Simply Beautiful

Pedi Bay 7 a.m.

The view from Symi Visitor Accommodation - 8 a.m.

Yialos 7.15 a.m.

Who are you looking at?

In need of some tender loving care. While the ground floor of this building in Yialos houses the Lotto Shop, upstairs has been boarded up and neglected for many years.

A building with many numbers.  Apart from its date of construction, the various other numbers were attempts by various administrations - probably Italian and British rather than Ottoman Turks - to work out who owned what and register the buildings on Symi.  More recent endeavours with the land registry are responsible for the spray painted names and phone numbers to be seen on many ruins and seemingly abandoned properties in Chorio.

Early morning shadow play on the Kali Strata.  

This really is wrought iron work - heated in a forge and beaten into shape and then assembled with rivets.

Steps to the upper storey of a neglected building on the Kali Strata. Symiot houses are not large and stair cases take up a lot of space. This solid stone stair case is very steep to minimise loss of space and is really just a stone version of the open tread wooden ladder staircases that are used in many houses to connect the various levels.  The other option is to take the stairs up the outside of the house.

There are lots of Turkish boats and gulets in Symi at the moment as it is Eid al Fitr, the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan and Symi is popular destination.   As you can see from the photographs, the anchorage at Pedi Bay and the harbour, Yialos, are very crowded and untangling fouled anchors is part and parcel of sailing life at this time of the year.

Symi is a very beautiful Greek island with its natural amphitheatre harbour, sheer cliffs running down to the sea and pretty pastel coloured neo classical houses rising from the water's edge up to the Kastro and sprawling up the lower reaches of the Vigla, the 700 metre peak that also provides a home to Symi's communications antennae.  It is not, however, a luxury destination and never will be.  A heritage site, Symi's architecture is protected and all development and restoration is closely monitored. The precipitous landscape, combined with the island's shortage of natural water, means that there are no swimming pools or resort hotels.  The architecture is lovely but it is also idiosyncratic and defies many Western concepts of health, safety and bourgeois comfort with ladder staircases, steep steps and other quirks.  The Symiots are a hardy people, shaped by centuries of living in what are naturally very inhospitable conditions.  Building these beautiful houses was an incredible feat in a landscape where nothing is flat and everything had to be carried by people and donkeys up and down cliffs and hillsides.  Even now very few places have convenient or close vehicle access and the motor road has to zigzag up the slopes and wind round mountain sides to connect Yialos, Chorio, Pedi, Xisos and Panormitis.  If you are looking for a plush resort with swimming pools and landscaped lawns, Symi is not for you.  If you appreciate something that is simply beautiful and authentic, you may find yourself joining the hundreds of people who have been visiting Symi every year for decades.

Have a good week.



An Exotic and Cosmopolitan Air

An unusually empty quay - a cruise ship was expected in so all the gulets had to depart early.  Those little boats visible to the right of the clock tower are available to hire by the day.

 A more typical view at this time of the year.

I wonder who owns this one.  It looks as though one could land a helicopter in the stern.

 A French boutique cruise ship, Le Boleal, visited Symi earlier this week. There was also a much larger cruise ship in yesterday but that had to anchor off Nimborio with the guests ferried ashore in little orange lighters, so I never did find out which one it was.

The train is proving very popular.  Apart from transporting tourists it also takes the children out to Nimborio for their swimming lessons!

The horse and carriage are the elegant alternative to the train.

Elpida's traditional cafeneion and the colourful tourist shops next door.

A quiet moment among the fishing boats.
High season is well under way and every boat and ferry brings more people to the island.  Every language and ethnicity you could imagine seems to be on Symi at this time of the year and the island has an exotic and cosmopolitan air.  Gulets, yachts, megayachts, cruise ships and ferries, all coming and going at all hours, Yialos and Harani are at their busiest in July and August.

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 16 years. I also work part-time for Symi Visitor Accommodation, helping independent travellers discover and enjoy Symi's simple pleasures for themselves.

Adriana Shum

Copyright (c) 2001-2014 Adriana Shum.

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