we put up our tents to see what they will do. One of them walks over. He is a young guy in his early twenties. He doesn’t say we can’t camp, he doesn’t ask for documents. He asks us how long we plan to stay, and once he has understood who we are, he says: “I’m one of you.”
After the police comes the mayor. He is also one of us. He donates us an English-Greek dictionary. After the mayor comes the church, the eastern one. They are with us as well. They bring us lunch. And every once in a while, small groups of locals approach us. They express their admiration. They bring us fruit and juices, and they look forward to tonight’s assembly.
Finally we are visited by the owner of a hotel close by. He has promised to bring us a typical Greek diner tonight, and he has invited everyone to celebrate.
So, the port of arrival in Greece has embraced the March to Athens. We are touching a cord here. St. Nicholas be praised, it really seems like we are the 99%.