Making Hay While the Sun Shines on Symi

The Blue Star Paros at 8 a.m., Friday morning.  The boat comes and goes in a cloud of music as they play 'Fur Elise' as the boarding ramp goes up and down. a sound more evocative of old fashioned ice cream vans than a Greek island ferry!  You can see the new customs and immigration shed next to the clock tower more clearly in this photograph.

The faded elegance of the Kali Strata. Sometimes, as I walk down here to work I find myself wondering what it was like when this was Symi's shopping 'high street' - as you can see, the houses on the left all have what would have been business premises below. Seamstresses, cobblers (there was still one when I first came here), butchers, fishmongers, dairies (there was also one of those when I first came here) - all the things that a bustling town of 20 000 people would have needed.

This was probably a post office, if the bust of Hermes is anything to go by. These days it is an artist's studio.

Some of the bougainvilleas are starting to flower again.

Meanwhile, in the Pedi valley it is time to make hay while the sun shines.

Profiti Ilias, a monastery dedicated to the Prophet Elijah, sits high on the hill above the Pedi valley.  It is believed that there was an ancient temple to Apollo on that site and there are remains of ancient walls visible below the monastery.  

Goats using an old stone wall as a route from the hillside into a neglected walled garden.  This is the dry and arid side of the Pedi valley with more stones than soil and little grows apart from squills, thistles and euphorbia.

Keep out the goats and let the poultry roam among the daisies and this is what you get.  

Just in case you couldn't see the poultry for the daisies, here is a close up!

The austerity measures and high unemployment have turned many Greeks back to their agrarian roots.  Many long neglected patches of garden are undergoing a renaissance in the Pedi valley, not as a therapeutic indulgence but to put some food on the table.  Prickly pears and figs are easy to grow. The beds contain courgettes, lettuce, chard, spinach, rocket and herbs such as flat leaf parsley and mint which are used in abundance in this part of the world.  The main constraint is the lack of natural water so this is very much a winter activity.  

There is not much in the way of zoning here and bars, cafes and shops are often tucked among the houses in residential areas.  
Symi is warming up and there is no rain on the horizon.  Temperatures are now heading into the high twenties and we will probably see thirty degrees centigrade next week. There is a lot of dust suspended in the air and the sky has a pinkish hue today.  Ochre is a practical colour to paint buildings in a region often touched by the sandstorms of Africa and the Middle East. The kiosks have got their ice cream fridges up and running and the plastic drop cloths are rolled up.

Down in the harbour the epidemic of painting and decorating continues as shopkeepers press on with their preparations for the season.  Sometimes someone sets up a radio for some motivating music but today it is just the sound of voices, scratching sandpaper and swishing paint brushes that comes through the office windows.

The bus has gone to Rhodes again so I will be taking a taxi home if I can't get a lift.  As Symi is so steep, the usual pattern is to walk down and ride up - unless one is fit enough to walk both ways which quite a lot of people do if it is not too hot.  The arrival of the motor road about 35 years ago must have really revolutionised life for the islanders as before that there was no easy way to get from Yialos to Chorio and steps and ramps were the only option. The motor road is considerably longer than the Kali Strata and the other old pedestrian routes and has to make a generous sweep out of the harbour and back up to the windmills to cope with the gradient, making it quite a spectacular drive. Very few houses on Symi have close vehicle access as the lanes are very narrow and punctuated by steps.  The houses are close packed with little space where one could open up space for traffic.  There has never been a tradition of wheeled transport here as it is so steep. Those early Symiots must have been very fit!

Have a good weekend.

Regards,
Adriana




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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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