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.
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Waiting for parasols
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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.
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Windows
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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!

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Symi in February

blog 8 Feb 2019 a
A moss garden on a wall in Pedi. The barbed wire is to keep the goats out.
blog 8 Feb 2019 b
St George’s church, Pedi
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Splash!
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The taverna may be closed for winter renovations but the cats at Katsaras are still dining well.
blog 8 Feb 2019 e
Date palms by the Pedi Beach hotel. That is the monastery dedicated to Profiti Elias – the Prophet Elijah – on the slope in the distance.
blog 8 Feb 2019 f
Reflections.
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An abandoned farmstead on a mountain top above Pedi.
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The almond trees are what is left of what must have been quite an extensive orchard.

blog 8 Feb 2019 i

blog 8 Feb 2019 j
Sheep in a walled garden in Pedi.

 

January was wet and windy and so far February has not been much better.  They didn’t give a name to the storm that pounded Greece on Tuesday night and Wednesday but it delivered a lot of damage, particularly in Rhodes where large boulders were thrown about by the sea and many small seaside villages and beaches took a hammering.  Once again there were shipping bans and flight disruptions as winds topped Force 9, gusting Force 10.  There are another 6-8 weeks of winter still to come so it isn’t over yet.  Heavy hail storms on high ground took their toll of the new lambs in the mountain pastures on Symi and the local shepherds all have stories to tell.

In the quieter corners the almond blossoms are opening and the countryside is very green.  When the sun comes through it can be as much as 20 degrees centigrade, out of the wind.  Most of the time, though, midday temperatures are around 14 degrees and last night the thermometer on our car was reading 7 degrees centigrade.  The wind makes it seem chilly, particularly as the water has found its way into everything indoors and out.  Most Symi houses, regardless of age, have damp problems in the winter.  Either condensation turns surfaces black with mould or water seeps through walls, turning green with algae if there is any sunlight.  Apparently tea tree oil helps with the mould spores, if one can get hold of it.  Everyone else is constantly swabbing down with bleach solution.  It is not for nothing that spring painting is an annual necessity.

The bus is back, still running on a reduced winter schedule but much better than wading against the flow in the rain.

We have a few breezy partly cloudy days ahead and then the showers and next rainy spell is forecast to arrive on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  As the Blue Star came in from Rhodes last night there should be fresh stuff in the shops this morning.  Time to go foraging!

The cover photograph shows some of the sand and gravel that Tuesday night’s storm threw up along the waterfront road in Pedi.  The small terracotta fragments are potsherds, fragments of ancient amphora and pithoi that have been smashed and polished by the sea over centuries.

 

Stormy Symi January 2019

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The view from the top of the island, looking towards Nissyros and Kos
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Agios Andreas Church, next to the Pedi Beach Hotel
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A seasonal brook near the Ancient Fortifiation of Old Drakos in the Pedi Valley
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A quiet interlude between storms
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Double rainbow across Pedi
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The same rainbow, as seen from the top of the Pedi valley
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The first almond blossoms, in a field behind Taverna Katsaras in Pedi.
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A flooded garden near the Pedi Beach Hotel
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Lemons in an old walled garden.
moving nanny goat agios andreas pedi
Moving a nanny goat.
orchard with cat
Walled orchard in Pedi
rainbow pedi with st george church
Rainbow’s end in Pedi bay
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Seaweed tide line after a winter storm in Pedi
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Vegetable garden in Pedi

 

Winter in the Mediterranean may conjure up visions of mild temperatures, sunny days and pavement cafes.  This can happen, if you are lucky, but most of the time, particularly in January and February, it can be very wet, extremely windy and, on occasion, even snowy.

This year the snow even crept to sea level in places like Corfu, Skopelos and Thessalonica. Rhodes had heavy snowfalls on the mountain tops and the Evzones found themselves strutting their stuff outside Syntagma, Athens, surrounded by the white stuff.

We have had ferry disruptions of one sort or another every week since December and the Best Western Plaza hotel in Rhodes is offering special rates for Symiots hanging about, waiting for boats and doctor’s appointments.

On a personal note, I have been out of circulation for many weeks, due to severe back problems.  A strict regime of bed rest, exercises and medication under the supervision of an orthopaedic specialist in Rhodes seems to be working but I have to be very careful about how much time I spend sitting at the computer and have only recently been able to go for short walks, with the help of a stick.  It is unfortunate that the Symi bus is out of circulation so I cannot venture further afield.  At the moment my perambulations are strictly local but I can at least provide you with some photographs to give you an idea of what Pedi looks like in January.

 

Enjoy!

Sleepy September

blog 6 Sep 2018 k
You never know what you are going to spot, walking around Symi.  Anyone who knows where these are, please comment on this blog 🙂
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Back in the 80s and 90s this was a tourist shop at the bottom of the Pedi road.  Now you have to go to Yialos to buy sunhats, sarongs and beach towels.
blog 6 Sep 2018 i
It may still be hot and the first rains are still about 6 weeks away but this local works on his garden every day.  I have noticed a big increase in agricultural activities on Symi in recent years.  The only way to survive on an austerity income is by living off the land as far as possible.
blog 6 Sep 2018 h
Tyres perish in the hot Symi sun.  It is not unusual to see various protective improvisations like this one.
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If I had not heard the bleat I would never have noticed this nanny goat.  She looks almost as weather-beaten as her surroundings.
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Beehives.  Symi honey is prized for its delicate herbal flavours from wild mountain thyme, sage and rigani.  You can find it for sale in limited quantities at several of the supermarkets, grocers and tourist shops.
blog 6 Sep 2018 e
August is definitely over.  There are very few yachts in Pedi now and they are of more modest proportions.  The rich and famous have gone to play somewhere else or are back in their counting houses, counting out their money.
blog 6 Sep 2018 c
The so-called marina in Pedi. As you can see, it is far too narrow to be a marina.  Only very small local boats can squeeze inside.  Apparently the plans did not take into account the widening of the waterfront between the time the original survey was done and construction actually started so the enclosed area is 4 metres narrower than originally intended.  No comments please!  Visiting yachts can tie up on the outside.  Unfortunately there are no actual amenities available so don’t expect shore power, laundry, wifi or hot showers.  It is, however, conveniently solid to tie up to if you are tired of rowing an inflatable full of shopping across the bay in a brisk catabatic.
blog 6 Sep 2018 b
Fishermen’s cottages on the northern Pedi waterfront, as seen from the head of the marina.
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And finally, spotted in the Chorio car park… Cats don’t have the monopoly on cuteness around here.

August is over. The crowds have gone. The children are preparing for another school year. Next week the ferry schedules change as Blue Star reverts to smaller boats on the Symi route.  Good bye, Nissos Chios, Welcome Back, Patmos!

There is also far less traffic on the roads.  British tourists tend to be apprehensive about hiring cars and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The holidaymakers from other parts of Greece and further afield who arrive with their cars on the Blue Star have also gone home again.  If you do visit Symi in September it is well worth hiring a car for a day or so to explore the interior of the island and visit Kokkimides monastery, Roukoniotis monastery and Toli Bay.  While there are organised mini-bus excursions if there are enough of you, having your own wheels gives you more freedom to stop and take photographs as well as linger at places that take your fancy.  On a clear day you can see as far as Kos on one side and Rhodes on the other with the islands of Halki, Tilos and Nissyros also visible.

As the continent of Europe starts to cool to the north of us, so has the breeze that blows down the Aegean, bringing welcome relief from the searing temperatures of the Symi summer.  It is still around 30 degrees at midday but after days in the forties, 30 seems quite mild.  Nights are cooling off too.  We plugged our boiler in for hot water yesterday for the first time since May.  Not quite time to dig out the duvet and woolly jumpers just yet though. That doesn’t happen until early November!

Have a good weekend.

Regards,

Adriana

 

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.

blog 16 June 2018 a
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.
blog 16 June 2018 b
Plumbago finds support in an olive tree.
blog 16 June 2018 c
Down on the Pedi road, the draught beer is ready to head out to bars and tavernas around the island.
blog 16 June 2018 e
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.
blog 16 June 2018 f
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?).
blog 16 June 2018 g
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.