January Postcards from Symi

An empty sea.  A surprisingly clear and unobstructed view from the bus stop in Yialos.

What is not so obvious in the previous picture and is only just visible in this one, although it was blindingly clear in reality, is the snow on the far mountain peak in the middle of the photograph.  If you can zoom your screen you should be able to see it.  It is not often that one can see snow from the bus stop in Yialos, Symi, even in January!

All the rain has perked up the wild oregano bushes and they are rapidly transforming from clumps of dry twigs to sprouts of perky aromatic green leaves. The leaves are actually too pungent to use fresh except in very small quantities. Traditional Greek rigani is actually the dried flower buds, gathered fresh in late spring and then dried in the shade and rubbed off their stalks.

Feral Fred, posing with his best side to the camera on the road through Lieni.

The view from the Symi Visitor Accommodation office on Tuesday.  It was pouring with rain on Monday, the road around the harbour was closed for work outside the coastguard office and in any case there was no bus - it is away for its annual maintenance - so I came down on Tuesday instead.  Unfortunately Tuesday was just as wet, with the excitement of a severe hailstorm in the early evening.  This was the scene from the window around midday. The floating crane was taking core samples in the middle of the harbour.

You know there is nothing much happening on the island when the floating crane warrants two photographs!

Friday morning and a dry day at last.  Quite a windy sky though and temperatures are falling again as the wind is from the north.  It is expected to stay dry at least until Sunday evening but as we have had so many showers that have appeared from nowhere, despite any forecast, anything is possible.

A bit of old Hellenistic dry stone walling that has been quietly minding its own business for a couple of thousand years.  Symi doesn't have big ticket 'must see' tourist attractions like Rhodes or Athens, but wherever you look you are surrounded by history.  The island has been continuously inhabited for at least 3000 years and that makes for a lot of recycling of stones and artifacts.  In a turbulent world, it gives a pleasing sense of continuity to know that people have been building stone walls, planting olives and tilling terraces for all those centuries and will continue to do so.

The recent extreme cold finally persuaded the deciduous trees to take a break and have a winter nap.  This is the big Valonia oak in Lieni, Chorio.

A Symi Romeo and Juliet.  I spied these two, exchanging amorous yowls, on my walk to work this morning.  I wonder if he finally plucked up the courage to leap across the divide and consummate the relationship.

One of the lanes in Yialos.  This one is home to a hardware store, a butchery, a bakery, a supermarket, the Symi Flower shop, a kiosk which also sells newspapers and is the Speedex agency and a shoe shop.  The tourist shops and boutiques are closed but the essentials that the Symiots need all year round are still open.

The view from Symi Visitor Accommodation today.  A much more inspiring sight than Tuesday's view and the sunny side of the harbour looks quite promising, even if the tourist shops are all closed.

The two big anchors on the quay in front of the Symi Visitor Accommodation office have had a fresh coat of paint.  This is the stretch where the water taxis and excursion boats line up in the summer.  The hill in the background is Mavrovouni, a most desirable neighbourhood at this time of the year as it gets the most hours of sunshine.  We have two rental properties there, Spiti Grand Helene and Villa Iris.  

Looking along the shady side of the harbour.  Yes, just to the right of the anchor you can see a BBQ, handy for spontaneous fish grilling should the opportunity arise.  Greeks don't need fancy equipment to produce delicious food.  Just good fresh ingredients and a love of the simple things in life.

Now that the Twelve Days of Christmas are behind us, the 'comfy chairs' is doing a spot of spring-cleaning.  If you are familiar with the traditional Greek wooden cafeneion chair, you will understand why this particular Symi coffee shop quickly became known as the 'comfy chairs'!  


Serene Symi

8.30 in the morning and the sun is just creeping over Chorio.  After a week of wet and stormy weather, it is nice to see blue skies for a change.

Wild clematis is a common sight during the winter, tumbling over walls and fences and scrambling in the trees.  In the summer drought this, like so many other indigenous plants on the island, becomes dry brown scrubby stuff that looks as though it died years ago.

Drifts of oak leaves in Lieni.

I didn't see any people on my walk down the Kali Strata this morning but I did meet a hen, trimming the verges.

And her mate, striking a pose.

Why did the chicken cross the Kali Strata?

The only other living thing I saw on the Kali Strata this morning also had feathers.

Oranges don't seem to mind neglect. This garden has not been tended for years.

An unusual sight, particularly as it is a beach towel.

Firewood delivery.

The view from the Symi Visitor Accommodation office this morning.
It is a clear cold winter's day on Symi and the sky was clear enough last night for us to enjoy the full moon. The lull between storms gives us all a chance to dry out a bit before the next round of wet weather reaches us on Sunday.  Midday temperatures have risen to around 14 degrees centigrade, falling to 9 degrees at night - quite mild really after the recent bitter cold we have experienced. The rain will start again on Sunday and last until midweek, with on going mild temperatures and no strong winds expected over the next few days.

Symi is very quiet now.  The holidays are over and the children are back at school. The students have all returned to their universities and colleges around the country.  All the tourist businesses are closed.  It is only essential amenities that serve the needs of the community such as supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and so on that are still open. I am often the only person on the bus on the two days in the week that I come down into the harbour and bus runs a very limited schedule now.

The cafes and gyros bars that have stayed open have their plastic drop cloths and outdoor heaters in place.  They don't have much in the way of indoor seating and in any case the whole reason for going out for coffee at this time of the year is to escape the confines of home and look at something different. Symi's traditional  neoclassical houses are actually quite small when one cannot use terraces, courtyards and balconies.  When the weather is wet the shutters have to stay closed to keep the water out, making them quite dark and gloomy in the winter, so sitting inside a clear plastic tent, looking at the harbour, is an attractive treat.    

Have a good weekend.



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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