Life on Symi in August

Waiting at the clock tower for the Blue Star Paros on Friday morning.  The exodus has begun and many people who have summer houses here or who have been visiting friends and relations for the August holidays are now heading for home.  It is a little odd at first, hearing people wishing each other 'kalo chimona' (happy winter) when winter is still several months away and temperatures remain steadfastly in the thirties but that is the traditional farewell at this time of the year.  Everyone hopes to be reunited, same time, same place, next year.

The tinsmith's shop building is undergoing a major restoration.  It has a new roof, new ceilings and floors, fresh plaster and lots of attractive exposed traditional stone work.  It is encouraging to see a project like this being undertaken at a time when there is little money circulating. As Symi is a heritage site and the architecture is protected a project like this requires a great deal of attention to detail, particularly as it is in a landmark position.  It is not clear in the photograph but the horizontal lines above the windows and beneath the pediment are the edges of embedded tiles, matching the ones on the adjoining half of the building.

Symi's new wellness centre at the back of the town square is another landmark building.  Activities and events are advertised on the chalkboard as well as on Facebook and visitors are welcome.

Presumably the location for this sundial was chosen for decorative reasons rather than functionality as it is quite emphatically in the shade.

The back of St John's church, Symi's cathedral, in Yialos. The adjoining building with the blue windows is the Petrideon, the junior school that serves Yialos.  Out of a population of about 2800 people there are around 300 children of school-going age so there are schools in both Yialos and Chorio for the younger children and then a high school, the Panormiteon, just below the Kali Strata as well as a technical school on the bend in the road in Chorio.  Once upon a time there was also a school house down in Pedi but this is now the mini-market.

Symi has many contrasts, not least because the owners of many properties have long since emigrated to far flung places like Australia and the USA, leaving their houses to slowly crumble away.  At the time of their departure, a house on Symi had little or no value and subsequent generations may have had neither the time nor the money to return to the island. It is not unusual to see scenes like this one, where immaculately restored buildings and neglected ruins co-exist side by side.

Strutting their stuff - three pullets below the road in Lieni.  They are surviving remarkably well considering that they are living free range on the busiest bend in the road to Panormitis and can often be seen making a mad dash from one side to the other in search of some new morsel.  The origins of all those jokes about chickens crossing roads must have started in similar situations.
August is drawing to a close.  It is still hot and humid and people do tend to linger wherever there may be a fan or air conditioning.  Twenty years ago few houses had air conditioning and fans were the only method of cooling.  I was working in a taverna in those days and often had to walk home late on hot summer nights.  As I passed houses in Chorio I would pass people sleeping on their balconies and terraces or with all the doors and windows open and I would hear the whir of fans and gentle snoring.

We have had quite a lot of late bookings, mainly for September and October and it looks as though the end of the season may well be busier than the beginning. We are also getting lots of enquiries for 2017 which is always encouraging.  Remember, we start confirming bookings for 2017 at the end of October but if you have a specific property in mind you are welcome to email us now to hold it for you.

Have a good weekend.



Midsummer Musings

We heard yesterday that the Cote d'Azur is down 40% this August so perhaps we shouldn't feel bad that Symi is similarly empty.

This discreet close of matching mansions at the back of Yialos was once the acme of elegant town living in Symi in the late 19th century.  Symi's neo-classical answer to the concept of the gated community.

A view of the Vigla mountain and one of the remoter parts of Chorio, as seen from the back of the square in Yialos.  The houses you can see on the hillside were once part of the main connurbation of Chorio and would have been accessed via the Kataraktis, the old donkey path that winds up the side of the kastro with a sheer drop to a water course on the other side, hence the name.  With the advent first of the Kali Strata and subsequently of the motor road the popularity of the Kataraktis as a road diminished and when the houses were damaged during the Second World War or fell into disrepair with successive waves of emigration, the focus of the community shifted to more easily accessible areas.

Mother and kittens playing in a ruin at the base of the Kali Strata.

A dream catcher in the window of a holiday let on the Kali Strata.  Instead of the usual swirls of wrought iron to latch the shutters open the carpenter who did this house supplied pieces of wood to wedge them open.  Simple but effective.

An old house is being cleared out on the short cut in Chorio and these old trunks caught my eye. What stories they could tell!  The top one was originally covered with some sort of striped fabric of which only a few scraps remain. These trunks are probably a century or more old.  A modern wheelie suitcase seldom lasts more than a few trips before bits fall off, zips fail and they have to be replaced. Who would ever fantasize about the life of a wheelie suitcase?

Spackling the street door probably wouldn't be my number one priority in restoring a mansion like this one but perhaps whoever is doing it thought they would start with the easy bits!

The haze is back and the opposite coast has vanished completely.  Quite a nice 3 master in the bay though, a reminder of the days when all the boats that anchored in Pedi looked like that!


About this Blog

I sailed into Panormitis Bay, Symi, by chance one windy July day in 1993 and have been here ever since. The locals tell me that this is one of the miracles of St Michael of Panormitis. A BA graduate with majors in English, Philosophy and Classical Civilisation, the idea of living in what is to all intents and purposes an archaeological site appeals to me. Not as small as Kastellorizo, not as touristy as Rhodes, Symi is just the right size. I live on a small holding which my husband and I have reclaimed from a ruin of over-grazing and neglect and turned into a small oasis over the course of the past 22 years. I also work part-time for Symi Visitor Accommodation, helping independent travellers discover and enjoy Symi's simple pleasures for themselves.

This page is kindly sponsored by Wendy Wilcox, Symi Visitor Accommodation.

Adriana Shum

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