>> Friday, March 14, 2014 – Symi accommodation, Symi architecture, Symi as a holiday destination, Symi in March, Symi lifestyle
|The largest building on Symi, the new sports complex, gleaming marble and white plaster.|
|Peeping between the buildings on the Kali Strata. The paintwork on the Katerinettes building is nearly finished.|
|Free range in the truest sense of the word. As we don't have foxes and other predators on Symi, poultry can wander about with equanimity. These chaps can out wit any dog and often flap over the fence into my potato field.|
|Breakfast by the side of the road.|
|One of the Kali Strata mansions, the Villa Rousso splendid in her new paint.|
Occasionally we receive an email that reminds me that many would-be first time visitors have a vision of Symi as a stereotypical Greek island, based on visits to other parts of Greece and how they are represented in the media. Symi is not a 'typical' Greek island. It is not Corfu, Santorini, Hydra, Myconos or any of the other trendy destinations with their luxury resorts, fancy swimming-pooled villas and exotic night life. Symi is a beautiful neo-classical gem, much loved by those who put the aesthetic ahead of creature comforts and can tell the difference between quality of life and standard of living. Symi's quaint architecture and steep landscape frequently require the tolerance of a certain level of discomfort, on the part of visitors and locals alike, but wow is it worth it for the views and the loveliness of the houses. The archaeologia may rule Symi with a firm hand when it comes to new buildings and the reconstruction of ruins but while other islands are disappearing under a creeping tide of golf courses, oligarch's villas and concrete, Symi retains a charm that is increasingly unique. Part of that charm is that visitors to Symi stay within the Symiot community. They ride the same bus as the locals. They eat in the same tavernas. They drink in the same bars and cafes. The neighbours to your holiday accommodation are more likely to have lived there for a hundred years than come from Manchester or London for a fortnight. There are no tourist ghettos. The closest we get is the handful of restaurants and bars along the waterfront that only open for the summer season but that is largely because these days the locals can no longer afford to go out for more than a gyros during the long winter months of unemployment in this economic crisis.
The island is very steep and mountainous. The beaches are surrounded by cliffs and few can be safely reached by any means other than water taxis. As the shoreline is mostly cliffs there are few waterfront properties and aside from the steep amphitheatre harbour, most habitation is up in Chorio, the original village, far from the reaches of pirates and marauders. Water is in short supply as the island has no natural water supply so there are no villas with swimming pools. Instead everyone heads for the sea and the 4 o'clock bus on a hot afternoon in July or August is full of local children with their grandmothers and inflatable beach toys, heading for a paddle in Pedi.
So, if you are looking for a luxury resort with a pool, all modern conveniences and a glittering international night life or a cheap all inclusive holiday where you never have to mingle with the locals or leave the resort, Symi probably isn't for you. But if you are looking for an authentic island experience where you will make many friends and probably return year after year to sit at the same cafe table where the proprietor knows you by name and remembers your special from last time, Symi is for you. Celebrities pass through Symi discreetly and the nationalities of Symi's visitors are many and varied but Symi's character remains, unique and beautiful.
Have a good week.