The Unofficial Official

posted in: explore, Greece, Stories | 0
Big boat in a little harbor
Big boat in a little harbor

Surrounded by passengers and parked semi-trucks on the bottom level of the ferry, we waited for the large gate at the back of the boat to lower. The sounds of boat engines, metal clanking and people speaking a few different languages mixed with the smell of gas fumes in the cavernous space. The view outside of the ferry was left up to our imagination because the bottom deck lacked windows. It felt like what I would imagine standing in an empty Home Depot warehouse would feel like if it were floating on water.

Finally, the giant gate lowered like a bridge lowering across a moat in front of a castle.

Fresh air swept over us as we shuffled down the gate and on the dock trying to avoid elbowing the people walking next to us.

We were on our way to the village of Kaş on Turkey’s west coast and our last stop was the island of Kastellorizo (or Meis in Turkish), a tiny Greek island about a 20-minute boat ride from Turkey.

Kastellorizo Island, Greece - Also known as Meis in Turkey
Kastellorizo Island, Greece – Also known as Meis in Turkey

As soon as Nic and I stepped off the gate, an older man caught our attention.

“Turkey? Turkey?! Go to Turkey?” the man said with a touch of urgency.

Nic turned and caught the man’s attention and grabbed my hand.

“You go to Turkey? I need your passport,” said the man in an accent that didn’t sound Greek.

“What? Who is this guy, anyways?” I thought.

This man did not look in any way official. He wore a faded polo shirt. His pants looked too big. He looked a bit disheveled. And, I didn’t think the ferry dock counted as an official place to hand over your passport.

I looked at Nic with this “Are you kidding me?” expression.

“No, I don’t feel comfortable handing over my passport. I’m going to look for the official place to conduct such matters,” I explained as if I knew what I was talking about.

Then, we started walking away. The man followed us.

“No, I have boat. I need passport for the boat,” he said somewhat frantically.

We kept on walking looking for signs or official people to help us get to Turkey because, to be honest, we didn’t really know what we were doing.

Within minutes, we were standing in front of a boat with a giant banner that said, Boat to Turkey. Well, that was easy! But, there wasn’t anyone there except for some tourists who advised us to go back to the ferry dock for passport review and to hurry because the passport review office was going to close.

As sweat started to accumulate on our lower backs, we arrived at the only building that looked like it could be for passport review. It was a gray, single-level trailer of sorts lacking any signs that identified it as a customs office. And, the door was locked.

Were they closed? Were we going to make it to Turkey today? We planned to care for seven dogs for an English woman living in Turkey and she was picking us up from the harbor in Turkey today. WHAT IF WE DON’T MAKE IT? WE DON’T EVEN HAVE A PHONE.

Then, the same man we met several minutes earlier arrived. He asked for our passports again and then presented a piece of paper. We were both confused.

“Why weren’t we conducting this business inside this trailer?” I asked. But before he could explain, he said,

“Oh, look! The police officer!”

The “police officer” walking towards us did not look in any way official either. I mean, he wore one of those graphic t-shirts and jeans. But, he had keys to the trailer so that was a good sign…I guess.

It turns out that nobody was trying to pull a fast-one on us. Everything was stamped and approved by the unofficial-looking officials and off we went to Turkey…sitting on bean-bags on the top deck of a boat.

Bean bags!
Bean bags!