the european circle by ferry
circumnavigating europe by boat 24 DAYS (absolute minimum)
STARTING POINT: RHODES, GREECE
FINISH: TALLINN, ESTONIA
How about the southern end? Valetta, Malta’s capital has a latitude of 35.8989°N, which is only marginally further north than Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete (35.3387°N). So the latter is the southernmost spot. Or is it? El Hierro, a small island of the Canary archipelago (which belongs to Spain) lies even further south (27.7255°N). It is also the western most spot (18.0243°W) and therefore ought to be included in the itinerary. And how about the North? The Norwegian port of Kirkenes, far inside the Artic circle and close to country’s borders with Russia and Sweden gets that accolade at 66.7269°N. But Iceland, being precariously located on the outer fringes of Europe ought to make our list too, with the capital Reykjavik coming in at 64.1466°N.
European integration might come to our rescue in defining our journey: Neither Russia, nor Norway, Iceland (or indeed the UK) are part of the European Union. And although the Canary islanders are EU citizens, the archipelago is outside the bloc’s VAT area. So, the islands are EU territory, but not fully... That will do for me, and thank you Brussels for coming up with the categorisation of so-called ‘Outermost Regions’, which also saves me considering such places as the Portuguese Azores and Madeira, as well as French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, and Saint Martin. So there you have it: We can call this journey ‘Doing the EU circle by ferry’, and I would be happy to kit myself out with blue and yellow luggage, containing promotion material of the European Commission (no, seriously Brussels: send some stuff over, preferably with application forms for a travel grant). Our revised cornerstones are therefore: Rhodes, Crete, Cork in Ireland (our new westernmost point), the Swedish port of Umeå (the new northernmost destination), as well as Helsinki (the easternmost spot on this trip) before finishing in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Hang on a minute. How do I get to Cork in Ireland? There is a ferry link from Roscoff in Brittany, but that can only be accessed by taking the ferry from Santander in Spain via Plymouth in the UK. How can I call this an EU circle when the journey involves a stop-over in an entity that has non-EU and Brexit credentials? Well, it can’t be helped, so I just have to trust Boris Johnson’s promise of working together with our ‘European friends’. That means that travelling with EU-coloured luggage and Brussels promotion material might not be such a good idea after all.
Onto Italy (and maybe Malta?): From Patras in Greece, you can travel to the ports of Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi on the Italian Adriatic coast. From there, you have to travel overland to Naples on the country’s west coast. All three ferry ports would do, but Bari offers the shortest onward journey. Should you wish to include Malta, then you ought to get a bus from Bari to Salerno (instead of Naples), from where there is a link to the Sicilian port of Catania (13 hours), and on to Valetta in Malta (7 hours). You can get back to Italy via Catania, then an overland bus or train to Palermo. This leg of the journey adds 3-4 days. If this sounds too ambitious (it does for me), then you could just stick to this itinerary. Day 4: Patras to Bari, Grimaldi Lines, 17.00 – 09.00Day 5: Overland to Naples: train approx. 4 hours. Bus approx. 3 hours.Day 6: Naples to Palermo, GNV lines, 20.00 – 07.00Day 7: Palermo to Civitavecchia, GNV lines, 18.00 -07.45
Onto Ireland: Day 13: Santander to Plymouth, Brittany Ferries, 15.30 – 14.15Day 14: Plymouth to Roscoff, Brittany Ferries, 22.00 – 08.00Day 15: Roscoff to Cork, Brittany Ferries, 20.30 – 09.30