Symi has turned into a garden this year. Those long soaking rains for months on end during the winter gave us a spectacular spring and the mountain herbs are putting on a show for far longer this year. Even people who usually come in June are commenting on how bright the thyme flowers are this year. While other countries may be worrying about their bee populations, Symi’s bees are absolutely wallowing in thyme pollen at the moment and the hills are humming.
Recycling has been a big topic for all parties involved in the recent elections. In reality, the bins have obviously been in the pipeline for a while regardless. Rhodes has had them for some time and this is not the first time we have seen bins for collecting aluminium cans on Symi – we covered the same story in the days of the Symi Visitor newspaper, more than a decade ago. The crucial thing is not so much encouraging the locals and tourists to use them but that the contents are then actually taken away and recycled in a sustainable way. Greece has very few recycling facilities and they are all on the mainland, a 17 hour ferry journey away. Rubbish, whatever it is, tends to be high volume, so a cost effective way of transporting paper, bottles, cans, plastic and so on has to be provided to form the next link in the chain. Otherwise we will see yet another recycling initiative fall by the wayside as the contents wind up in a landfill somewhere. In the long term the real solution lies with the packaging industry finding better alternatives that are still effective for their purpose but without the negative environmental implications.
As many of you probably know, I look after holiday homes for various people and provide the services they need to keep them running smoothly. Recently I received a consignment of all the sheets and towels necessary for one particular house. Three sets of everything. They were ordered from an on line source by the owner of the property and arrived in big boxes by courier. Every single individual item, whether it be a sheet or a pillow case or a towel, was folded around a piece of cardboard to give it a neat shape. It was then encased in a printed paper sleeve, giving details of the item. Each of these was then in a separate resealable plastic envelope. That means that for each item of bedding or towels there were 3 items of packaging. What kind of madness is this? Even if those separate pieces of packaging are recyclable, in a place where those particular materials can be recycled, bearing in mind that facilities are not universally available, is it really necessary to fold a pillowcase round a piece of cardboard, wrap it in a piece of printed paper and then put it in a plastic bag? Many of us are old enough to remember when someone would have counted out the appropriate number of items. Laid them on a sheet of brown paper, wrapped it up into a parcel with tape or string and that would have been that.
The Symi summer season starts later than it used to as fewer tourists come to Symi for Easter and spring break. With little pressure, businesses now unfurl from the winter hibernation at a more leisurely pace and most set their targets for the end of May rather than the beginning.
Every day brings more changes, particularly in the harbour where the day boats from Rhodes provide more of an incentive for shops and cafes to open up but here in Pedi things are still very quiet. The first Saga Holidays people have arrived at the Pedi Beach Hotel and the last bus is now at 9.30 p.m. from Pedi. We had supper with friends at the newly re-opened Katsaras Taverna in Pedi and we were the only diners.
The weather is still unsettled, with random red rain showers, occasional blustery days and temperatures ranging from 16 degrees to 25 degrees. Even on the hazy days of Saharan dust it can be very bright and the sun cream days are definitely with us. Over the weekend there were countrywide ferry and flight disruptions due to strong winds.
Tomorrow is VE Day and a local holiday. German General Wagener surrendered the Dodecanese to the Allies at the building on the waterfront in Yialos that now houses LOS club (previously Katerinettes pension and taverna). There is still a big parade here on Symi every year. When I first came to Symi, nearly 30 years ago, veterans and their families would make a point of coming to Symi to attend the parade. Now they are long gone and very few of the people taking part or watching have any real first hand connection with the event. It is still, however, an important part of Symi’s recent history and a reminder that tiny islands are not immune to the ripples of world events.
On the ferry front, ANES released a schedule for the Sebeco that covered the Easter and May Day holidays and runs out tomorrow, 8 May, so we still don’t know which evenings, if any, there may be boats from Rhodes to Symi or which mornings there will be boats from Symi to Rhodes. The promised extra Blue Star Sunday routes also don’t appear on any schedule. The Blue Star 2 made a diversion through Symi this Sunday past in order to pick up morning passengers from the Sebeco who would otherwise have been stranded as the wind was too strong for the Sebeco to run. Generally speaking, if you are making plans, it is probably best to stick with what is on the Dodecanese Seaways and Blue Star websites and regard anything else as a bonus!
Actually to call them April Showers is a bit of an understatement. Deluge is more like it and on Monday the rain was so heavy that all the water courses flowed, coming down in torrents through the square in Yialos, under the bridge and into the harbour. The water remained muddy for several hours after that. Lightning strikes knocked out phone lines in parts of Chorio and a number of home owners had floods indoors when their roof gutters failed to cope with the downpours. An inconvenient quirk of Symi’s pretty neo-classical architecture is that the gutters are channels in the tops of the walls, converging on some sort of down pipe inside the wall leading to the house’s rainwater cistern. If the down pipe gets blocked or the rain is so heavy that it cannot drain away down the pipe fast enough, the gutters overflow over the sill under the eaves and down the inside of the house. Very exciting if you are inside at the time – but worse to come back to if your house has been closed up for the winter and no one has been inside to clean up the resultant mess.
Greek Easter falls on the last weekend of April this year, giving everyone a bit more time to prepare for the start of the Easter. Just as well really, considering that there is yet more rain forecast for Monday next week. The charter flights into Rhodes started about a week ago and Dodecanese Seaways started a daily catamaran service to Symi this week. This was a bit of a mixed blessing as the weather disrupted the schedule and some people experienced a very bumpy ride on Wednesday. Mal de mer aside, I have seen a few tourists about, exploring Pedi on foot with Nordic poles (Tuesday) and with hire bikes (Thursday). Neither of the tavernas is open at the moment. Apostoli’s is still in boatyard mode and Katsaras is working frantically between storms to get their waterfrontage open. Both minimarkets, however, offer hot coffee and one can buy rolls, chocolate and so on for an impromptu picnic. Of the hotels, the only one that is sort of open is Galini , the small pension on the road, opposite St George’s church.
With the elections coming up, more candidates are coming forward for positions on the town council. Will the status quo be disrupted? This could be interesting! As Brexit has been stalled until October 31 those British expats on the Symi Voters Roll can vote in the Mayoral and EU elections this year, possibly for the last time. Among other things, the opposition candidate, Ilias Tsavaris, is pushing for more resources to be directed to the forgotten areas of Chorio and Pedi. As parts of Chorio still bear the scars of the storm of 13 November 2017 and the old town area, which is where a large proportion of the population lives, has been underfunded for years, this could be a hot ticket. If you are on Facebook, you can keep abreast of all these developments as campaigning hots up.
Meanwhile, the Easter lambs are munching their way through the daisies, the chamomile is fragrant under foot, the tadpoles may or may not turn into frogs and toads and the street lights are back on in Pedi.