The return journey from the Middle East to Europe was by sea.
I made a 10-day sea journey from Ashdod via Haifa, Izmir and Ravenna to Monfalcone on the transport ship "Fides", a so-called "Roll on-roll-off" ship.
For just over 1100 euros I could enjoy the peace and quiet on board, the sun on the deck and the activity in the harbors.
This film gives an impression of this unique 10-day trip.
When the alarm goes off on November 30, I don't know yet whether I can leave. A strike has been going on for a few days in the port of Ashdod.
I leave Jerusalem anyway and it turns out that luck is with me.
After the necessary administrative actions and the payment of about $ 300, I can board the Fides 3 hours later.
I have to wait for my Touran, but luckily it will be delivered just before departure and I can finally bring my personal belongings to the cabin.
10:00 pm: Departure from Ashdod
The first stop for the Fides is Haifa, the port city in the north of Israel, not far from the border with Lebanon.
Around 3 o'clock in the night: arrival in Haifa
Although I have already checked out in Ashdod, I also have to report to the immigration service in Haifa, who promptly declares that my visa expired yesterday.
After the necessary administrative actions I can go back on board, this time at no extra cost.
Farewell to the Middle East. 4:30 PM: Departure from Haifa
The cabin is equipped with every luxury.
When I am not strolling through the many corridors, eating in the officers' mess or sunbathing on the deck, I sit there in peace and quiet, working on the visual report of my year in the Middle East.
The Fides is a so-called roll-on roll-off ship, specially built for the transport of cars.
With a total length of 178 meters and a width of almost 27 meters, the Fides can transport around 2,600 cars on a total of 9 decks.
But because the bottom two decks, which are below sea level, are used for containers, there is only room for about 2000 cars during this trip.
And in Izmir these are the Fiat Doblo's built in Turkey, which are already neatly lined up ashore, waiting for a place in and on the boat.
Because even the top deck is completely packed.
On the top deck it seems as if the drivers, who fly back and forth, are performing a true passo doblo with the small transporters.
When they have found their place, they are lashed to the deck.
Monday, December 4, 2006 00.15 am: departure from Izmir
The food on the Fides is fine, at least if you like Italian food.
Spaghetti, pasta, pizza, meat and fish dishes, everything passes the menu and always accompanied by a nice glass of wine!
When we sail between mainland Greece and the many islands, I discover whole schools of dolphins.
Around 5:00 pm: We pass Crete
The closer we get to Europe, the denser the clouds become.
Where in the Middle East you hardly noticed that the year is coming to an end, you start to notice it here, especially from the temperature.
Arriving off the Adriatic coast at Ravenna, you have to wait for a free space in the inland port of Ravenna.
Adriatic coast at Ravenna
With a pilot on board and a tug to help steer the rear of the Fides, the ship sails up the river to the berth.
Arriving at the berth, the Fides is turned around with the help of the tugboat.
4.45 pm: the Fides moors in Ravenna
While containers are being exchanged in Ravenna, the crew releases the Doblo's.
Apparently bad weather is not expected between Ravenna and Monfalcone.
The crew informs me that the itinerary has been changed.
In the Slovenian town of Koper no freight has to be loaded, so after Ravenna the Fides will set course directly to Monfalcone, the end point of my journey.
I arrive in Monfalcone a day earlier than planned. I have to wait until deck 5 is free and then my Touran can also go outside.
Fortunately, Italian customs is not difficult and allows me to enter mainland Europe without much dedication.
Two more days of driving on the European roads and I am back in Ede (NL).
With a beautiful sea voyage as an experience richer.