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.
Symi is famous for its beautiful neo-classical houses. The pediments are adorned with all sorts of devices such as stars, crosses, concentric rings and, sometimes, faces. I spotted this one recently in Chorio, near the windmills.
Most of those package holiday companies have either dropped Symi from their listings as too expensive and awkward to get to (the shrinking ferry schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy) or the companies themselves have disappeared, gobbled up in the eternal quest for ever cheaper ‘value for money’ deals that eventually became unsustainable.
A band of thunder showers passed over Greece last week. Symi got off lightly with a few muddy sprinkles and a general clearing of the air. Rhodes and many parts of the Greek mainland as well as neighbouring Turkey had heavy downpours, enough, in some cases, to cause local flooding. We are unlikely to see any significant rain now until late October or even November. The Southern Aegean has one of the longest summer droughts in the Mediterranean. The last time Symi had rain strong enough to set the gutters flowing to fill cisterns was the end of February. It looks as though 2018 is going to be a very long hot dry summer.
The first Olympic Holiday people arrived on Symi last week, marking the beginning of the official tourist season. 25 years ago there were many package holiday companies servicing Symi, notable among them being Laskarina, Manos, Kosmar, Small World, Travel a la Carte and Hidden Greece. Accommodation was a mixture of restored traditional local houses, privately owned small studio and apartment developments designed to look just like Symi’s traditional houses and small pensions. The emphasis was on authentic island life, simple self-catering and lots of convivial dining in local tavernas. Symi’s tourist businesses timed their openings to coincide with these arrivals, knowing that there would be enough visitors staying on the island to provide them with customers in bars, cafes, tavernas, excursions and the like.
Now that certainty has gone. Most of those package holiday companies have either dropped Symi from their listings as too expensive and awkward to get to (the shrinking ferry schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy) or the companies themselves have disappeared, gobbled up in the eternal quest for ever cheaper ‘value for money’ deals that eventually became unsustainable.
All inclusive packages to resort hotels in Rhodes are good for consumers who want to know exactly how much their holiday is going to cost and don’t really care if it is Greece, Spain, Egypt or Turkey as long as the sun shines, the pool is full and the food and drink bountiful and free. Unfortunately these packages are death to local economies as holiday guests seldom venture forth into the community, prices are pared down to the last cent so wages in these complexes are often below the legal minimum and limited local resources are stretched to breaking point.
Last summer Rhodes found itself in the previously unheard of situation of running out of water. So much water was being diverted to hotel complexes with their swimming pools, manicured lawns and unlimited showers that there was no water available for the locals. Villages and towns found themselves without water for days on end. A situation with which Symiots are only too familiar – this is why we all have cisterns – but for which Rhodes is poorly equipped.
Ironically, high value property owners who had invested significant sums in purchasing holiday homes and villas on the island found themselves seriously inconvenienced for the benefit of low value all inclusive holidaymakers whose tourist spend largely stayed in the pockets of the international holiday companies hosting their holidays. A state of affairs hardly likely to encourage further foreign investment.
That’s probably enough of the serious food for thought for today. If you are still reading, have a good week! Remember, you can always join in the discussion by commenting, or by emailing me here.
Welcome to my new Symi blog, Adriana’s Symi – the free range version! In some respects it will be similar to my original one on the Symi Visitor website in that it will always contain photographs snapped on my travels around the island.
Welcome to my new Symi blog, Adriana’s Symi – the free range version! In some respects it will be similar to my original one on the Symi Visitor website in that it will always contain photographs snapped on my travels around the island. There won’t be as many of the Kali Strata as my daily activities have changed with the closure of Symi Visitor Accommodation and there is no need for me to go down to the harbour with any frequency.
Where this blog will differ, however, is that as it won’t be tied to the specific business of promoting Symi as a holiday destination, I will have greater freedom in what I post and may on occasion venture to share an opinion with you. I may go ‘off piste’ so to speak.
I wrote my first Symi diary listing for the Symi Visitor website back in March 2001. Many of you reading this have probably been visiting Symi and reading my posts at least that far back. It was Wendy’s idea as a way of building up a year-round resource of what life on Symi was like at different times of the year. We hadn’t heard of blogging as a concept and there was no handy software to facilitate putting up posts. It was a case of writing 3 paragraphs and emailing them to Mike Gadd, our webmaster in the UK, who would then paste them onto a webpage for me. No digital images or fast internet connections in those days.
I seem to recall it was around 2005 when I got my first digital camera and started taking photographs to share with you all. It was a very basic Kodak and didn’t have optical zoom. It did, however, take great photographs and it fitted nicely in my pocket. It was a sad day when it fell out of said pocket and the screen shattered. Now, as I lug 600 grams of Nikon bridge camera round my neck, I rather miss the lightweight compacts of yore. No, I don’t find taking photographs with my smartphone an adequate substitute for a compact – I have to change to my reading glasses to see the screen and find the settings to activate it. By that time I will probably have been flattened by the Symi bus or fallen down the steps or the cat/goat/chicken will have moved on.
Thank you for your loyalty over the years. The Symi adventure continues and I look forward to continuing to share Adriana’s Symi with you.