Bunches of Holy Basil

It is a mild autumn day on Symi. A gentle but chilly breeze is blowing down the harbour, making the Symi ferry’s vehicle ramp creak and groan when it scrapes against the quay. A few world-weary cruising yachts are tied up near the pharmacy, chipped paint, folding bicycles and faded canvas dodgers telling tales of adventures at sea and ashore.

There are few people in the harbour at this time of the year. Chorio is where the activity is. Carpets and rugs airing in the sun to remove the aroma of mothballs before they are put to winter use. Women in pyjamas sweeping courtyards, the smart clothes of summer jobs stowed for another year. Children in colourful tracksuits squealing in the school playground. The hectic grind of concrete mixers as labourers hurry to beat the next rainy spell.

In the Pedi valley the rotovators putter along the terraces, turning the new sprouted grass into neat chocolate rows ready to receive barley seed and vetch. Suddenly every man is a farmer, a shepherd, a hunter or a builder. Checked shirts, jeans and camouflage gear are the uniform for the season and razors have been binned.

Traffic across the mountain to Panormitis has increased as preparations are underway for the festival next week. Pick up trucks and cars, laden with ladies in black clutching bunches of holy basil and roses, rattle up the hill every morning. Nightfall brings the heavy scent of incense rolling down from the cemeteries as this is also time for remembering the dead.

Have a good week.


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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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