Peaches and Black Polyester Frocks

Agios Athanasis, one of the most important parish churches in Chorio.

A rather surprised angel above a door in Chorio

Shadow play in the lanes.

How to advertise a birthday celebration in a place with no road names or street numbers

That bulge is a flight of steps from the avli, courtyard, to the balcony above.

The bell tower at Agios Athanasis.  As many of the parish churches have similar bell towers they are often an aid to confusion rather than navigation for new comers.  It is better to look out for angels and other small quirky details as aids to finding the way home after dinner in the Chorio square.

Such close neighbourliness forces social interaction and tolerance in the community, but makes privacy a luxury enjoyed by few in the densely packed lanes of the old town.

August is drawing to a close but  here on Symi the heat and humidity continue.  The air hangs hot and heavy over Symi, stirred only by the desperate drone of thirsty bees.  Down in the harbour day trippers move slowly from shop to shop, examining sunhats and wondering if they feel up to a proper lunch or just another cold beer.  At Pachos visitors wait for the next taxi boat to the beach and fan themselves with holiday paperbacks.   As the new moon approaches the water level in the harbour is high and cars and scooters move carefully round the quay, trying to avoid the salty puddles that lap up to the shop fronts in some places. 

Up in Chorio hawkers are parked at Kampos corner, selling melons, peaches and black polyester frocks of the sort that form a wardrobe staple for village ladies over the age of 50.  Widows’ weeds that have not changed much since the Fifties and are worn for the daily trips up to the cemetery.  The Greeks don’t have much time for therapists and bereavement counsellors – the Orthodox Church and tradition provide a structure to grieving and as the dead always remain a part of family life the modern concepts of ‘closure’ and ‘moving on’ have no part.  Dishes of boiled sweet wheat and pomegranate seeds are taken up to the Agia Marina cemetery on anniversaries and All Souls in a ritual that has not changed much since Demeter mourned Persephone. There is no pressure on the bereaved to ‘bounce back’ and the steady succession of small ceremonies and memorials over time work their own healing.  The ladies in black keep the flickering oil lamps alight and the graves neat and well tended, unlike the neglected and vandalised cemeteries of the West where ‘closure’ so often means ‘out of sight is out of mind’.
Have a good weekend.


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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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