October Postcards from Symi

blog 22 Oct 2018 a
Once upon a time the small island of Symi was parcelled up into a number of small ‘kingdoms’, each centred around an easily defensible position.  The Kastro in Chorio, overlooking Yialos, is the most obvious as it lingered on in use into modern times, as has Kokkimides.  A sharp eye, however, can see traces of many other ancient fortresses that have long fallen into disuse. This one overlooks Nanou bay, the sea towards Asia Minor and Rhodes, Marathounda bay and a sheltered valley near Megalo Sotiris.  If you look carefully you can still see the dry stone walls marking the perimeter and also an interior fortification above the trees.
blog 22 Oct 2018 b
There was a tremendous thunderstorm on 30 September with some quite heavy rain – the first after a long hot summer.  We spotted this chap in our road, slurping up from the puddles.  We had to move him carefully to a safer spot to reduce the danger of being run over.
blog 22 Oct 2018 c
Just as well we saw him and stopped in time.  In the dark he would not have been so lucky.
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One of the corner cats.  Regular followers of my blog over the years will be aware that there is a happy community of cats, cockerels and chickens hanging out by the bins where our dirt road joins the road to Panormitis.
blog 22 Oct 2018 e
All new builds on Symi have to harmonise with the existing neo-classical architecture.   Someone took the easy route when making the bull’s eye in the pediment of this modern construction – that is a ceiling boss!
blog 22 Oct 2018 f
Elegant squills along the Pedi road. They came up early this year, in September, and are already starting to fade. The broad strap leaves are forcing their way through.  
blog 22 Oct 2018 g
I took this in Rhodes last week.  That is the Panagia Skiadeni, the Dodecanese Seaways car ferry, in the background, about to set off with a boat load of day-trippers for Symi.  Akandia, the car ferry port, is just beyond the main boatyard.
blog 22 Oct 2018 i
Just add water – a few days after the rain the grass started to come up in all the places where the damp lingered.  Although day time temperatures are still in the twenties, humidity is high with heavy dew falls at night and plenty of mist.
blog 22 Oct 2018 j
Spotted in a side road.
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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. 
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Playtime in Pedi Bay.
blog 28 Sep 2018 f
The monastery of Profiti Ilias (Prophet Elijah), perched on a crag overlooking the Pedi Valley.
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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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Season of Mists

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.