“I am not used to sitting around while awaiting the ships at night. It was long ago when I had to rush late at night, carrying my tent and my sleeping bag, to catch the DALIANA, which was about to leave for Serifos island in the Aegean. My head had been leaning on my rucksack and I can’t even remember falling asleep. It was a magical coincidence that I opened my eyes as the last cars were embarking. While I still felt that distinct sweetness of sleep, I realised that this image did not emanate from an unexplored constellation in my subconscious, but that the DALIANA was indeed ‘ready to depart’. I ran really fast, which the sleepless observers on the deck must have found hilarious. I was around 20 years old at that point and, due to intense vacation activities, the tiredness didn’t really overwhelming for me. When you are 20, you don’t visit the Cycladic Islands to get some rest.”
The young narrator was certainly not a weirdo for travelling on ships. While hitch-hiking and, from the early 70s to at least the 1980s, Interrail dominated the travel fantasies and experience of youngsters from Western Europe, Western European youth has also appreciated travelling by ship. While scholars have in general neglected the study of young tourists from Western European countries in the second half of the 20th century, they have particularly neglected to address its maritime component. Given this lacuna, we wish to help stir an exchange of views from multiple perspectives on maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean since the 1960s. Due to the scarcity of relevant research, we aim to trigger such a discussion by elaborating on a number of hypotheses and speculations. From the 1960s, youngsters from Europe increasingly engaged in travel, which they generally arranged themselves. Young Britons and West Germans, for instance, began visiting places like Majorca, Crete and the Cyclades, destinations that they normally reached by travelling by ship from the nearest point on the mainland. Travelling by ship was also an integral part of some organised youth trips: the ones from West Germany to Israel, which gained momentum from the 1960s onwards, especially after the Six-Day War in 1967, are a case in point. One way or another, maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean apparently flourished at least until the 1990s, when low-cost air travel to and within regions around the Mediterranean began to gain momentum, also among youngsters, at the expense of travelling by ship.
Many ships on the horizon
It is useful at this point to try to define a number of concepts that feature prominently in our endeavours, beginning with the ships and their use by passengers: the average passenger definitively had very limited opportunities to sail on freighters. Nevertheless, even what we broadly perceive as “passenger vessels” is still not a single category; there are noteworthy differences between ferry boats and coastal passenger ships, cruise ships and the ocean liners of times past. The vast majority of ferry boats and coastal passenger ships serve certain routes within certain – national or international – waters; therefore, such a ship is actually a link between two or more points (for example, Dover–Calais or Ancona–Corfu–Igoumenitsa–Patras). The passengers (tourists, locals, or even commuters on shorter routes) board the ships in order to reach their destination and, later on, reuse the same ship or a ship facilitating the same route in order to travel back to their port of embarkation. Cruise ships engage in a different travel concept. The routes are also predefined and usually cyclic; however, the port of embarkation and disembarkation is not always the same and, contrary to the ferries, the passengers have the opportunity to visit in-between ports. Last but not least, we need to mention an older type of passenger vessel: the ocean liner. Similar to the ferries and the coastal passenger ships, ocean liners served certain routes on a larger scale (such as, Rotterdam–La Havre–Southampton–New York). They also facilitated migration flows, meaning it was rather unusual for the passenger to re-embark on the same ship in order to sail back to the port of embarkation: the journey was pretty much one way. Although the above-mentioned types of ship had different uses, not all “passenger ships” cater for the same needs.
In addition, maritime youth travel did not gravitate around ships that addressed and attracted young customers only. It was not atypical for young tourists travelling by ship to bump into other types of people on the move. “I went there on the Kolokotronis (…), the ship that transported all migrants to Germany (…) There were also a few tourists there, playing the guitar,” recalls one Greek migrant who left for the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s.
Forever in blue jeans
When we refer to youth, we are interested in what various scholars have described as a phenomenon that emerged in the 20th century, namely “youth culture”. According to the historians Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried, this has “primarily [been] defined by the young age of its proponents and by their particular tastes in music, fashion, hairstyles, political practices etc.” Several young people in West Germany, for example, in the 1960s indulged in listening and dancing to rock ‘n’ roll as well as reading specific magazines, such as Bravo. In this sense, it has mainly been a cultural rather than biological phenomenon: it is not just somebody’s age, but, mainly, her/his lifestyle that makes her/him partake in “youth culture”. In this vein, it is difficult to define the concrete age limits of those whose lifestyle revolves around “youth culture”: some relatively older people, aged around 40, may be keen on indulging in “youth pursuits”. What is important, in our view, is to research the practices that make someone feel “young” as well as the symbols s/he uses in this respect.
Bloggers with a cause
Since we believe that maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean since the 1960s has played an important role in the shaping of youth cultures, we have established this blog to facilitate the exchange of views among travellers, researchers, artists, businessmen, sailors and travel agents (commercial and not-for-profit) and, in general, anybody interested in maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean, regardless of her/his perspective. We are interested in two broad categories of topic:
- The experience of maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean since the 1960s. What kind of maritime travel patterns do young people from northern and southern Europe as well as North America engage in? Apart from the informally arranged and the organised excursions that we mentioned above, has such travel figured prominently in the excursions of the final-year senior high school students in Europe, which, at least in Greece, are famous – or notorious – as an opportunity for teenagers to break free from the close supervision of their parents. If this is the case, have these trips served as yet another rite of passage to autonomy from them? And for what types of ships/boats have youngsters travelling in the Mediterranean opted for? Just large ships? What about their relationship to sailing, with or without a skipper? Moreover, what ramifications has youth travel, including its maritime component, had for youngsters of differing social class, gender and ethnicity from the 1960s onwards? For instance, upper-middle class youngsters from Greece who were inspired by the hippie counterculture in the early 1970s saw in free camping as well as travel on the deck of a ship to the Cyclades and Crete as a means of gaining autonomy from their parents. They consciously chose the cheapest travel and accommodation patterns, which they juxtaposed with the affluence of their family. Have, however, youngsters from different social backgrounds also appreciated such maritime travel patterns and, if so, how have they construed this? In addressing the maritime youth travel experience, we especially wish to address practices and relations that emerged or were reinforced during such journeys, such as flirting. Similarly, we welcome submissions that address the emotions that travelling by ship generated in youngsters from Western Europe. As has been the case, the ships that young travellers choose are not always the most technologically advanced. Has that stirred excitement, fear or both and is that an ingredient of a desirably adventurous trip? Finally, what has maritime youth travel meant for all senses of the young tourist? For instance, if they construe the decision to travel on the deck as a rite of passage to autonomy from parents, do they link this with particular sensorial experiences, such as the sound of the waves, the taste of salt as well as lying on the deck and looking up at the sky, experiences that travelling in a ship cabin could not provide?
- Representations of maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean since the 1960s. A memorable experience for many youngsters from Western Europe, the maritime youth travel experience has been captured and represented in photographs that those travellers took of themselves – even well before the emergence of the digital selfie, but also in diaries they kept and letters they sent. This type of travel did not fail to attract the interest of the tourist industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, West German travel agencies aimed at young customers often included photos of young tourists relaxing while travelling by ship to Majorca. Thus, in discussing representations of maritime youth travel in the Mediterranean, we would be particularly interested in dealing with the following issues: How has it been presented in literature, film and music? How has it been captured in documents of the members of ship crews, such as their diaries? And how has it been recorded by the young travellers themselves in photographs, videos, diaries, letters, or even other memorabilia, such as tickets with notes written on them? For instance, it was common for shipping to print postcards depicting the ships of their fleet which they sold or gave away for free in the ship’s shops (which were mostly duty frees). Moreover – mainly in the cruise ships but also in the ferries – there is an amount of ship-related products available in the ship’s shop, such as cups, mugs, t-shirts, pins, ashtrays or even miniatures of the particular vessel. These items tend to sell well, proving popular not only with shipping enthusiasts but also the regular passengers.
Are you ready to embark?
Despite the fact that from the 2000s on the low cost airlines tend to attract more and more customers, the maritime journey in a variety of forms remains dominant in the Mediterranean. From the Strait of Gibraltar to the Islands of the Aegean, a diverse, multi-size and colorful fleet transfers goods, locals and visitors in numerous ports.
In many ways traveling by passenger ships remains a unique experience. Many of us, allow us to include ourselves, have lived the maritime journey with all our senses. We have had the opportunity to meet new people and sing along with the amateur musicians traveling to smaller islands. We took naps on uncomfortable “Pullman Seats” or even within our sleeping bags inside the lifeboats. We have felt sea sick when the weather was rough and we have spent time at the ports waiting for the usually delayed ferries. Due to the adventurous nature of the maritime journey we have disembarked on purpose at a wrong port.
Therefore we would do our best to maintain the core characteristics of the maritime journey in this blog. We want to keep it as open as the groups of friends formed in the public areas of the ferries, as fresh as the winds that blow during the summer in the Aegean, as adventurous as the “next ship to anywhere” choice we usually made in front of a travel agent’s desk. Don’t hesitate to share your stories with all of us. The maritime journey occupies a part of our hearts and definitely deserves to be shared.
Please unpack your stories from your back packs, re-embark on the slow ferries and spread your vivid memories with the rest of the world. Here, all of us, from the curious explorers of the 1960s to the wild partiers of the 2000s, have the opportunity to sail together in our virtual but still real salty decks.
 D. Notarakis, “Ο/Γ ΤΑΛΩΣ: Το «Ασανσέρ» του Αρχιπελάγους” (ro/ro TALOS: The “lift” of the archipelago). EFOPLISTIS, September 2014, 60-73.
 See, for instance: A. Schildt, ‘Across the border: West German Youth Travel to Western Europe’, in A. Schildt, D. Siegfried (eds.), Between Marx and Coca Cola: Youth Cultures in Changing European Societies, 1960–1980 (New York, Oxford 2006), 149-160; R.I. Jobs, ‘Youth Movements: Travel, Protest, and Europe in 1968’, The American Historical Review, 114, 2 (2009), 379.
 Against the main touristic stream freighter “cruises” have been introduced. Certain freighters have had extra cabins offered to a limited number of passengers. For more check here: http://www.freightervoyages.eu/ (last accessed: 3 October 2015)
 Axel Schildt, Detlef Siegfried, ‘Introduction. Youth, Consumption, and Politics in the Age of Radical Change’, in: Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (eds.), Between Marx and Coca-Cola: Youth Cultures in Changing European Societies, 1960–1980, New York and Oxford, 2007, p. 5
You must be logged in to post a comment.