November Postcards from Symi

Goat snacks

Katsaras 7 November 2019 last beach goers
A few late sunbathers on 7 November 2019.
Katsaras 7 November 2019 saving sand 2
Nikos Katsaras supervises the winterisation of his beach.
Katsaras 7 November 2019 saving sand
The sand is heaped up at the back of the beach and then protected with sandbag defences so that as little as possible washes away in the winter storms.  You can see those last sunbathers in the background.
Katsaras closed for Panormitis
Closed for Panormitis Day. Where else in the world could you get away with draping your stock with cloths to signify that you are shut?
Katsaras umbrella stand
A simple but effective way of preventing the umbrella bases from filling up with sand and stones during the winter.  Each pipe has an upturned water bottle jammed in it.
Panormitis Wed 6 Nov 2019 a
The Wednesday of the Panormitis festival.  The grandiose confectionery palace in my featured image at the start of this post is on the left of this photograph.
Pedi Beach Hotel 1
Just checking that the last guests have left the Pedi Beach Hotel.
Pedi Beach Hotel 2
The sunbeds, parasols and patio tables have all gone.  
Pedi cats in the sun
The day after Panormitis, the only sunbathers left in Pedi were the four-footed variety.

The Panormitis Festival is now a week-long affair of stalls and fast-food outlets.  Thousands of visitors came from Rhodes and further afield and apart from the Blue Star which is too big, all the other ferries serving Symi operated in and out of Panormitis for the duration.  The actual religious event was Thursday evening and Friday morning but the quest for 1 euro squeezy dinosaurs and gold plastic tablecloths knows no such boundaries.  Amidst the designer-rip-off handbags and the global Chinese tat there were also monks from Mount Athos selling blessed crucifixes on bits of cord, a stall selling some wonderful artisanal cooking tools including big terracotta casserole dishes and another selling some charming wooden gifts, handmade by a local carpenter and his wife.  It would be lovely to see more of the latter and rather less of the former.  In the interests of commerce part of the monastery garden has been concreted over to provide extra space for the food vendors and a large formal car park has been built at the head of the bay, before the entrance.  A security firm directs the traffic into the car park.  If you are catching a ferry and have to off-load luggage, you hand your driver’s license to the guard at the gate and he only gives it back to you when you leave. The carpet sellers and basket makers who used to be a feature of the entrance road have all disappeared – presumably no longer allowed as they would not have been paying ground rent being outside the gates.  Apart from the Panorama cantina and the souvlaki stall manned by the Symi high school pupils, all the other food outlets were from Rhodes, including the Diva pancake, doughnut and ice cream bar.

The last boat leaves Panormitis today 12 November and from here on we are on the winter ferry time table for both the Blue Star and Dodecanese Seaways.  I am leaving myself on the Dodecanese Pride this afternoon for a short trip to the UK.  The Panagia Skiadeni has been moth-balled for the winter

After some glorious autumn weather more rain is on the cards, starting on Wednesday this week with a cycle of thunderstorms, showers, rainy days and occasional downpours.  Let us not forget that it was on 13 November 2017 that Symi was hit by a cataclysmic weather event that changed the landscape in many places and caused hundreds of thousands of euros worth of damage.  These days everyone is a bit twitchy when the long range forecast shows stormy weather ahead.

Down in Pedi both tavernas are now closed for the winter.  Costas Mavroukos has closed his mini-market on the seafront and has moved around the corner into his old kiosk for the duration.  The Katsaras mini-market stays open through the winter and sells hot coffee to the odd walker and fisherman.  The bus service has scaled down considerably too.  We won’t see much life down here again until April at the earliest.  Time to hibernate!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

September Postcards from Symi

Agios Nikolaos
The Agios Nikolaos languishing alongside the new jetty in Pedi.  Once the pride and joy of George Kalodoukas and the venue for many a Laskarina welcome meeting, since George’s untimely death two years ago she has been lying forlorn in Pedi.  
Asymi residences St George
St George’s church, Pedi, as seen from ASymi Residences, the discreet and elegant new boutique hotel behind Apostoli’s boatyard and taverna.
Asymi residences
The exterior of the hotel.
bees in the tamarisks
The tamarisk trees are absolutely humming with bees at the moment. They love the sweet-scented blossom. There are a lot of hives on the hillsides above Pedi and in the terraces.
dolce vita
Dolce Vita was a people-trafficking boat impounded back in 2015 and still lying on the jetty in Pedi. The story is that the owners thought that they had got away with hoodwinking the coastguard but they made the mistake of bragging loudly about their exploits in a taverna.  The owners were arrested and the boat impounded.  
Early morning bathers
Early morning bathers in Pedi.
fish baskets
Fish baskets.  
Gone swimming
People staying at the Pedi Beach leave their flip flops on the side of the road when they go swimming.
Pedi beach 1
The anchorages in Pedi have been very full recently.  A few days of stormy weather, gusty winds and big swells have driven sailors to look for safe havens and coffee shops.
Pedi cats
A comfortable nest for some Symi cats.
smartcapture
Forget about popping down to the garden centre.  In Greece the plants and terracotta pots come to you on the back of gypsy trucks.
pomegranates
A bumper crop of pomegranates at the bottom of the steps leading to Villa Jasmine.
Shady sheep
Sheep enjoying a patch of shade in the shelter of an old dry stone wall.
Useful tree
A useful tree provides undercover parking for a bicycle and a baby buggy, a useful place to dry out the water toys, a handy branch for the family budgie and a shady table for baiting hooks.  In a place with a negligible crime rate a tree is as good as a garage.

Some Symi snapshots for you to enjoy.

The photograph at the top of the page shows fragments of heart-shaped confetti on the sand the morning after a big wedding at the Pedi Beach Hotel recently.  A few hours later it was all gone, washed away by the wake of passing water taxis and ferry boats.

 

Tables By The Sea

On one of my daily walks around Pedi bay I noticed how many tables there are by the sea.  Not formal taverna and restaurant tables but informal, quirky ones, put out by people who enjoy simple pleasures.  These photographs share some of them with you.  The one of the breaking waves gives you an idea of what the wash looks like when the Blue Star 2 ploughs past the entrance to Pedi on a calm day and there’s no wind to break up the wake.

 

Time moves in strange ways on Symi, possibly because we don’t work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, with weekends to mark off the passage of time.  In the summer months most of us work 7 days a week and often evenings too, depending on what we are doing, and the weeks flash past.  There is plenty of time for days off in the winter, when the tourists have gone home and there is no work to be found.

The worst of the heat is probably behind us, as July draws to a close. The humidity is rising as the evenings grow longer and pockets of sea mist linger in the early mornings.  Temperatures are around 38 degrees centigrade at midday and around 28 degrees at midnight.

Symi found itself rocking to Sunday visits from a crowdfunded yacht flotilla company called the Bucketlust.  As they held a weekly fancy dress party at the Harani Club in Yialos the locals were agog to see what the young crowd were – or were not – wearing as costumes.  Whether this will bring a new generation of Symi fans remains to be seen.

An alternative kind of aquatic Symi holiday is offered by Strel Swimming Adventures .  They specialise in swimming long distances in beautiful locations and have recently added Symi to their portfolio, with the Pedi Beach Hotel as their base.

The Rodos Cup Regatta passed through Symi last week, bringing 537 sailors from 13 countries to Symi.  We were also visited by the highly distinctive super sailing yacht, Maltese Falcon,pictured below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A fabulous new portfolio of rental properties, Select Symi, has now been launched, featuring some seriously high end properties.  If you want a waterfront villa with 5 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and a jacuzzi, this is the place to look.  Drool here!

The Symi Festival 2019 has been launched.  The program is available on Facebook and there are also random posters around the town, advertising events.  This is all in addition to the usual name days, weddings and baptisms that fill the July calendar.

The first fortnight of August are traditionally the busiest weeks of the year in the Mediterranean countries and Symi is no exception.  Athens is emptying out and the islands are filling up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

May Postcards from Symi

blog 7 May 2019 a
Symmetry
blog 7 May 2019 a1
The waterfront in Pedi bay is slipping into summer mode.
blog 7 May 2019 a3
Waiting for parasols
blog 7 May 2019 a4
The tiny church dedicated to St Thomas celebrated its name day this week.

blog 7 May 2019 a5

blog 7 May 2019 b
This stone wall next to Apostoli’s is turning into a work of art as the fishermen clean their paintbrushes on it and test that they have the colours for their boats mixed just right.
blog 7 May 2019 b2
Essential supplies – cases of beer and bottled water, waiting to be loaded onto a boat to be taken to one of the beach tavernas. The water taxis are still in the boatyards in Harani and Pedi so opening is a while off yet but it takes time to get stock out to places that can only be accessed by sea.
blog 7 May 2019 c
Roses flourish in sheltered gardens around Pedi and Chorio.
blog 7 May 2019 c2
Windows
blog 7 May 2019 d
In need of a little TLC.
blog 7 May 2019 e
The view from Evangelismos church in Harani, looking across the entrance to Yialos.  The Nireus and Aliki hotels are along the waterfront and the Merchant House is one tier up, above the Aliki. The green hills in the background are the south wall of the Pedi valley with the Vigla, the highest point on Symi, on the right.  
blog 7 May 2019 f
Outside bathroom
Eilish and Allen petunias
Pedi petunias

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!

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.