If you are looking to visit or indeed make your way across the incredible country that is Greece, you will need to know something about the transport. Amongst issues of a small number of service providers in various areas, translation and transliteration there are also relative disparities between the information provided and offered to those travelling across the country as a whole, or across selected regions.
The first thing to note is that prior to travel it is almost certainly advisable to brush up on a few characters of the Cyrillic alphabet. This is an excellent idea because it is only in heavily touristic areas that English translations are provided below the puristic Greek forms on timetables and maps. If you are familiar only with the Roman alphabet then there is the potential for confusion and without some prior knowledge navigation will be potentially very difficult, especially in areas such as Lamia or Levadea where they receive a relative low number or tourists and few people speak coherent English. Announcements are ticket names will become far easier to interpret and listen out for if you are familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet on a basic level, as often assumptions of visible phonetics are incorrect. For example, a lower case ‘N’ in the Cyrillic alphabet is a ‘v’ in phonetic terms and so will affect word pronunciation, resulting in unexpected sounds when listening out for boarding calls and potentially resulting in you missing your mode of transport/ or indeed getting the wrong train, for example.
The next issue is coverage. The Greek transport network is certainly extensive in terms of basic roads, but there are issues surrounding the relatively disjointed rail network and bus services. Often, a journey of maybe only a few tens of kilometres such as Lamia to Kalambaka will take over 3 hours with three changes in the most direct route available to travellers. Buses are perhaps more advisable but can often appear highly priced when placed against the time they are expected to take, until one realises that the time projections for certain bus and coach journeys are woefully inaccurate and can be up to four times as long. This makes it very difficult to plan around various journeys if you have not pre-booked and been assured of the duration, and thus, it is advisable to leave a reasonable amount of time relative to the distance you are covering.
The mountain road in some areas of Greece are long are long and winding, resulting in massively extended journey times which can cause severe delays in their cumulative effect. Be very careful when looking at a route planner/road map because often only the main roads are shown, and these are very often not the roads that will be used, and mountain roads are the reality, as the services are not specialist or direct, but instead council providers which act as a local as well as regional service. This results in long journeys and many changes between local buses to travel a regional distance – a real headache if you haven’t brushed up on your Greek!
The final issue is that of transliteration, which arguably is more related to linguistics than navigation, although the two are undoubtedly linked. The issue of transliteration stems from the two forms of Greek. The purist form is katharevousa and the popular, colloquial form is Dimotiki. Now, this is an issue in terms of translation and usage because often there are two Greek words for each English word, a Purist form and a colloquial form. Some of the differences are negligible such as Athina vs. Athens or Thebes vs. Thiva, but sometimes the differences are considerable and can therefore cause navigation and interpretation issues. For example Corfu which is Kerkrya in the colloquial form (issues when asking directions) or indeed fournos for bakery as the colloquial form but the store sign reading the purist form-word Artopoieion’.
Although the aforementioned highlight some potential issues that anyone could encounter when travelling across Greece, it is rather pejorative and does not account for the numerous excellent service providers and localised systems. However, at present it seems that without greater national interconnectivity, navigation will remain difficult in some areas.
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