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.

 

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Rainy Days and Cyclamens

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The Greek Island cliche of the tourist brochures is blue skies, calm seas, endless sunshine and idyllic beaches. That is only part of the picture.  Greece, like all the other countries in the Europe, also has winter.  While it seldom involves metre deep snow drifts – unless you live in northern Greece – but it does usually involve a lot of wet stuff and that, in turn, translates into a lot of green stuff.  The Mediterranean climate has two defining characteristics – long hot dry summers and relatively mild wet winters with high rainfall.  Spring and Autumn are such short seasons, only 2-3 weeks between Summer and Winter that they hardly register at all in Southern Greece.  We would not survive those summer droughts without the winter rains and on naturally arid islands like Symi which have no springs or rivers, harvesting the winter rains in cisterns has been a way of life for thousands of years.

If you have only ever been to Greece in the popular summer months of July, August and September you may find it hard to imagine a landscape of wild cyclamens and silvery asphodels, bright green annual grasses and waist high corona daisies.  The first rains usually fall sometime in October, around the same time that the squills start punching through the sunbaked earth to remind us that Persephone is on her way back to Hades. Within a day or so a delicate green bloom tinges the rocky landscape as dry scrubby herb bushes regreen and grass seeds germinate.  The wild cyclamens poke small heart shaped leaves out of stony terrace walls and rocky hillsides.  The delicately scented pale pink flowers follow later, in February and March.  By April the country is a riot of flowers as nature pushes to complete complex life cycles before the first heatwaves of May and June bake the earth.

It is quite possible to see no rain at all between mid March and early November but most years the drought on Symi lasts from April to late October.  A long time without water.

The next time you look at a photograph of gleaming white Cycladic houses against a brilliantly blue sky and sea, remember the other Greece. The wintry green one of rain and cyclamens.