Health and safety rules do exist in Greece. I mean, once a year a road block is set up at the windmills above Yialos to check that people are using helmets when out on their motorbikes. It is illegal to use mobile phones while driving but no one pays much attention to that one either. We have all seen such Greek island classics as a motorcyclist yakking on the phone while juggling a frappe cup and a cigarette and steering with his knees as he negotiates the waterfront bends in Yialos.
Painters totter at the top of extension ladders, the bottoms of which are balanced on steep steps or out in the street with no hazard signs. Occasionally someone comes unstuck but this happens remarkably seldom. This might be because in Greece, particularly in the islands, people grow up taking responsibility for their own actions and don’t count on someone else to look out for them. If you have survived childhood sleeping on a moussandra loft with a 3 metre ladder to climb up from the stone floor below, the chances are good you have been living dangerously from the outset. Riding to school on a motorbike, clinging to dad’s back along with several other siblings, because there’s no money for a family car brings with it a confidence those of us from more sheltered backgrounds can only envy.
I watched the above sequence of events play out in Yialos yesterday morning. Harbour balconies offer fascinating insights into island life and if you can handle the steps, it is well worth spending at least your first visit to Symi in one of the neo-classical houses that form the tiers of Symi’s famous amphitheatre harbour. You may never leave your opera box vantage point for the duration of your stay. For more mesmerising harbour view observations, visit James Collins’ blog over at Symi Dream – he has to try to work with that view from his desk!