Symi Blues in February

blog 20 Feb 2019 a
A small fishing boat in Pedi.
blog 20 Feb 2019 b
Where there are castles built by the Knights of Rhodes, there are also canon balls. It is only in Hollywood that canon balls explode. Real ones are made of stone or iron and there are literally thousands of stone canon balls in Rhodes as well as a few in Symi. This one is on a doorstep in Pedi.
blog 20 Feb 2019 c
Homage to Knossos and Sir Arthur Evans.
blog 20 Feb 2019 d detail
When it says Outdoor shower on the listing…
blog 20 Feb 2019 d
Well, it does stop the kids from tracking sand and salt into the house.
blog 20 Feb 2019 e
A Pedi fisherman’s cottage. I didn’t notice the cat among the fish baskets until I downloaded the photograph.
blog 20 Feb 2019 f
Water colours
blog 20 Feb 2019 g
There is water seeping out of the hillsides
blog 20 Feb 2019 h
and draining from gardens
blog 20 Feb 2019 i
and flowing into the sea … (BTW the shell case is a more recent relic, left by the Germans during the Second World War)
blog 20 Feb 2019 j
from neat canals
blog 20 Feb 2019 k
Kamares
blog 20 Feb 2019 l
A slightly fancier fishing boat
blog 20 Feb 2019 m
Almond blossom
blog 20 Feb 2019 n
Sand shovelled into heaps outside the Pedi Beach Hotel.
blog 20 Feb 2019 o
A calm morning in Pedi
blog 20 Feb 2019 p
Pedi pond. In the summer this vanishes totally, just leaving a few clumps of grass to mark its location.
blog 20 Feb 2019 q
Sandbags instead of sunbeds.

 

The weekly storms are still vicious but the sunny intervals between them are growing longer and milder.  There is a feeling of spring in the air and there are more people around.  It is that time of the year where it is warmer outdoors than in and everyone is relishing the sunshine.  Walkers of all ages promenade past under the watchful gaze of grazing sheep.  The ground is still to water-logged for much agricultural activity.  More heavy rain is forecast for the weekend as another storm system passes over Greece. As we near the spring equinox the storms increasingly pass to the north of us so while they may disrupt the big boat schedules they are not as destructive locally.

Wherever one looks on Symi there are bits of history tangled up with the present day.  The sense of continuity has a steadying effect.  Invaders and occupiers have come and gone and people are still here, growing olives, grazing sheep, fishing …

The photograph at the top of this blog shows the Kastro, Symi’s acropolis.  This has been a fortification of one sort or another for thousands of years although the most recent structure was a castle, built by the Knights of Rhodes.  Much of the remaining structure were destroyed during the Second World War when the retreating Germans blew up the munitions store they had there but there are still chunks of wall visible.  The main habitation was always huddled around the acropolis rather than the sea.  Trouble came from the sea.  Pirates, invaders – anyone on the shoreline was vulnerable.  Ancient settlements tended to be on high ground where you could see trouble coming before it arrived and defend yourself.  Symi’s hill tops and mountain peaks are dotted with the remnants of ancient fortifications and settlements.  They are not always easy to spot, particularly in the summer months when everything is uniformly dry and patterns are not so easily distinguishable on the landscape.

If you have any topics about Symi that you would particularly like me to focus on please let me know via the comments section or by emailing me or commenting on Facebook.  I would love to hear from you.

 

Adriana

Advertisements

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
blog 8 Feb 2019 c
Splash!
blog 8 Feb 2019 d
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.
blog 8 Feb 2019 g
An abandoned farmstead on a mountain top above Pedi.
blog 8 Feb 2019 h
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.

 

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 🙂
blog 6 Sep 2018 j
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.
blog 6 Sep 2018 g
If I had not heard the bleat I would never have noticed this nanny goat.  She looks almost as weather-beaten as her surroundings.
blog 6 Sep 2018 f
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.
blog 6 Sep 2018 a
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

 

August Postcards from Symi

blog 25 August 2018 a
The view from the top.  Pedi bay has been very full for the past couple of weeks.  Symi has always been a popular destination for Turkish yachtsmen and the recent Eid holiday brought lots of maritime visitors, despite the plunging value of the Turkish lira.
blog 25 August 2018 b
This opulent creeper caught my eye in Pedi recently.
blog 25 August 2018 c
The jetty in Pedi is not just for pleasure boats and water taxis.  Pedi is the port for the fuel tanker for the power station, water ships, small freighters and all sorts of random commercial traffic destined for the yards and warehouses that line the Pedi road.
blog 25 August 2018 d
A few of the houses along the seafront in Pedi have managed to hang onto some sort of water frontage and outdoor living space, unlike the ones along the north side who lost their frontage to a sea of concrete when the ill-thought out ‘marina’ was built.
blog 25 August 2018 e
The million dollar question is why the cat in the previous photograph is snoozing on a pallet when he would be so much more comfortable on the neighbours’ cushions.
blog 25 August 2018 f
Cockerels roosting in a tree in the valley.  Chickens are actually by nature woodland fowl and when they go feral this becomes quite obvious.  The hens may nest and lay eggs in shrubby places at ground level when they go broody but the rest of the time everyone prefers to roost as high up as they can get.
blog 25 August 2018 g
Some more Pedi seating.  That looks a bit like an old bench off the Symi I ferry.
blog 25 August 2018 h
The method of hauling boats out of the water hasn’t changed much since Homeric times.  ‘Greased ways’ are still used.  The local wooden boat designs haven’t changed their underwater profiles much since Homeric times either which is why these wooden skids still work. An advantage is they can be infinitely modified by whacking on extra bits of wood as required to keep the caique stable.
blog 25 August 2018 i
Something else that probably hasn’t changed much over the centuries either.
blog 25 August 2018 j
A recent view from Villa Jasmine in Pedi.
blog 25 August 2018 k
The view from my ironing board.  These days I spend much of my time down in Pedi, washing and ironing the sheets and towels for the houses I look after.  From where I stand I can look out of two windows and all sorts of interesting things happen if one looks carefully enough.  I saw vague movement on the hillside and the zoom lens of my camera revealed a local beekeeper, checking his hives.
blog 25 August 2018 l
The view from the front window alternates between very busy with the bus and taxis rattling past to very peaceful, depending on where we are in the hourly bus schedule and the harbour ferry movements.  About 15 minutes after a ferry comes into Yialos, a cavalcade of taxis and mini buses roars past, tooting on the blind bend. Then it is all over for another half an hour or so.
blog 25 August 2018 m
Garden furniture for sale.  The gypsy hawkers are an important part of island life, selling all sorts of items according to the season.  Right now it is garden furniture, clay pots, potting soil and the hardier drought resistant plants.  Next month they will be selling hunting clothes and carpets.  If you are patient, everything comes to you eventually on Symi, whether it be day old chicks, artisanal cheese, Chinese power tools, designer knock-offs or shag-pile carpets. This is how people on the smaller islands got their necessities before on line shopping, car ferries to Rhodes, IKEA deliveries and other modern conveniences.  There’s still some excitement in seeing just what trundles off the car ferries and there are bargains to be had if you aren’t too picky about designs and colour schemes.
blog 25 August 2018 n
We have an elegant new bus stop at the fork in the road in Pedi.  The local carpenter who made it specialises in ecclesiastical furniture for the island’s numerous chapels and churches, hence the delicate roof.  Whether it will survive the rigours of a Symi winter remains to be seen.  It had only been up a couple of days when I took this photograph.  A far cry from the robust corrugated iron bus stops immortalised in Will Travis’ famous book about Symi in the 1970s called ‘Bus Stop Symi. What made bus stops note worthy on Symi in the 60s and 70s was that the island had neither roads nor buses at the time!

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.

 

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…

blog 2 June 2018 a_marked
Semi-detached Symi style.
blog 2 June 2018 b_marked
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.
blog 2 June 2018 c_marked
Not quite en suite but it will do!
blog 2 June 2018 d_marked
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.
blog 2 June 2018 e_marked
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.
blog 2 June 2018 f_marked
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.
blog 2 June 2018 g_marked
The faces even continue round the corner.
blog 2 June 2018 h_marked
A neighbour was not so extravagant.
blog 2 June 2018 i_marked
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

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.

blog 19 May 2018 a
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.
blog 19 May 2018 b
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.
blog 19 May 2018 c
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.
blog 19 May 2018 d
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.
blog 19 May 2018 e
An immaculate house in a quiet lane below the windmills.
blog 19 May 2018 f
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.
blog 19 May 2018 g
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.
blog 19 May 2018 h
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.
blog 19 May 2018 i
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.
blog 19 May 2018 j
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.