News from Pedi

The ‘new marina’ in Pedi is slowly taking shape after over a decade in limbo. New lights and utility points have been installed along the quay and a crane is at work today, placing the concrete mooring blocks which have been cast on the shore over the past few weeks. The office and ablution block has been painted and a small posi-hut has been added.

Pedi has also had a power upgrade in recent weeks.

Rather them than me – upgrading the power that leads over to the marina side of the bay.
Installing a new transformer in the grounds of the Pedi Beach Hotel just before they opened. That is the dome of Agios Andreas church.

The new cafe on the corner by the jetty is not yet open although work continues steadily.

The taverna is open at Apostoli’s boatyard and the beach has been laid out for the summer.

St Nicholas beach is advertising a beach bar and disco on Friday and Saturday nights.

Agia Marina beach is now open.

Rumour has it that the Pedi Beach hotel will be opening its restaurant to the public during high season with Stavros of Mythos-fame as the chef.

Symi Unmasked!

At last we can take our masks off! Well, when we are out of doors and in uncrowded places at any rate. This comes as a huge relief as Greece bakes under a long heatwave with daytime temperatures sizzling over 40 degrees centigrade. Masks are still to be worn in shops and other enclosed spaces as well as on public transport. The curfew has also been lifted and permitted numbers for restaurant tables have been raised from 6 to 10. If you click on the link above you will find all the latest concessions as well as here.

Symi is still very quiet. June without British tourists makes for an empty island. Some British property owners and regulars to the island have come, regardless of Greece’s on-going ‘amber’ status, as they are fortunate to be able to be flexible about return dates and have been fully vaccinated but British tourists as such are conspicuous by their absence. Even among the other nationalities it is rare to see new faces.

For current information about travel to Greece, go to www.travel.gov.gr which is the official government website. Testing requirements for different countries are still variable but you can be assured that the system on Symi I referred to in my previous blog is working well.

The ferry situation, on the other hand, has never been better. The Blue Star now serves Symi on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (times and boats vary considerably. The Sebeco is running every day. Dodecanese Seaways comes through 3 or 4 times a week (Sundays are still variable) and the Stavros also comes through 4 times a week, twice in each direction. Greek Travel Pages is a good starting point for finding out what is going where when. Just type in your departure and arrival ports and the date you want to travel and it will give you a list of the options for that day.

Most of the beaches on Symi are now up and running or will be in a few days. Most of the hotels are now open, albeit with few guests. Right now not only do we have an abundance of ferries serving Symi but also a serious over-supply of accommodation of all kinds and a shortage of tourists to enjoy them.

Today’s Featured Image shows part of the spectacular view from the Constantinos View kantina, situated on the roadside on the way to Xisos and Panormitis. Open from midday until late with live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

May Postcards from Symi

Symi is emerging from hibernation now that the lockdown is starting to ease. Here are some photographs I took while out and about in the harbour early yesterday morning. As you can see, it is not exactly bustling but preparations are underway for a tentative start to the summer season which, in theory at least, starts on 15 May 2021. There is a lot that still needs to be clarified in terms of who is allowed to do what and there have been some very unpopular statements by politicians on Greek daytime TV suggesting, among other things, that while tourists will literally have the freedom of the country, the local residents will be sending SMSes for permits in perpetuity and that inter-regional travel will only be permitted with vaccination certificates or negative Covid-19 test results. This is fighting talk and governments have been hung out to dry for less so we shall see what the next few days bring.

In the meantime, here are some pictures to whet your appetite.

Empty August

 

Well, here we are, drifting through the quietest August in living memory.  Some property owners, mostly French and Italian, have travelled to Symi as they usually do at this time of the year and there are a few unfamiliar faces around, but by and large this feels more like a very hot April than the busiest fortnight in the year.

Greece appears to be heading towards the dreaded ‘second wave‘, caused not so much by large quantities of infected tourists descending upon the country in their droves but through community spread.  Big weddings and crowded social gatherings seem to be the main sources of infection as the uninhibited behaviour that accompanies such events spreads the virus faster than you can say ‘Yamas!’.  The government has brought in ever more regulations to try to restrain reckless behaviour but to visit Symi on any given name day in July you would never believe that religious festivals are banned.  In theory the big annual shindig at the Alethini on the Pedi road should not be taking place this weekend but unless the police turn up and fine the entire populace, chances are good that it will take place as usual.  It has taken a while for the wearing of masks in taxis, on the bus, in the shops and so on to catch on and there is the difficulty of enforcing mask wearing in supermarkets.  People in a position of authority, like the post office staff, have a greater chance of enforcing the regulations and don’t allow a foot over the threshold without mask and appropriate social distancing, but regular shops don’t have the weight of the state behind them when it comes to persuading aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and the like to follow the rules.

We are told about record breaking numbers of new infections every day, particularly in Attica and Thessaloniki, but when it comes to revealing what is happening in the islands, figures are very generalised – knowing, for example, that there are 4 more cases in the Dodecanese today or whenever does not say very much.  Gossip and speculation abound.  Is it true that two tourists with high fevers were removed from Symi last week?  It might be a hot topic of discussion at the hardware store or petrol station but there are no specifics.  Some still say that the whole country will shut down after Panagia because someone on daytime TV speculated about this at some point.  In real time, curfews have been imposed in some popular tourist destinations, including Rhodes and Mykonos, and the whole island of Poros is up in arms because party-time is over and the blame-game has begun.

Regulations for travellers have been extended and anyone coming from Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands or the Czech Republic is now required to have a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before travelling.  There are also further restrictions on entrance through the land borders.

Meanwhile, in other news, the cat and mouse game between Turkey and Greece continues but we will save that for another day.

 

Greece Welcomes the World?

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The water taxis are ready and waiting.

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Boatyard chick.

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Not quite ready for lunch customers just yet.

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A work in progress – all the boats are back in the water and it is time to transform the littoral into a beach.

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High water levels in Pedi as the solstice approaches.

With much fanfare and a Santorini sunset TV op, Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared the 2020 tourist season open.  As is the norm this year, confusion prevails regarding who can travel and what is happening regarding Covid-19 testing and quarantine.  With regulations changing daily and the difficulties the media are having in keeping up to date with the ever-changing landscape, the most reliable source of information on who can travel and what should be happening on arrival is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.  This, of course, does not mean that the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health might not have other ideas but it is a good starting point.

The current measures and lists only really apply to the situation from now to 30 June.  1 July is supposed to see a major opening up to broader international travel but this is highly dependent on how things go in Greece in the next two weeks and also what happens in countries like the USA and the UK where the disease figures are still high.  Greece is treading a fine line between the tourist revenue it desperately needs and destroying brand Greece’s reputation as a safe destination if the virus starts to arrive in significant numbers from abroad.

Tourists themselves are also faced with an ethical dilemma – do I travel because I want to have my holiday and I put my own pleasure first or do I wait until next year in order to protect the health of my hosts?  Many of Symi’s regular visitors, as well as property owners, are discussing this at some length on social media and the general feeling is to stay away until it really is safe to travel, not just because some bureaucrat says so.

Seasonal resort hotels, museums and brothels opened their doors from yesterday.  Gyms have also been allowed to reopen.  Once again, all sorts of new rules, regulations and protocols apply.  The Pedi Beach Hotel has all its umbrellas set up at the new spacings. They had a few Greek guests over the weekend but I didn’t see anyone on my walk this morning, just a lone painter on an extension ladder.

Once again ‘wait and see’ is the motto of the day.

And in other news, temperatures on Symi are now around 30 degrees at midday, dropping to about 20 at night.  After a few exceptionally clear days the heat haze is building up and Saharan sand is drifting up over Crete and the mainland, bringing high temperatures with it.

Keep safe everyone.

 

 

Changing Seasons

These days I so seldom go down into the harbour, when I do it feels like a different island altogether.   They may be baling hay in the Pedi Valley but in Yialos they are selling sunhats to pink-faced tourists and cold beers go down like iced water in the desert.  The thermometer nudged forty degrees last week and rows of thunder storms are marching through Greece, from the Ionian, across the Aegean to Turkey and beyond.  The Mediterranean never really cooled down last winter and the rising temperatures are spawning lots of storm activity.  It is not usual for the Greek met office to be issuing severe weather warnings in June.

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A chance seed scattering is turning into a jungle of morning glory.  As the island turns gold under the summer sun, puddles of green provide welcome relief to dazzled eyes.

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Plumbago finds support in an olive tree.

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Down on the Pedi road, the draught beer is ready to head out to bars and tavernas around the island.

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Some things have changed – the old Symi Visitor office is now cherry red and a new Symi laundry has opened up in place of Wendy’s Sunflower laundry.  Other things will never change – like the town hall’s futile attempts to prevent people from parking along the front in the summer. The big red plastic bollards filled with water that were reasonably successful last summer have been deployed elsewhere, preventing motorists from going over various bits of road undercut or washed away in the November storm.

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Yes, he is talking on a mobile phone and yes, that is a lavatory seat in the single-use blue plastic bag (I wonder if he was charged the obligatory 4 cents?).

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The yachts are getting bigger and the harbour busier.

These days I so seldom go down into the harbour, when I do it feels like a different island altogether.   They may be baling hay in the Pedi Valley but in Yialos they are selling sunhats to pink-faced tourists and cold beers go down like iced water in the desert.  The thermometer nudged forty degrees last week and rows of thunder storms are marching through Greece, from the Ionian, across the Aegean to Turkey and beyond.  The Mediterranean never really cooled down last winter and the rising temperatures are spawning lots of storm activity.  It is not usual for the Greek met office to be issuing severe weather warnings in June.

As Sean Damer once observed, in his notorious Ethnography on Tourism on Symi, when we aren’t talking about the weather, we are talking about the ferries. Well, if you live on a small island without an airport and heavily dependent on tourism for survival, everything depends on both.  The Attica Group who own Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries have now bought Hellenic Seaways. This has had some significant implications for Symi for the summer.  The Patmos has been moved to a different route and the Nissos Chios is now doing the Wednesday and Friday routes, with rather drastic changes in arrival and departure times.  For more information, please go to Andy’s excellent travel blog.  The other change is the return of the ANES Symi II to Symi waters.  This is to replace the Sea Dreams Symi which is now running the Skopelos route.  The Symi II does not have a ferry license and is only running excursions from Rhodes.  There are also photographs circulating on social media of a new shuttle boat built for ANES that is supposed to be serving the Rhodes Symi route on a passenger only basis. As this is still to complete sea trials and licensing procedures, there is no real information about when it will actually come into service and what the actual schedule will be.  As usual the only more or less consistent player in the field is Dodecanese Seaways.

Meanwhile, my new property management business now has a logo and business cards which should be ready next week.  My website needs a bit more tweaking.  I am still sorting out some logistical issues with my business premises in Pedi so I am currently still working from home. The people whose Symi holidays I managed to salvage seem very happy which can only be a Good Thing.  Various of the old Symi Visitor properties can now be found on AirBnB and other on line booking platforms.  If you can’t find the one you are looking for, please email me on symipropertyservices@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the relevant person.

 

Symi Pastels

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.

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Looking across to the old Kastro from Milos (windmill) ridge of Chorio.  The tree-topped hills on the right form the back of the famous amphitheatre harbour.  There is a narrow winding road along that crest, leading to the ancient monastery of Roukoniotis and the precipitous descent to Toli Bay.

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Another view from the same vantage point, showing the back of Yialos far below.  The diagonal row of houses visible just above the pergola in the right foreground are on the Kali Strata, the famous steps connecting Chorio with Yialos and Harani.  Symi is a very compact island, only 8 miles long and 5 miles wide at its broadest, and most habitation is clustered around this north-eastern group of hills.  Getting about, however, involves a great deal of legwork. Those tiers of pretty houses are connected by steps rather than roads.  The motor road that connects Yialos with Chorio is an incredible feat of engineering, sweeping far into the countryside and back again, to embrace the steep incline.

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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.

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When I first came to Symi in 1993 ochre and brown were the dominant colours.  Indeed these seemed to be the only colours stocked ready mixed by the local hardware store.  If you wanted anything else, you bought packets of pigment and mixed them into the whitewash yourself.  Gloss paint was limited to white, ochre and mid-brown – colours that are still common in some neighbourhoods.  Then along came acrylic paints and computer mixing and the fun began.  The archaeologia, the government department that looks after heritage sites such as Symi, still has final say on what colours are permitted but Symi’s palette has expanded in many directions.

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An immaculate house in a quiet lane below the windmills.

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Dragon’s breath has scorched the tender petals of roses and other flowers, turning them into pot pourri overnight.  Falling humidity and rising temperatures are taking their toll.

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This tottering three storey mansion house off the main square in Chorio has some delightful touches of whimsy.  A few months ago, when I was still writing on my original blog, I posted a photograph of the Greek flag held to the balcony railing by a yellow measuring tape.  Now the sun brings emphasis to an otherwise ugly electricity meter.

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Agia Trianda (Holy Trinity) is the last of the really big churches at the top of Chorio. There is the small church of Periotissa (Our Lady of Pireus) above it but that is little more than a chapel.  Those pink blobs on the slopes of the Vigla behind are oleander bushes flowering along the motor road that connects Yialos and Chorio with Panormitis monastery at the south western end of the island. The oleanders continue as far as the turn off to Xisos, Roukoniotis and Toli.

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The Markle Sparkle was felt even as far afield as Symi. This was the Olive Tree on Saturday. They were selling Royal Wedding themed elderflower cupcakes in aid of the local high school.  Further up the steps, at Lefteris Kafeneion, otherwise known as Bulmas, Pimms was being served with ever more fanciful garnishes as the island’s British expat community arrived, armed with plates of nibbles.

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A fallen bag of barley made a great breakfast for these two. They were both trailing loose tethers but showed no signs of going anywhere further than the bag of barley.  Ponies, donkeys and mules are still commonly used on Symi, particularly to take materials to building sites and to remove rubble.  Most places are just totally inaccessible to any other form of transport. Foals are taught the routes, following with the trains on the various jobs, so that by the time they are old enough and strong enough to carry loads, they know all the lanes and steps.

 

Welcome to Adriana’s Symi

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.

Regards,

Adriana