Symi Blues in February

blog 20 Feb 2019 a
A small fishing boat in Pedi.
blog 20 Feb 2019 b
Where there are castles built by the Knights of Rhodes, there are also canon balls. It is only in Hollywood that canon balls explode. Real ones are made of stone or iron and there are literally thousands of stone canon balls in Rhodes as well as a few in Symi. This one is on a doorstep in Pedi.
blog 20 Feb 2019 c
Homage to Knossos and Sir Arthur Evans.
blog 20 Feb 2019 d detail
When it says Outdoor shower on the listing…
blog 20 Feb 2019 d
Well, it does stop the kids from tracking sand and salt into the house.
blog 20 Feb 2019 e
A Pedi fisherman’s cottage. I didn’t notice the cat among the fish baskets until I downloaded the photograph.
blog 20 Feb 2019 f
Water colours
blog 20 Feb 2019 g
There is water seeping out of the hillsides
blog 20 Feb 2019 h
and draining from gardens
blog 20 Feb 2019 i
and flowing into the sea … (BTW the shell case is a more recent relic, left by the Germans during the Second World War)
blog 20 Feb 2019 j
from neat canals
blog 20 Feb 2019 k
Kamares
blog 20 Feb 2019 l
A slightly fancier fishing boat
blog 20 Feb 2019 m
Almond blossom
blog 20 Feb 2019 n
Sand shovelled into heaps outside the Pedi Beach Hotel.
blog 20 Feb 2019 o
A calm morning in Pedi
blog 20 Feb 2019 p
Pedi pond. In the summer this vanishes totally, just leaving a few clumps of grass to mark its location.
blog 20 Feb 2019 q
Sandbags instead of sunbeds.

 

The weekly storms are still vicious but the sunny intervals between them are growing longer and milder.  There is a feeling of spring in the air and there are more people around.  It is that time of the year where it is warmer outdoors than in and everyone is relishing the sunshine.  Walkers of all ages promenade past under the watchful gaze of grazing sheep.  The ground is still to water-logged for much agricultural activity.  More heavy rain is forecast for the weekend as another storm system passes over Greece. As we near the spring equinox the storms increasingly pass to the north of us so while they may disrupt the big boat schedules they are not as destructive locally.

Wherever one looks on Symi there are bits of history tangled up with the present day.  The sense of continuity has a steadying effect.  Invaders and occupiers have come and gone and people are still here, growing olives, grazing sheep, fishing …

The photograph at the top of this blog shows the Kastro, Symi’s acropolis.  This has been a fortification of one sort or another for thousands of years although the most recent structure was a castle, built by the Knights of Rhodes.  Much of the remaining structure were destroyed during the Second World War when the retreating Germans blew up the munitions store they had there but there are still chunks of wall visible.  The main habitation was always huddled around the acropolis rather than the sea.  Trouble came from the sea.  Pirates, invaders – anyone on the shoreline was vulnerable.  Ancient settlements tended to be on high ground where you could see trouble coming before it arrived and defend yourself.  Symi’s hill tops and mountain peaks are dotted with the remnants of ancient fortifications and settlements.  They are not always easy to spot, particularly in the summer months when everything is uniformly dry and patterns are not so easily distinguishable on the landscape.

If you have any topics about Symi that you would particularly like me to focus on please let me know via the comments section or by emailing me or commenting on Facebook.  I would love to hear from you.

 

Adriana

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Symi in February

blog 8 Feb 2019 a
A moss garden on a wall in Pedi. The barbed wire is to keep the goats out.
blog 8 Feb 2019 b
St George’s church, Pedi
blog 8 Feb 2019 c
Splash!
blog 8 Feb 2019 d
The taverna may be closed for winter renovations but the cats at Katsaras are still dining well.
blog 8 Feb 2019 e
Date palms by the Pedi Beach hotel. That is the monastery dedicated to Profiti Elias – the Prophet Elijah – on the slope in the distance.
blog 8 Feb 2019 f
Reflections.
blog 8 Feb 2019 g
An abandoned farmstead on a mountain top above Pedi.
blog 8 Feb 2019 h
The almond trees are what is left of what must have been quite an extensive orchard.

blog 8 Feb 2019 i

blog 8 Feb 2019 j
Sheep in a walled garden in Pedi.

 

January was wet and windy and so far February has not been much better.  They didn’t give a name to the storm that pounded Greece on Tuesday night and Wednesday but it delivered a lot of damage, particularly in Rhodes where large boulders were thrown about by the sea and many small seaside villages and beaches took a hammering.  Once again there were shipping bans and flight disruptions as winds topped Force 9, gusting Force 10.  There are another 6-8 weeks of winter still to come so it isn’t over yet.  Heavy hail storms on high ground took their toll of the new lambs in the mountain pastures on Symi and the local shepherds all have stories to tell.

In the quieter corners the almond blossoms are opening and the countryside is very green.  When the sun comes through it can be as much as 20 degrees centigrade, out of the wind.  Most of the time, though, midday temperatures are around 14 degrees and last night the thermometer on our car was reading 7 degrees centigrade.  The wind makes it seem chilly, particularly as the water has found its way into everything indoors and out.  Most Symi houses, regardless of age, have damp problems in the winter.  Either condensation turns surfaces black with mould or water seeps through walls, turning green with algae if there is any sunlight.  Apparently tea tree oil helps with the mould spores, if one can get hold of it.  Everyone else is constantly swabbing down with bleach solution.  It is not for nothing that spring painting is an annual necessity.

The bus is back, still running on a reduced winter schedule but much better than wading against the flow in the rain.

We have a few breezy partly cloudy days ahead and then the showers and next rainy spell is forecast to arrive on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  As the Blue Star came in from Rhodes last night there should be fresh stuff in the shops this morning.  Time to go foraging!

The cover photograph shows some of the sand and gravel that Tuesday night’s storm threw up along the waterfront road in Pedi.  The small terracotta fragments are potsherds, fragments of ancient amphora and pithoi that have been smashed and polished by the sea over centuries.

 

Stormy Symi January 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The view from the top of the island, looking towards Nissyros and Kos
agios andreas church pedi 1
Agios Andreas Church, next to the Pedi Beach Hotel
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A seasonal brook near the Ancient Fortifiation of Old Drakos in the Pedi Valley
between storms pedi
A quiet interlude between storms
double rainbow from pedi
Double rainbow across Pedi
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The same rainbow, as seen from the top of the Pedi valley
first almond blossom pedi
The first almond blossoms, in a field behind Taverna Katsaras in Pedi.
flooded garden pedi
A flooded garden near the Pedi Beach Hotel
lemons in pedi
Lemons in an old walled garden.
moving nanny goat agios andreas pedi
Moving a nanny goat.
orchard with cat
Walled orchard in Pedi
rainbow pedi with st george church
Rainbow’s end in Pedi bay
seaweed pedi
Seaweed tide line after a winter storm in Pedi
vegetable garden pedi
Vegetable garden in Pedi

 

Winter in the Mediterranean may conjure up visions of mild temperatures, sunny days and pavement cafes.  This can happen, if you are lucky, but most of the time, particularly in January and February, it can be very wet, extremely windy and, on occasion, even snowy.

This year the snow even crept to sea level in places like Corfu, Skopelos and Thessalonica. Rhodes had heavy snowfalls on the mountain tops and the Evzones found themselves strutting their stuff outside Syntagma, Athens, surrounded by the white stuff.

We have had ferry disruptions of one sort or another every week since December and the Best Western Plaza hotel in Rhodes is offering special rates for Symiots hanging about, waiting for boats and doctor’s appointments.

On a personal note, I have been out of circulation for many weeks, due to severe back problems.  A strict regime of bed rest, exercises and medication under the supervision of an orthopaedic specialist in Rhodes seems to be working but I have to be very careful about how much time I spend sitting at the computer and have only recently been able to go for short walks, with the help of a stick.  It is unfortunate that the Symi bus is out of circulation so I cannot venture further afield.  At the moment my perambulations are strictly local but I can at least provide you with some photographs to give you an idea of what Pedi looks like in January.

 

Enjoy!

October Postcards from Symi

blog 22 Oct 2018 a
Once upon a time the small island of Symi was parcelled up into a number of small ‘kingdoms’, each centred around an easily defensible position.  The Kastro in Chorio, overlooking Yialos, is the most obvious as it lingered on in use into modern times, as has Kokkimides.  A sharp eye, however, can see traces of many other ancient fortresses that have long fallen into disuse. This one overlooks Nanou bay, the sea towards Asia Minor and Rhodes, Marathounda bay and a sheltered valley near Megalo Sotiris.  If you look carefully you can still see the dry stone walls marking the perimeter and also an interior fortification above the trees.
blog 22 Oct 2018 b
There was a tremendous thunderstorm on 30 September with some quite heavy rain – the first after a long hot summer.  We spotted this chap in our road, slurping up from the puddles.  We had to move him carefully to a safer spot to reduce the danger of being run over.
blog 22 Oct 2018 c
Just as well we saw him and stopped in time.  In the dark he would not have been so lucky.
blog 22 Oct 2018 d
One of the corner cats.  Regular followers of my blog over the years will be aware that there is a happy community of cats, cockerels and chickens hanging out by the bins where our dirt road joins the road to Panormitis.
blog 22 Oct 2018 e
All new builds on Symi have to harmonise with the existing neo-classical architecture.   Someone took the easy route when making the bull’s eye in the pediment of this modern construction – that is a ceiling boss!
blog 22 Oct 2018 f
Elegant squills along the Pedi road. They came up early this year, in September, and are already starting to fade. The broad strap leaves are forcing their way through.  
blog 22 Oct 2018 g
I took this in Rhodes last week.  That is the Panagia Skiadeni, the Dodecanese Seaways car ferry, in the background, about to set off with a boat load of day-trippers for Symi.  Akandia, the car ferry port, is just beyond the main boatyard.
blog 22 Oct 2018 i
Just add water – a few days after the rain the grass started to come up in all the places where the damp lingered.  Although day time temperatures are still in the twenties, humidity is high with heavy dew falls at night and plenty of mist.
blog 22 Oct 2018 j
Spotted in a side road.

Waiting for Zorba

The weather is turning early this year. The first part of this week shipping was disrupted by northerly gales in the Northern and Central Aegean caused by Storm Xenophon.  Now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the optimistically named Medicane Zorbas.  This sounds like some sort of weird Greek pharmaceutical but it is actually a meteorological term for the Mediterranean version of a Category 1 Hurricane.

blog 28 Sep 2018 a
An old oven near the technical high school in Chorio.  There used to be a lot of these communal ovens in the residential areas of Symi but many have been demolished or have literally collapsed in recent years.  Symi houses are small and fuel is scarce.  The big cast iron range cookers that were fashionable in 19th century Europe never made it to Symi.  Instead there was an open hearth in the kitchen with wrought iron trivets for cooking over a small wood fire.  Once a week or so or on special occasions an outdoor oven such as this one would be used to bake bread, roast meat and prepare other specialities that required an oven.  When I first came here in the 1990s it was still common to see housewives carrying trays of food to the bakeries of Chorio to cook in the ovens as they cool in the afternoon.  Nowadays they have modern electric ovens like everyone else – and air conditioning to cool the house after a day’s cooking.
blog 28 Sep 2018 b
Most doors and windows on Symi are wood.  There are, however, quite a few steel courtyard doors around if one looks about.  This one is relatively recent in that it was welded rather than riveted.  The floral motif on this one caught my eye.
blog 28 Sep 2018 c
These days the bulls eye on the pediment is usually a solid motif but in the older houses this was an important part of ventilation for the house.  Heat rises and escapes from the roof space through the lacy ironwork.
blog 28 Sep 2018 d
The Blue Star 1 powering past the entrance to Pedi, on her way to Rhodes. 
blog 28 Sep 2018 e
Playtime in Pedi Bay.
blog 28 Sep 2018 f
The monastery of Profiti Ilias (Prophet Elijah), perched on a crag overlooking the Pedi Valley.
blog 28 Sep 2018 g
Sand and straw in a builder’s yard in the Pedi valley.
blog 28 Sep 2018 h
Those brown bottles must have been there for a very long time, probably since long before I started work at the Valanidia on the Pedi road, yet I only noticed them this summer.  The labels have washed away and they are held in place by a bit of fencing.  They aren’t broken so it is possible that they were originally in boxes or some kind of packaging which has rotted away over the years, leaving the bottles to gently topple over against the pig wire.
blog 28 Sep 2018 i
Preparing for the rain in one of the walled gardens behind the beach in Pedi.
blog 28 Sep 2018 j
Pomegranates ripening in a garden up at Megalo Sotiris.
blog 28 Sep 2018 k
And down at sea level on the north shore of Pedi bay.  There is a bit of a cave in the hillside behind the tree which has been waterproofed with cement and secured with a door which you can just see on the right.  When houses are small, the occupants tend to spill out into their surroundings and before the advent of the ‘marina’ the north shore of Pedi bay was a picturesque row of outdoor kitchens and living spaces in the summer.
blog 28 Sep 2018 l
Doesn’t that sparkling water sing you siren songs?  Pedi bay last week.
blog 28 Sep 2018 m
A windy sky.  My pomegranate tree is never very productive. This year it is providing support to a random handful of ipomea (morning glory). Reach for the skies…

The weather is turning early this year. The first part of this week shipping was disrupted by northerly gales in the Northern and Central Aegean caused by Storm Xenophon.  Now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the optimistically named Medicane Zorbas.  This sounds like some sort of weird Greek pharmaceutical but it is actually a meteorological term for the Mediterranean version of a Category 1 Hurricane.  The Mediterranean Sea is over-heating and feeding storms more commonly associated with the tropics.  Zorbas is currently revolving over the Ionian and South Peloponnese.  Crete is already feeling its effects in the form of storm surges and gale force winds.  It is moving slowly towards us and the various computer projections seem undecided as to when and where it will hit the Eastern Aegean and Dodecanese.  The bulletins are changing hourly, the shipping companies are struggling to keep up and travellers are worrying about planes, ferries, connections and insurance.  Somehow the last weekend in September is behaving like the last week in October.

I had to go down to the harbour this morning to see the dentist.  Symi may be a tiny island and somewhat inaccessible but we do have two excellent dentists and, despite the various ferry disruptions, my new bridge arrived in time to be fitted this morning.  The harbour, Yialos, was very busy as some late season fancy yachts had decided that retail therapy was the answer on a grey blustery day.  The water taxis and excursion boats aren’t running today due to the anticipated storms so late September visitors were also in the coffee shops and boutiques rather than sunning themselves outside the Pedi Beach Hotel.  Workmen were banging in battens and balancing on ladders, rigging the plastic ‘tents’ that provide protection against the elements for those hospitality venues that stay open through the winter.  This ritual is usually performed in late October or early November, not the last week in September.

It is by no means cold.  It is about 28 degrees today and very humid under a heavy blanket of cloud.  The day has been punctuated by intermittent showers and the wind is starting to rise, buffeting the yachts at anchor in Pedi bay.

Have a good weekend – and I will let you know if Zorba came to visit or passed us by.

Regards,

Adriana

 

 

Sleepy September

blog 6 Sep 2018 k
You never know what you are going to spot, walking around Symi.  Anyone who knows where these are, please comment on this blog 🙂
blog 6 Sep 2018 j
Back in the 80s and 90s this was a tourist shop at the bottom of the Pedi road.  Now you have to go to Yialos to buy sunhats, sarongs and beach towels.
blog 6 Sep 2018 i
It may still be hot and the first rains are still about 6 weeks away but this local works on his garden every day.  I have noticed a big increase in agricultural activities on Symi in recent years.  The only way to survive on an austerity income is by living off the land as far as possible.
blog 6 Sep 2018 h
Tyres perish in the hot Symi sun.  It is not unusual to see various protective improvisations like this one.
blog 6 Sep 2018 g
If I had not heard the bleat I would never have noticed this nanny goat.  She looks almost as weather-beaten as her surroundings.
blog 6 Sep 2018 f
Beehives.  Symi honey is prized for its delicate herbal flavours from wild mountain thyme, sage and rigani.  You can find it for sale in limited quantities at several of the supermarkets, grocers and tourist shops.
blog 6 Sep 2018 e
August is definitely over.  There are very few yachts in Pedi now and they are of more modest proportions.  The rich and famous have gone to play somewhere else or are back in their counting houses, counting out their money.
blog 6 Sep 2018 c
The so-called marina in Pedi. As you can see, it is far too narrow to be a marina.  Only very small local boats can squeeze inside.  Apparently the plans did not take into account the widening of the waterfront between the time the original survey was done and construction actually started so the enclosed area is 4 metres narrower than originally intended.  No comments please!  Visiting yachts can tie up on the outside.  Unfortunately there are no actual amenities available so don’t expect shore power, laundry, wifi or hot showers.  It is, however, conveniently solid to tie up to if you are tired of rowing an inflatable full of shopping across the bay in a brisk catabatic.
blog 6 Sep 2018 b
Fishermen’s cottages on the northern Pedi waterfront, as seen from the head of the marina.
blog 6 Sep 2018 a
And finally, spotted in the Chorio car park… Cats don’t have the monopoly on cuteness around here.

August is over. The crowds have gone. The children are preparing for another school year. Next week the ferry schedules change as Blue Star reverts to smaller boats on the Symi route.  Good bye, Nissos Chios, Welcome Back, Patmos!

There is also far less traffic on the roads.  British tourists tend to be apprehensive about hiring cars and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The holidaymakers from other parts of Greece and further afield who arrive with their cars on the Blue Star have also gone home again.  If you do visit Symi in September it is well worth hiring a car for a day or so to explore the interior of the island and visit Kokkimides monastery, Roukoniotis monastery and Toli Bay.  While there are organised mini-bus excursions if there are enough of you, having your own wheels gives you more freedom to stop and take photographs as well as linger at places that take your fancy.  On a clear day you can see as far as Kos on one side and Rhodes on the other with the islands of Halki, Tilos and Nissyros also visible.

As the continent of Europe starts to cool to the north of us, so has the breeze that blows down the Aegean, bringing welcome relief from the searing temperatures of the Symi summer.  It is still around 30 degrees at midday but after days in the forties, 30 seems quite mild.  Nights are cooling off too.  We plugged our boiler in for hot water yesterday for the first time since May.  Not quite time to dig out the duvet and woolly jumpers just yet though. That doesn’t happen until early November!

Have a good weekend.

Regards,

Adriana

 

August Postcards from Symi

blog 25 August 2018 a
The view from the top.  Pedi bay has been very full for the past couple of weeks.  Symi has always been a popular destination for Turkish yachtsmen and the recent Eid holiday brought lots of maritime visitors, despite the plunging value of the Turkish lira.
blog 25 August 2018 b
This opulent creeper caught my eye in Pedi recently.
blog 25 August 2018 c
The jetty in Pedi is not just for pleasure boats and water taxis.  Pedi is the port for the fuel tanker for the power station, water ships, small freighters and all sorts of random commercial traffic destined for the yards and warehouses that line the Pedi road.
blog 25 August 2018 d
A few of the houses along the seafront in Pedi have managed to hang onto some sort of water frontage and outdoor living space, unlike the ones along the north side who lost their frontage to a sea of concrete when the ill-thought out ‘marina’ was built.
blog 25 August 2018 e
The million dollar question is why the cat in the previous photograph is snoozing on a pallet when he would be so much more comfortable on the neighbours’ cushions.
blog 25 August 2018 f
Cockerels roosting in a tree in the valley.  Chickens are actually by nature woodland fowl and when they go feral this becomes quite obvious.  The hens may nest and lay eggs in shrubby places at ground level when they go broody but the rest of the time everyone prefers to roost as high up as they can get.
blog 25 August 2018 g
Some more Pedi seating.  That looks a bit like an old bench off the Symi I ferry.
blog 25 August 2018 h
The method of hauling boats out of the water hasn’t changed much since Homeric times.  ‘Greased ways’ are still used.  The local wooden boat designs haven’t changed their underwater profiles much since Homeric times either which is why these wooden skids still work. An advantage is they can be infinitely modified by whacking on extra bits of wood as required to keep the caique stable.
blog 25 August 2018 i
Something else that probably hasn’t changed much over the centuries either.
blog 25 August 2018 j
A recent view from Villa Jasmine in Pedi.
blog 25 August 2018 k
The view from my ironing board.  These days I spend much of my time down in Pedi, washing and ironing the sheets and towels for the houses I look after.  From where I stand I can look out of two windows and all sorts of interesting things happen if one looks carefully enough.  I saw vague movement on the hillside and the zoom lens of my camera revealed a local beekeeper, checking his hives.
blog 25 August 2018 l
The view from the front window alternates between very busy with the bus and taxis rattling past to very peaceful, depending on where we are in the hourly bus schedule and the harbour ferry movements.  About 15 minutes after a ferry comes into Yialos, a cavalcade of taxis and mini buses roars past, tooting on the blind bend. Then it is all over for another half an hour or so.
blog 25 August 2018 m
Garden furniture for sale.  The gypsy hawkers are an important part of island life, selling all sorts of items according to the season.  Right now it is garden furniture, clay pots, potting soil and the hardier drought resistant plants.  Next month they will be selling hunting clothes and carpets.  If you are patient, everything comes to you eventually on Symi, whether it be day old chicks, artisanal cheese, Chinese power tools, designer knock-offs or shag-pile carpets. This is how people on the smaller islands got their necessities before on line shopping, car ferries to Rhodes, IKEA deliveries and other modern conveniences.  There’s still some excitement in seeing just what trundles off the car ferries and there are bargains to be had if you aren’t too picky about designs and colour schemes.
blog 25 August 2018 n
We have an elegant new bus stop at the fork in the road in Pedi.  The local carpenter who made it specialises in ecclesiastical furniture for the island’s numerous chapels and churches, hence the delicate roof.  Whether it will survive the rigours of a Symi winter remains to be seen.  It had only been up a couple of days when I took this photograph.  A far cry from the robust corrugated iron bus stops immortalised in Will Travis’ famous book about Symi in the 1970s called ‘Bus Stop Symi. What made bus stops note worthy on Symi in the 60s and 70s was that the island had neither roads nor buses at the time!