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

 

 

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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!

Symi Views

Chorio cats, views from the top and other Sunday musings from Adriana on Symi.

blog 29 July 2018 b
You know it is hot when the cats seek out the shade for their snoozes.  I spotted this one up by the museum at the top of Chorio.
blog 29 July 2018 c
If you go up the Chorio museum by bus, ask the driver to drop you off at Lavinia/Sevasti/Lieni and walk along the lane as far as you can go, until you come to some broad steps to your left.  Go up the steps and you will come to this square.  If you walk through the narrow lane between the pink house with the blue shutters and the white steps with the wrought iron bannister, the museum is the white building on your right, a sliver of which is just visible in this photograph.
blog 29 July 2018 d
The lane from the bus stop to the museum.  As you can see, this is very much a traditional residential area. Note the obligatory cat.
blog 29 July 2018 e
Looking down at Pedi bay from the top of Lieni. The footpath to St Nicholas beach is clearly visible on the right.  The ochre and blue building in the centre foreground is the Pedi Beach Hotel.  The strip of brown just visible at the bottom left is the ravaged football field, destroyed in the flood of 13 November 2017.
blog 29 July 2018 f
Looking north from Lieni, towards Nimborio bay and the island of Nimos. The houses in the foreground are part of central Chorio and are on the ridge that divides Yialos from Chorio and Pedi.  If you look carefully you can see the towers remaining of two old windmills.
blog 29 July 2018 g
Solar water heaters are popular in this part of the world for obvious reasons. They can, however, heat to dangerous temperatures as they cannot be regulated.  This is one way of turning down the thermostat when the water from the hot tap starts steaming.
blog 29 July 2018 h
The view from the first view site on the road up the Vigla, looking north towards Nimos and Nimborio bay. That fast boat roaring out is a water taxi.  Looking for landmarks, on the far left of the photograph you can see remnants of the castle walls in Chorio with Evangelismos church in Harani behind.  The windmills are easier to pick out on the right, marching up the curve of the ridge.  The dark cypress trees mark the location of Agios Elfeteris church at Kampos in central Chorio with the main Chorio carpark just visible next to it.
blog 29 July 2018 i
Villa Jasmine was a very popular Symi Visitor listing down in Pedi.  A three-bedroomed house by the seaside with every comfort you could wish for, absolute privacy and fabulous views, it is now available at an extremely reasonable price through AirBnB.

Symi Summer Sunday

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For the last twenty or so years I have walked down the Kali Strata to work in the harbour. This year, with all the changes in my life, my daily ‘commute’ is a walk down the Pedi road.  When we first came to Symi the Pedi road was very familiar territory as we lived on board Salamander, our boat, at anchor in Pedi bay and, much later, after we bought our farm, I used to work at the Valandia, a taverna half way down the Pedi road, run by a couple from Wolverhampton.  Once I started working for the Symi Visitor, I seldom walked that way and recent weeks have really been a ‘walk down memory lane.

blog 14 July 2018 e
A last lingering relect of the glory days of the Valanidia taverna on the Pedi road.

The road has become a sort of light industrial strip with two garages, a petrol station, the power station, the desalination plant, a stone cutter and all the warehouses for the island’s supermarkets lining the downhill side of the road, as well as the various suppliers of building materials and assorted storage facilities.  The uphill side of the road, however, is still pretty much as it was in 1994.  The photograph at the top of this page shows detail of some very old terrace walling on the hillside, including very basic but effective steps to climb from one terrace to another.

Before the sponge diving and the ship building boom of the late 19th century, Symi was known for its sweet wine.  All that is left of Symi’s wine industry is the remnants of old terraces clinging to seriously stony and inhospitable hillsides.  Grape vines don’t mind poor soil and require surprisingly little water once established.  They can be grown successfully in conditions inhospitable to virtually anything else.  Samos, Symi’s northern neighbour, is still a significant producer of a sweet muscadel-type dessert wine similar to that enjoyed by 17th and 18th century visitors to Symi.

Today’s slide show includes some photographs of Pedi bay, Panormitis bay on the south western end of the island, the bell tower and famously windswept tree at the mountain  monastery of Kokkimides and the entrance to the Alethini church on the Pedi road with all its flags.

We are halfway through July, traditionally regarded as the first of the three ‘high season’ months.  Symi is still very quiet in comparison to the pre-economic crisis days and there are few boats swinging in Pedi bay. The days when the boats were so tight packed that Steerforth, our ship’s cat, could jump from boat to boat as they swung close are over.

Temperatures are still around the forty degree centigrade mark with a strong hot wind blowing some afternoons.  The deciduous trees are shedding their leaves in great drifts of crispy green as the trees struggle to cope with the low humidity, searing temperatures and falling ground water levels.

I am about to set off on today’s walk down the Pedi road as three baskets of sheets and pillowcases in need of ironing await me at the bottom.  Ironing sheets is quite therapeutic.  I plug in my tablet, select an audio book and the time flies by!  Enjoy your Sunday.

Regards,

Adriana

July Postcards from Symi

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Today you have a slideshow to enjoy. Random photos taken in recent days to give you a flavour of what Symi is like in late June and early July.

June stayed stormy to the last gasp.  Thundershowers and lightning displays more commonly associated with April lingered on past the solstice and some parts of Greece, including nearby Rhodes, experienced flash floods and heavy downpours.

Since 1 July the thermometer has moved relentlessly upwards and the last couple of days have been firmly over 40 degrees centigrade.  Strong hot dry winds have precipitated leaf fall as the trees have gone into shock.  I wonder how that patch of cabbages I photographed near the football field earlier this week is fairing in the rising temperatures.  My own endeavours in the cabbage department were never very successful as they need a long steady growing period and they were invariably discovered by the caterpillars or bolted long before they hearted up.

The extreme temperatures are causing havoc with electronic devices.  Laptops, tablets and smartphones are not happy in temperatures at the high end of the operating scale and either shut down completely or behave erratically.  As good an excuse as any to leave the devices at home and enjoy the holiday!

There are more yachts coming through, including some big expensive ones.  We may not see many live-aboard cruising boats these days but Symi is still on the oligarch trail.  The anchorage in Pedi is fairly quiet and there is lots of space in the harbour too.  The days when one could count 40 or more yachts swinging at anchor in Pedi seem to be a distant memory. The days when our ship’s cat, Steerforth, could actually go visiting on other boats as they swung close enough for him to jump across.

World Cup Fever is evident even on sun-baked sleepy Symi.  Huge TV screens have appeared in bars, cafes and restaurants and the streets become very quiet during match times. Wimbledon does not have the same crowd appeal. Tennis fans have to make alternative arrangements involving wifi and devices.

Have a good weekend and I will try to blog more frequently in the future.

Adriana

 

 

 

Changing Seasons

These days I so seldom go down into the harbour, when I do it feels like a different island altogether.   They may be baling hay in the Pedi Valley but in Yialos they are selling sunhats to pink-faced tourists and cold beers go down like iced water in the desert.  The thermometer nudged forty degrees last week and rows of thunder storms are marching through Greece, from the Ionian, across the Aegean to Turkey and beyond.  The Mediterranean never really cooled down last winter and the rising temperatures are spawning lots of storm activity.  It is not usual for the Greek met office to be issuing severe weather warnings in June.

blog 16 June 2018 a
A chance seed scattering is turning into a jungle of morning glory.  As the island turns gold under the summer sun, puddles of green provide welcome relief to dazzled eyes.
blog 16 June 2018 b
Plumbago finds support in an olive tree.
blog 16 June 2018 c
Down on the Pedi road, the draught beer is ready to head out to bars and tavernas around the island.
blog 16 June 2018 e
Some things have changed – the old Symi Visitor office is now cherry red and a new Symi laundry has opened up in place of Wendy’s Sunflower laundry.  Other things will never change – like the town hall’s futile attempts to prevent people from parking along the front in the summer. The big red plastic bollards filled with water that were reasonably successful last summer have been deployed elsewhere, preventing motorists from going over various bits of road undercut or washed away in the November storm.
blog 16 June 2018 f
Yes, he is talking on a mobile phone and yes, that is a lavatory seat in the single-use blue plastic bag (I wonder if he was charged the obligatory 4 cents?).
blog 16 June 2018 g
The yachts are getting bigger and the harbour busier.

These days I so seldom go down into the harbour, when I do it feels like a different island altogether.   They may be baling hay in the Pedi Valley but in Yialos they are selling sunhats to pink-faced tourists and cold beers go down like iced water in the desert.  The thermometer nudged forty degrees last week and rows of thunder storms are marching through Greece, from the Ionian, across the Aegean to Turkey and beyond.  The Mediterranean never really cooled down last winter and the rising temperatures are spawning lots of storm activity.  It is not usual for the Greek met office to be issuing severe weather warnings in June.

As Sean Damer once observed, in his notorious Ethnography on Tourism on Symi, when we aren’t talking about the weather, we are talking about the ferries. Well, if you live on a small island without an airport and heavily dependent on tourism for survival, everything depends on both.  The Attica Group who own Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries have now bought Hellenic Seaways. This has had some significant implications for Symi for the summer.  The Patmos has been moved to a different route and the Nissos Chios is now doing the Wednesday and Friday routes, with rather drastic changes in arrival and departure times.  For more information, please go to Andy’s excellent travel blog.  The other change is the return of the ANES Symi II to Symi waters.  This is to replace the Sea Dreams Symi which is now running the Skopelos route.  The Symi II does not have a ferry license and is only running excursions from Rhodes.  There are also photographs circulating on social media of a new shuttle boat built for ANES that is supposed to be serving the Rhodes Symi route on a passenger only basis. As this is still to complete sea trials and licensing procedures, there is no real information about when it will actually come into service and what the actual schedule will be.  As usual the only more or less consistent player in the field is Dodecanese Seaways.

Meanwhile, my new property management business now has a logo and business cards which should be ready next week.  My website needs a bit more tweaking.  I am still sorting out some logistical issues with my business premises in Pedi so I am currently still working from home. The people whose Symi holidays I managed to salvage seem very happy which can only be a Good Thing.  Various of the old Symi Visitor properties can now be found on AirBnB and other on line booking platforms.  If you can’t find the one you are looking for, please email me on symipropertyservices@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the relevant person.