The Lie of the Land

It is a warm summer morning on the small island of Symi in the Dodecanese. A fisherman is whacking an octopus on the quay. Unwhacked octopus is very tough indeed. I know of at least one innovative fisherman who uses an old cement mixer to tenderize his but a good pummeling on the quay does just as well if it is only one or two. The crews of the excursion boats and water taxis are making their preparations for the day and the aroma of strong Greek coffee and tobacco wafts up from Pachos cafeneion below my office. Turkish gulets are unraveling their anchors from the bottom of Yialos and departing with occasional shouts and toots on horns. The detritus of millennia litters the bottom of Symi’s harbour and fouled anchors are frequent.

First time visitors often find Symi’s mountainous topography difficult to envisage before they arrive on the island. The tiers of houses that line the amphitheatre harbour of Yialos, linked by their hundreds of steps. The winding lanes of old Chorio punctuated by many churches. The remnants of the Kastro on its battered acropolis overlooking both the harbour and Chorio. The rolling green sweep of the Pedi valley, ever more built upon but none the less still a welcome patch of verdure in an arid summer landscape.

Here are some photographs to show new visitors the lie of the land and to bring back some memories for those who have already had their Symi holidays.

Yialos, the main harbour of Symi, with Harani behind it. 
The clock tower is where the big ferries dock from Pireaus.  The Nireus Hotel, the Aliki, Sofia's House, Stavros Mansion and several other well known holiday accommodations are in the Harani.
This photograph was taken from half way up the Kali Strata steps on the opposite side of the amphitheatre harbour.
Central Chorio and the Upper Pedi Valley as seen from Lieni, one of the areas of Upper Chorio.  Yialos and Harani as seen in the previous photograph are on the other side of the ridge of hills with the windmills.  In the foreground you can see the Taxiarchis Hotel. The Little Blue House, Zoe's apartments and Olympic Holidays' Anastasia Studios are all on this hill and have views across this valley. The motor road on the right comes up from the harbour and there is a T junction just where it disappears in the photograph.  You can either head up the hill to towards the centre of Chorio or down the hill to Pedi.  This is the main motor road on the island and all the rows of houses you can see on that hill side are connected by narrow lanes and steps with no immediate vehicle access.
From the row of windmills in the previous picture there is a steep lane, just wide enough for one car, which goes down to a small square and a lane that connects to the Kali Strata steps.  In this area you will find the Hotel Fiona which is the blue gabled building in the foreground, Villa Anastasia, the Old Bakery, the village square and the routes to Lemonitissa church and the Kastro. That hill in the background with the small blue and white church on it is the kastro and the hill itself is often referred to as Symi's acropolis.
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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