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 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.
Chorio cats, views from the top and other Sunday musings from Adriana on Symi.
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.
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.
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.
This morning I woke up to an island shrouded in mist, a rose gold dawn of cockerels and damp. Autumn beckons and the weather is changing. I notice these things, not least because I sleep out of doors from June until the first rains come, sometime in October. It is too hot to sleep inside, under the tin roof with no fans to stir the stagnant air. I prefer to take my chances with the mosquitoes and wake with the sun. As we edge towards the equinox sunrise is ever later but the dawn chorus in the valley still starts long before first light, an accompaniment of crows, brays, twitters and bleats that gradually draws me to wakefulness by 6 a.m. If I should dare to sleep on, the cats come to find me and knead me into the world, demanding breakfast.
Time to head up the terraces into the house and put the percolator on the stove for the first coffee pot of the day. Coffee and the BBC news. Living off the grid is not synonymous with living in ignorance. We have a satellite dish and a basic decoder that allows us to pick up the BBC and other free-to-air stations. We watch the news every morning. The ripples of world events wash our shores and Symi has been effected by everything from global economic problems to the war in Syria and attempted coup in Turkey. We cannot pretend that because we live on a tiny island that we are safe from the vagaries of world events. The effects of climate change face me every morning as I look at dead or dying trees in my groves and orchards. Since we bought our farm in 1995 we have seen thriving almonds, apricots, peaches and pears die off due to extreme summers and dry winters. Last year our olive trees also started to die off. It is not just us. All over the island deciduous fruit and nut trees have died. Endemic conifers are also showing strain and even as far north as the island of Leros we saw dead and dying indigenous trees.