In the Shade of an Olive Grove

It is that time of the year when those of us on Symi who do not have air conditioning seek out whatever coolness nature provides, be it the shade of trees and vines or the bracing chill of the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed I am writing this blog in the shade of an olive grove, my living room from now until October. In July, with so much exposed rock, Symi is a giant storage heater, soaking up the sun like the dainty blue tailed lizards and prehistoric agamas that bask upon those stones. In the Pedi Valley and Xisos the constant chirrup of cicadas provides a soundtrack to sunny afternoons of sleepy cats and gently cooing doves. The summer sun makes nocturnal animals of us all.

Speaking of soaking up heat, as in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries many properties on Symi make use of solar water heaters and these devices are a common sight on the roofs. The important thing to remember with using one of these is that once the supply of hot water has been depleted there isn’t any more until the next day so a long hot shower in the evening cannot be followed by another first thing in the morning. On an island with no natural water long showers are not a good idea anyway as domestic water supplies are limited and expensive. This is why Greek showers usually have a little button on the shower head. This enables one to easily turn the shower off while shampooing etcetera and then reactivate it for rinsing off without going through the whole palaver of adjusting taps to get the temperature right again. A simple but effective method of saving water that could be adopted world wide.

As Symi turns from green to brown under the Mediterranean sun the dominant vegetation is also becoming more prickly. Thistles, euphorbias, capers and rapidly desiccating thyme, rigani and sage bushes all seem destined to make walking in the valley a scratchy experience. Velcro was inspired by someone who noticed how well burrs adhere to clothing when walking in the countryside, a phenomenon with which Symi’s sheep are only too familiar.

Have a good week.


Anthony –   – (Wednesday, July 06, 2011)  

Re the prickly plants, as the lush plants of spring die off there is of course less and less for the foraging sheep and goats to eat. Anything without fairly vicious spines or prickles (even more vicious for nibbling mouths than for bare legs) would quickly get gobbled up. It's a matter of 'survival of the prickliest'!

Thanks also for the picture of the St John's Wort (the straggling yellow-flowered plant) which is I think the 'Crisped St. John's Wort' (Hypericum triquetrifolium). I saw it in the Pedi valley during my May visit but the flowers had not yet opened.

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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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