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!

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.
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Moving a nanny goat.
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Walled orchard in Pedi
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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!

Waiting for Zorba

The weather is turning early this year. The first part of this week shipping was disrupted by northerly gales in the Northern and Central Aegean caused by Storm Xenophon.  Now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the optimistically named Medicane Zorbas.  This sounds like some sort of weird Greek pharmaceutical but it is actually a meteorological term for the Mediterranean version of a Category 1 Hurricane.

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An old oven near the technical high school in Chorio.  There used to be a lot of these communal ovens in the residential areas of Symi but many have been demolished or have literally collapsed in recent years.  Symi houses are small and fuel is scarce.  The big cast iron range cookers that were fashionable in 19th century Europe never made it to Symi.  Instead there was an open hearth in the kitchen with wrought iron trivets for cooking over a small wood fire.  Once a week or so or on special occasions an outdoor oven such as this one would be used to bake bread, roast meat and prepare other specialities that required an oven.  When I first came here in the 1990s it was still common to see housewives carrying trays of food to the bakeries of Chorio to cook in the ovens as they cool in the afternoon.  Nowadays they have modern electric ovens like everyone else – and air conditioning to cool the house after a day’s cooking.
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Most doors and windows on Symi are wood.  There are, however, quite a few steel courtyard doors around if one looks about.  This one is relatively recent in that it was welded rather than riveted.  The floral motif on this one caught my eye.
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These days the bulls eye on the pediment is usually a solid motif but in the older houses this was an important part of ventilation for the house.  Heat rises and escapes from the roof space through the lacy ironwork.
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The Blue Star 1 powering past the entrance to Pedi, on her way to Rhodes. 
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Playtime in Pedi Bay.
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The monastery of Profiti Ilias (Prophet Elijah), perched on a crag overlooking the Pedi Valley.
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Sand and straw in a builder’s yard in the Pedi valley.
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Those brown bottles must have been there for a very long time, probably since long before I started work at the Valanidia on the Pedi road, yet I only noticed them this summer.  The labels have washed away and they are held in place by a bit of fencing.  They aren’t broken so it is possible that they were originally in boxes or some kind of packaging which has rotted away over the years, leaving the bottles to gently topple over against the pig wire.
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Preparing for the rain in one of the walled gardens behind the beach in Pedi.
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Pomegranates ripening in a garden up at Megalo Sotiris.
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And down at sea level on the north shore of Pedi bay.  There is a bit of a cave in the hillside behind the tree which has been waterproofed with cement and secured with a door which you can just see on the right.  When houses are small, the occupants tend to spill out into their surroundings and before the advent of the ‘marina’ the north shore of Pedi bay was a picturesque row of outdoor kitchens and living spaces in the summer.
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Doesn’t that sparkling water sing you siren songs?  Pedi bay last week.
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A windy sky.  My pomegranate tree is never very productive. This year it is providing support to a random handful of ipomea (morning glory). Reach for the skies…

The weather is turning early this year. The first part of this week shipping was disrupted by northerly gales in the Northern and Central Aegean caused by Storm Xenophon.  Now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the optimistically named Medicane Zorbas.  This sounds like some sort of weird Greek pharmaceutical but it is actually a meteorological term for the Mediterranean version of a Category 1 Hurricane.  The Mediterranean Sea is over-heating and feeding storms more commonly associated with the tropics.  Zorbas is currently revolving over the Ionian and South Peloponnese.  Crete is already feeling its effects in the form of storm surges and gale force winds.  It is moving slowly towards us and the various computer projections seem undecided as to when and where it will hit the Eastern Aegean and Dodecanese.  The bulletins are changing hourly, the shipping companies are struggling to keep up and travellers are worrying about planes, ferries, connections and insurance.  Somehow the last weekend in September is behaving like the last week in October.

I had to go down to the harbour this morning to see the dentist.  Symi may be a tiny island and somewhat inaccessible but we do have two excellent dentists and, despite the various ferry disruptions, my new bridge arrived in time to be fitted this morning.  The harbour, Yialos, was very busy as some late season fancy yachts had decided that retail therapy was the answer on a grey blustery day.  The water taxis and excursion boats aren’t running today due to the anticipated storms so late September visitors were also in the coffee shops and boutiques rather than sunning themselves outside the Pedi Beach Hotel.  Workmen were banging in battens and balancing on ladders, rigging the plastic ‘tents’ that provide protection against the elements for those hospitality venues that stay open through the winter.  This ritual is usually performed in late October or early November, not the last week in September.

It is by no means cold.  It is about 28 degrees today and very humid under a heavy blanket of cloud.  The day has been punctuated by intermittent showers and the wind is starting to rise, buffeting the yachts at anchor in Pedi bay.

Have a good weekend – and I will let you know if Zorba came to visit or passed us by.

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.

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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.
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Plumbago finds support in an olive tree.
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Down on the Pedi road, the draught beer is ready to head out to bars and tavernas around the island.
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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.
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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?).
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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…

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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