I left Lesvos the way the refugees leave — by overnight ferry to the Port of Piraeus in Athens. The ferry ride is the refugees’ second sea voyage in a few days. But different.
The ferry is a small modern cruise ship with cafes and cabins, and several decks for cars and trucks. It is warm, clean and safe.
Refugees pay as much as $2,000 for a seat on a dangerously overcrowded raft for the 4 mile trip from Turkey to Lesvos. The 286 mile ferry ride from Lesvos to Athens costs as little as $40. Sometimes the ferry companies provide refugees with free tickets. The ferry companies are making a lot of money from the crisis.
Most of the passengers on my ferry were young people, Greek and non-Greek but not many refugees. The uneven weather patterns have created a break in the migration from Turkey to Greece.
The trip for me was pleasant and uneventful. I read and had a glass of wine in my cabin, which was as nice as any hotel room except smaller with everything nailed down. I awoke at dawn to dogs barking. That’s the sound on my phone’s clock alarm.
After “disembarking,” I wandered around a little to see whether I could get a sense of the transportation options and then waited in line for a taxi to my downtown hotel. The choices for the refugees were less appealing — a public or tourist bus for a 600 mile ride north to the Macedonian border or to one of the overcrowded refugee centers in the city. Each choice will present uncertainty and hardship.
For me, the defining fact is that I am not in Lesvos any more. And I am trying to be a tourist for a couple of days. Since I have been back in Athens, I have stayed in a nice hotel.
I went to an amazing museum.
I went to Athens’ famous flea market.
I went to a Greek Orthodox service in a Byzantine church.
I walked all over central Athens and met many warm and friendly people.
But I am only partly present for these wonderful experiences and sights. Everything I see and do must compete with a million thoughts and feelings about my experience in Lesvos, and they won’t leave me alone.