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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May Postcards from Symi

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Symmetry
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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.

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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.
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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.
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Roses flourish in sheltered gardens around Pedi and Chorio.
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Windows
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In need of a little TLC.
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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.  
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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!

Symi Faces

A wide range of languages can be heard on the streets of Symi, including Mandarin and Hebrew in addition to the more usual Russian, French, Italian, German, Danish, Norwegian…

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Semi-detached Symi style.
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Generally speaking, Symiot village houses are not big – often just a kitchen downstairs with the rainwater cistern behind and then a salon above with a moussandra sleeping loft above that.  When flush loos and showers arrived in the 1970s, there was seldom space indoors for the plumbing arrangements so they were build on wherever they could fit.  It is not unusual to see facilities separate from the house or tagged on in the courtyard or even, in some cases, actually across the lane on a separate plot.
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Not quite en suite but it will do!
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The Harani area of the harbour has become very built up in recent years.  Quieter than the main harbour during the busy months of summer, it is also one of the very few places on the island where one can live within walking distance of a beach.
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This narrow concrete track was the original motor road connecting Yialos with Chorio.  Apparently it was built by the Italians with motorbikes in mind and the angles of the zigzags are acute to say the least.  Chopped off when the new two lane motor road out of the town was built in the 1980s, one can still see remnants of the stone foundations of this original road up by the windmills.
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Now abandoned, this intriguing house on the Pedi road probably has the most ornamental faces on the island.  The winged Hermes/Eros motif also appears on the dentist’s surgery at the bottom of the Kateraktis lane at the back of the harbour.  The grimacing man is also a central motif on a pediment near Kampos in Chorio and several other houses in the area.
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The faces even continue round the corner.
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A neighbour was not so extravagant.
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Stars and flowers above a door below the windmills.

 

June has arrived, hot and sticky with the rumble of far distant thunder storms over the embracing Turkish coast.  We actually had a couple of hours of steady light rain one evening earlier this week, enough to make the gutters drip and wash the dust off the citrus trees.  Every night we hear the desalination plant, squeaking away on the Pedi road as it frantically turns sea water into an approximation of the fresh stuff to keep our lavatories flushing and our showers running.  We had a lot of rain this winter but it came to an abrupt halt at the end of February and cisterns are emptying fast.

The water taxis are back in business. The beach tavernas are opening up, albeit with limited menus at the moment.  A wide range of languages can be heard on the streets of Symi, including Mandarin and Hebrew in addition to the more usual Russian, French, Italian, German, Danish, Norwegian…  There are still lots of British visitors around but they are no longer the dominant group they used to be.  June used to be referred to as ‘the English month’ on Symi.  Not any more. There’s a polyglot cosmopolitan vibe that used only to be in evidence in the high season months of July and August.

Have a good week.

Regards,

Adriana

May Postcards from Symi

Most of those package holiday companies have either dropped Symi from their listings as too expensive and awkward to get to (the shrinking ferry schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy) or the companies themselves have disappeared, gobbled up in the eternal quest for ever cheaper ‘value for money’ deals that eventually became unsustainable. 

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May is a fragrant month on Symi.   Apart from the ubiquitous jasmine and the somewhat cloying Persian lilacs, many older gardens also have honeysuckle scrambling over fences and pergolas.  On Symi this usually flowers twice a year – in May and then again in September.
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Pomegranate flowers.  Pomegranate trees are quite small, more like big shrubs than proper trees.  As you can see, the flowers are quite solid with thick waxy petals.  The fruit is ready to pick in late September through October.
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The courgette glut is well underway.  New blossoms appear early every morning, shrivelling away in the heat of the day.  The fruits grow so fast they have to be picked daily, even if one does not intend to use them that day.  Today’s sweet tender courgette becomes tomorrow’s tough vegetable marrow if left a day too long.  Courgette fritters in all their incarnations are a taverna staple at this time of the year.  They can also be used instead of aubergines in the making of moussaka, sliced thinly lengthwise and grilled to eat with garlic sauce as a mezze, hollowed out or halved lengthwise and stuffed with rice or meat – in May and June every housewife on the island is working her way through kilos and kilos of fresh courgettes. 
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There are more yachts about now.  I caught this early morning departure from Pedi one clear morning last week. That scar on the hillside on the right is the foot path to St Nicholas beach, one of Symi’s most popular family beaches.
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A novel way to discourage cats from sauntering into a Chorio courtyard.  If you spot this place, take a quick peak over the wall. There are the remnants of an old and elaborate colonnade, a fragment of which you can just see on the left of the aperture.
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A last lingering poppy in Chorio.  As the earth behind the dry stone walls dries out, the plants shrivel away.  Symi’s secret stone gardens turn back into barren dry stone walls until the drought breaks in late October.
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This was the view from the terrace of Agios Thannasis church in Chorio one afternoon last week.   This was most probably a flotilla of charter yachts being delivered to their cruising base such as Kos or even a Turkish port such as Bodrum.

A band of thunder showers passed over Greece last week.  Symi got off lightly with a few muddy sprinkles and a general clearing of the air.  Rhodes and many parts of the Greek mainland as well as neighbouring Turkey had heavy downpours, enough, in some cases, to cause local flooding.  We are unlikely to see any significant rain now until late October or even November.  The Southern Aegean has one of the longest summer droughts in the Mediterranean.  The last time Symi had rain strong enough to set the gutters flowing to fill cisterns was the end of February.  It looks as though 2018 is going to be a very long hot dry summer.

The first Olympic Holiday people arrived on Symi last week, marking the beginning of the official tourist season.  25 years ago there were many package holiday companies servicing Symi, notable among them being Laskarina, Manos, Kosmar, Small World, Travel a la Carte and Hidden Greece.  Accommodation was a mixture of restored traditional local houses, privately owned small studio and apartment developments designed to look just like Symi’s traditional houses and small pensions.  The emphasis was on authentic island life, simple self-catering and lots of convivial dining in local tavernas.  Symi’s tourist businesses timed their openings to coincide with these arrivals, knowing that there would be enough visitors staying on the island to provide them with customers in bars, cafes, tavernas, excursions and the like.

Now that certainty has gone.  Most of those package holiday companies have either dropped Symi from their listings as too expensive and awkward to get to (the shrinking ferry schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy) or the companies themselves have disappeared, gobbled up in the eternal quest for ever cheaper ‘value for money’ deals that eventually became unsustainable.

All inclusive packages to resort hotels in Rhodes are good for consumers who want to know exactly how much their holiday is going to cost and don’t really care if it is Greece, Spain, Egypt or Turkey as long as the sun shines, the pool is full and the food and drink bountiful and free.  Unfortunately these packages are death to local economies as holiday guests seldom venture forth into the community, prices are pared down to the last cent so wages in these complexes are often below the legal minimum and limited local resources are stretched to breaking point.

Last summer Rhodes found itself in the previously unheard of situation of running out of water.  So much water was being diverted to hotel complexes with their swimming pools, manicured lawns and unlimited showers that there was no water available for the locals.  Villages and towns found themselves without water for days on end. A situation with which Symiots are only too familiar – this is why we all have cisterns – but for which Rhodes is poorly equipped.

Ironically, high value property owners who had invested significant sums in purchasing holiday homes and villas on the island found themselves seriously inconvenienced for the benefit of low value all inclusive holidaymakers whose tourist spend largely stayed in the pockets of the international holiday companies hosting their holidays.  A state of affairs hardly likely to encourage further foreign investment.

That’s probably enough of the serious food for thought for today.  If you are still reading, have a good week!  Remember, you can always join in the discussion by commenting, or by emailing me here.

Regards,

Adriana