July Postcards from Symi

February Postcards from Symi

Some recent photographs of life on Symi in February 2021, during the second extended Covid-19 lockdown in Greece.

Storm Medea – snow falling over Turkey on 16 February 2021
Later the same day the clouds cleared. This was the view from my front balcony in Pedi. Apologies for the fuzz – my camera’s zoom was stretched to the limits.
The week before Medea we experienced abnormally warm temperatures which brought out the spring flowers ahead of time.
Wild cyclamens in the Pedi valley.
A fine figure of a goat.
Calm and empty seas on 6 February 2021.
Almond blossom
Looking down on Pedi waterfront from the monastery of Zoodochos Pigi – the life-giving spring. Yes, that bright green is real.
Looking towards central Chorio and the windmills from the same vantage point.
Masters of all they survey.

The Symi Bubble

Greece went into its second lockdown on 7 November 2020, initially until the 30th of that month. The figures continued to rise and the lockdown was extended – and extended – and extended again. Since that date no one has been allowed to travel to or from Symi unless they have very specific reasons to do so and can produce documentary evidence of that reason. Effectively we are living in a very efficient quarantine bubble with nary a winter cold or sniffle to be seen. What keeps coronavirus out also keeps colds, flu and other contagious diseases out too. This could be the island’s healthiest winter ever – even if also the most boring!

Retail restrictions were partially lifted in Greece a couple of weeks ago but on Symi that has made little difference – it is in Athens and Thessaloniki that shoppers starved of retail therapy have thronged Hermes Street and in Rhodes that people from outlying villages have queued to get into Jumbo and Zara.

Meanwhile, on Symi where retail excitements tend to focus rather on who currently has the freshest root ginger and whether the Chinese shop in Chorio has cheap fleeces in the right size, there is no sign of a shopping frenzy. Instead, as there is no limit on the number of times one can send SMS code 6 or how long one can stay out for personal exercise, as long as the regulations are obeyed, Symi people are rediscovering their island in a big way.

Remote mountain chapels, abandoned farmsteads, long forgotten archaeological sites and indigenous forests are seeing more activity than they have in decades as locals and expat residents alike go hiking every sunny day. A spin off of this is that Symi’s vast natural resources are finally getting the attention that they deserve and the rationale behind walking trails and attracting walkers back to the island is being understood. One can only hope that this does not precipitate another rush of hastily laid concrete paths but leads to a controlled project to restore the old kalderimis and to reinstate the access points that were destroyed when the road to Panormitis was tarred. Symi is not just a beach destination and there is more to the island than the neo-classical harbour.

As I write this we are once again waiting to find out if the lockdown regulations are changing. Will the high schools reopen on Monday as intended or will the increase in cases in Attica roll this back? Will the shops be closed again because people in Athens cannot be trusted to behave responsibly when given the opportunity to buy Marks and Spencers knickers in person rather than on line? Who knows. The only certainty is that every sunny winter’s day there will be people walking up and down Symi, from end to end, enjoying the views from mountain tops and counting how many islands they can spot on a clear day.

October Postcards from Symi

Carefully tethered with a bit of fishing line, this toy boat shelters among its big brothers in the ‘marina’ in Pedi.
Invisible cat. This old bruiser with his battered cauliflower ears has sired countless ginger kittens and has a territory that extends far up the Pedi valley. He appeared in this blog some months ago, snoozing on a plastic chair in a garden of prickly pears below the Alethini.
Everyone else’s smartphone moonrise photos look like moonrise photos. I never seem to get more than a dot in the night sky but you get the general idea. This was the last full moon, rising over St George’s church in Pedi. Yes, that yellow blur is the Symi bus and no, it wasn’t breaking speed records. This was a slow exposure supposedly better for photographing moons.
The tamarisk trees are flowering and the bees are loving it.
St Nicholas beach on Wednesday this week. They are systematically packing away umbrellas and sunbeds. This photograph was taken at 5 in the afternoon and much of the beach was already in shadow. Many of Symi’s beaches are east-facing and surrounded by high hills and cliffs. Even if there are still tourists around, they still close up in October as they are too shady to attract sun-loving tourists. Locals, on the other hand, appreciate the fact that the sea stays warm until Christmas and enjoy a dip after a long walk.
George’s water taxi heading back to the jetty in Pedi.
The fuel ship for the power station coming into Pedi this morning. There was an inconveniently anchored yacht in the bay so much tooting while the anxious yachtsman hastened to move his yacht out of the way.
Someone is enjoying a late break.
Others are firmly closed. Those storm shutters are unlikely to shift before May 2021.

The winter growing season has begun.

Feels Like Autumn

It is the first of October and the edge has gone off the heat. Overnight temperatures have dropped to the pleasant low twenties and the breeze is refreshingly cool rather than akin to the blast from an open oven door. The air has cleared and visibility is infinite. Walking to St Nicholas, some of the thyme bushes have started to flower again and the sage bushes are greening over. The stones on the quay are wet in the morning, slick with the mist that settles on them overnight. The second spring is on its way.

In the fields the new agricultural year has begun. Potatoes, cauliflowers and lettuces are being planted in anticipation of the first rains. The pomegranates are ripening and the first quinces have already appeared in the shops – an ephemeral and delicious fruit if you know what to do with it.

There are a few cruising yachts swinging to anchor in Pedi – all with EU flags as the border with Turkey is still closed to yachtsmen. German, French, Dutch and British flags are the dominant ones at the moment, driven eastwards by the storms over the Ionian and in the Cyclades in recent weeks. The Dodecanese is the turning point, the end of the line unless one is over-wintering in Cyprus. Wintering in cheap marinas in Turkey is not an option these days so decisions are no doubt being made as to whether to head north to Kos or south to Rhodes.

It is very dark in the mornings now. This was the scene at 5 a.m. yesterday morning, 30 September, as people waited to board the Blue Star to Rhodes.

By now you may have heard of the appeal to raise funds for Symi’s music school which is struggling to survive in the present economic climate. If you haven’t, I could not put it better than James Collins does in his Symi Dream blog. Just because children live on a small Greek island on the edge of Europe does not mean that they should be deprived of the opportunities to develop their talents. A team of dedicated music teachers comes over from Rhodes every Saturday to teach guitar, piano, violin and other instruments as this is not provided for in the school system but this needs funding. Usually parents are able to contribute to support this but with many of them out of work or struggling due to the virus and limited tourist season this year, these lessons are in jeopardy. Please go to the two links above to find out more about this worthwhile project and how you can help.

Symi April Blues

 

Human tourists might be unable to travel but the migratory birds have no such problems.  The barn swallows are nesting in quiet corners of Pedi and every evening we hear the owls calling across the valley.

As 1 May is a big holiday in Greece and falls on a Friday this year, once again a strict vehicle curfew will be in place for that weekend to prevent people leaving the cities to head for country houses and islands.  Effectively the lock down definitely remains in place until at least 4 May for this reason.  We are, however, expecting an announcement, either this evening or tomorrow, outlining the proposed stages for re-opening the country. Starting with easily controllable businesses such as bookshops and hair dressers and, eventually, seasonal hotels.

We have already been told that the most we can hope for is a 3 month tourist season, from 1 July to 30 September, with various restrictions in place concerning which country nationals will be allowed in and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of both the tourists and the locals. This is all being hammered out with the EU as a whole to make a co-ordinated plan.  Proposals including opening up the larger hotels first but reducing the number of rooms occupied as it is easier to impose social distancing in larger premises, replacing buffets with table service, changing bars so that drinkers sit at spaced tables with table service and so on.

It will be interesting to see how the airlines tackle the issues of social distancing, disinfection and hygiene and still keep their planes in the air.  We saw huge changes in the travel industry after September 11 but this is going to be even more momentous.  Even if people like Mike O’Leary of Ryan Air complain about the costs involved and refuse to fly within the limitations unless the state picks up the shortfall, the reality is that airlines are going to have a hard time persuading people to travel on their planes unless they feel safe.  With awareness of the importance of hygiene at an all time high, the average person is more likely to be conscious of just what might be lurking on armrests, tray tables, back rests, upholstery and the like, not to mention plastic bins at security checks, airport seating and so on.  It is not just the recycled air which people have been complaining about for years.  Now the threat is not just catching a cold or flu. Unlike trains, buses and other forms of public transport which are a daily necessity for many people to get to and from work, it is rare for flying to be essential so consumers have the luxury of the last word.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Adriana

 

 

October Postcards from Symi

St Nicholas, Symi
The sunbeds and umbrellas have been packed away at St Nicholas beach in Pedi. They won’t need them to celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas at the tiny chapel on 6 December.

balcony
The salt-laden sea air is nibbling away at the terrace of this neglected Art Deco waterfront property in Pedi.

bird on a wall
Invisible bird.

bougainvillea with butterfly 30 Oct 2019
Butterfly and bougainvillea.

Camo cats
Camo cats.

classic yacht
 This elegant Canadian beauty was anchored in Pedi for several days last week.

Crocuses 2

crocuses
The squill flowers have faded away, replaced by ghostly drifts of pale autumn crocuses and other tiny plants.

Elegant lady
Another classic, this one with a Maltese flag.

fan
There has to a story behind this carefully placed ceiling fan blade, resting among the herb bushes in the Pedi valley.  Look at how green the sage bushes are after just a little rain.

from beach to boatyard
Apostoli is switching from beach mode to boatyard mode.  The sledges and skids are being positioned to start hauling out boats.

Gone fishing
The fishing season has started.  This small trawler will be away for days at a time, if not weeks.

kamares
That fragment of shadow is cast by the meander-pattern railing of the Art Deco house you saw earlier.  This dilapidated colonnade was once the Kamares taverna in Pedi.  

mimosa
Mimosa

misty morning
A misty morning in the valley.  The yellow nets on the left are to protect vegetable seed beds from birds and cats.

new green
We have only had two rainy days so far but they were enough to wash the dust from the trees and set the grass growing again.

On the skids
This method of hauling boats up the beaches for the winter dates back to Homeric times.  In Greece there is a strong sense of continuity. Why change something if it still works? The underwater profiles of the boats haven’t changed much over the centuries either and they are still built the old-fashioned way at the Haskas boatyard in Pedi, wielding an adze to shape the wood into ribs and frames.

Pedi beach hotel
The last guests have left the Pedi Beach Hotel and the staff are systematically packing everything away for the winter.

Reeds
If you look about you, there are a lot of reed beds down in Pedi, despite recent developments in the area.  Unfortunately on an island that is more vertical than horizontal, level building ground is in short supply and Symi’s precious wet lands are under threat. That’s the road to Panormitis zigzagging up the hill in the distance.

Road access
By Symi standards, this counts as ‘has convenient road access’.  Mind the step!

sage
Sage, oregano and thyme – the Symi trinity that scents the island’s hillsides every summer.

solar power
Solar power.

 

 

Greek Island Herbs

smartcapture
The butterflies are enjoying the thyme as much as the bees.

blog 16 June 2019 b

blog 16 June 2019 c
The path from Pedi to St Nicholas beach, fragrant with thyme, oregano and sage.

blog 16 June 2019 e
On a more prosaic note, the new recycling bins have appeared in various places around the island. These ones are in the commercial port in Yialos.

blog 16 June 2019 f
The Nissos Chios, the big car ferry that serves Symi on Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer.

blog 16 June 2019 g
The wall is old but the tree is older. As the tree grows the dry stone wall is adjusted and modified to accommodate its changing shape and dimensions.

blog 16 June 2019 h
Harani at dusk.

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.

Simples, as the meerkat says on the BBC!

 

 

April Postcards from Symi

blog 22 April 2019 a
Having a little Cape Town moment, the Vigla sports a rare ‘tablecloth’.

blog 22 April 2019 b
A goat on a mission.

blog 22 April 2019 c
She went over the old call box, along the colonnade, hopped over the wall and disappeared up the alley.

blog 22 April 2019 d
Feline supervision is essential to ensure that all is perfect for the new season.

blog 22 April 2019 e
Yum. Broadbeans.

blog 22 April 2019 e2
A mother and child moment.

blog 22 April 2019 f
A tranquil Pedi – before the sunbeds and parasols are packed out for the summer.

blog 22 April 2019 g
The ghost of a cake shop long gone.

blog 22 April 2019 h
Poppies on the Pedi road.

blog 22 April 2019 i
Free range, Symi style.

blog 22 April 2019 j
Symi colours.

blog 22 April 2019 k
Apostoli’s taverna, still in boatyard mode.

blog 22 April 2019 l
There’s wild chamomile everywhere down in Pedi at the moment. The smell is like Golden Delicious apples.

blog 22 April 2019 m
Cock of the walk.

blog 22 April 2019 n
A sledge, waiting for a boat.

blog 22 April 2019 o
Wheel barrow hitching a ride on a quad bike.

blog 22 April 2019 p
There has to be a logical explanation for three taverna chairs balancing on a boat in a yard in the Pedi valley, but I really don’t know what it is.

blog 22 April 2019 q
All tied up.