Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Athens To Symi

Athens To Symi

This is all slightly out of date now because the boats have changed, and we have the Hellenic Seaways ‘Nisos Xios’ serving the route from Athens to Symi, but I took the Blue Star ‘Patmos.’ You need to check out Andy’s Travel Blog (I’ve put new links in the right-hand column) for up to date news on the ships and routes, planes and airports etc. and have a search around online for images of this new ship and what amenities it has. Meanwhile…

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Thiseio station

Leaving Athens to travel back to Symi could not have been easier. I had plenty of time as the boat didn’t sail until 3pm, and I was, as usual, up at half-five. I tided up my apartment and later went for breakfast at a nearby hotel where there was an all you can eat buffet for €8.00 including juice and coffee and had another mooch around the local area until heading for the metro at 11.30. The metro ticket machines are straightforward to use and come in various languages. A helpful robotic lady talks you through the process, and you can buy a ticket valid for 45 minutes, or a return ticket, a ticket for five or more journeys and so on; plenty of options. I took a 45-minute one as I was only going six stops (€1.20). You scan the ticket at the open gates – you could risk not paying but I wouldn’t – and then waited for all of two minutes for a train.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Piraeus railway station.

Twenty minutes later I was at Piraeus still with plenty of time to get to the ferry which departed from dock E1. There are maps of the port so you can see where you are going and there are courtesy buses to take you to all of the boarding areas/docks. If you look back through this blog or search (and there’s a site search box on the right too) you’ll see how in April, we took the bus from Athens Airport to Piraeus, which is another way of reaching your boat if you’re coming in by plane. The bus from the airport took about 90 minutes and cost €5.00, and it stops at all the docks until it terminates at E1, so it’s very handy for the Symi ferries and you can’t get lost. But I had plenty of time, the rucksack wasn’t too heavy (it was heavier about half an hour later), it was a sunny day, and I had a new hat, so, after a coffee (€1.20 for a huge mug of Nescafe decaf) I set off to walk around the port.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Piraeus railway station

Of course, I followed the map, well, the edge of the sea and the road which comes with a pedestrian path marked out, a couple of cafes and WCs en route and ended up at a roundabout where I then doubled back. There is a shortcut if you’re on foot, but I missed that. Not to worry, still plenty of time. You can board the ship two hours before departure, and I arrived there are 13.00. To find several passengers already keenly aboard.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

The main entrance is right-centre near E8. E1 is far left. I did the red line including double-back at the roundabout. The walk took me 45 minutes.

I checked in, collected my cabin keys – I was given two even though I was on my own, well, you never know who you will meet – paid for the internet for 24 hours (€5.00) and settled in. As it happened, and rather unusually, the boat was 2.5 hours late setting off because the refuelling barge was late, but I was in no hurry. In the end, the ship arrived on Symi only one hour and twenty minutes late, so it caught up some time. I spent the afternoon on the stern deck, one of three, and wrote a little, observed a lot and drank lots of water and another decaf coffee or two to pass the time. I also had lunch in the self-service restaurant (not sure about the dining arrangements on the Nisos Xios) and later that evening had a takeaway salad from one of the cafés.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Harbour art

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Still walking…

The boat trip is a lovely way to journey to Symi, watching the sunset over Skiros or Mykonos, or wherever we passed. Listening to the well behaved American students on a trip, some doing their assignments on their laptops, others just chilling, man, as they were from California, and watching people walk their dogs. Sleeping can be something of an adventure in the inner cabins – rattle and hum, sliding when the ship turns corners and so on, but so much easier and more comfortable than choosing a cheaper airline seat or grabbing a piece of floor space and, half an hour before arrival, reception rang my cabin to make sure I was awake.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Blue Star Diagoras

And so, home again and back to Symi. As I said, check Andy’s blog for info about the boats and travel as he is the expert, or ask in the Symi Chat Forum (also now linked in the right column) and see if anyone else has more recent and relevant news on what ship is doing what. It’s also worth noting that Lakis and his son, Thanasis, offer the bus to collect passengers from Pedi, Horio and Yialos and from the boat. The more this is used, the longer the service will stay, so use it, and if in doubt, ask at Lakis Travel or on the bus about times and pick-up points. It’s a very easy journey from Athens to Symi, and it will be interesting to hear from anyone who does this, or the route the other way, on the new Nisos Xios.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Sunset over Tinos

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Taviri on Nimos (Symi) where we had our CP ceremony last year

Sunrise over Turkey

Sunrise over Turkey

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

And back to Symi

London Greek Film Festival

London Greek Film Festival

We’re onto Sunday now and the evening of the awards ceremony in Athens for The London Greek Film Festival. They also hold a ceremony in London but have the one in Athens for those who can’t make it to London. The festival accepts and honours films and scripts that are either written by Greek people or that are about some aspect of Greece. That’s why ‘Girl Gone Greek’ could be entered. It was written by an English author, Rebecca Hall, and scripted by me, currently a very reluctant English person. [Rebecca’s blog, Life Beyond Borders is here.]

London Greek Film Festival

London Greek Film Festival

It was a hot evening, but thanks to the excellent metro in Athens I didn’t have to walk far and arrived at the cinema just as Rebecca was getting out of a taxi with a friend who was accompanying her. The ceremony was held at the Cinema Alkyonis in the Victoria area of Athens, not far from the metros station. We arrived early, so the shot of the cinema interior is before the 100 or so people arrived.

London Greek Film Festival

London Greek Film Festival

London Greek Film Festival

London Greek Film Festival

We watched trailers and some shorts from the winning entries for 40 minutes and then there was a succession of awards for various categories. I have no idea what I said when we came to ours. I babbled in Greek for a while, only realising later that I was using the wrong tense in my verbs, and all the time I had in my head, ‘Must not call Rebecca ‘Rachel.” That’s the name of the main character in the script, you see. I didn’t, but trying not to kept interrupting my concentration, so when I got as far as I could in Greek, I mumbled ‘gamoto’ (which is a bit naughty) and switched to English, even then I can’t remember what I said, but I did manage to thank the festival, Rachel… Rebecca! for asking me to write the script, and then thanked Greece for, basically, not being the yUK.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

The prison bar (it’s not called that, it’s called TAF)

That done, a bit of networking later and we headed off to Monastiraki for a glass of wine in a prison, as you do. Fascinating building, still with the cells intact around a central courtyard, so it looks run down. It isn’t though, the bar and courtyard are modern, and the music wasn’t too loud, the people there very friendly, mainly a young crowd, and the prices not bad at all. One drink there and I wandered back to where I was staying and home. Monday was a shopping and chilling day with a trip to the Acropolis (where I found €10.00 on the ground which I gave to the homeless Moroccan guy near my apartment the next day) and another visit to the restaurant I’d used before. This time it was a piece of salmon the size of a boxing glove (but much more edible). I wasn’t allowed to leave the restaurant until I’d had another glass of wine and then an ouzo from the management. This Greek philoxenia can really give you a headache – it was the ouzo – but it’s good to see it happens even in the swanky parts of Athens.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

TAF balcony

I’ll bung up some extra photos, and next week, I’ll tell you about the journey back, and then we will be back to the usual Symi Dream kind of blogging. Have a good weekend.

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

TAF bar

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos Symi Greece Symi Dream photos Symi Greece Symi Dream photos Symi Greece Symi Dream photos Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

Thiseio, Athens

Thiseio, Athens

I’ve arrived at my accommodation in Athens, in an area called Thiseio (θησειο). This is last Saturday we’re talking about. Having unpacked and had a nose around my apartment, I found it more than satisfactory. A large entrance hall/sitting room, a kitchen with wooden cabinets, probably the originals from the 70s or 80s, but with all the mod cons, a bathroom though small, functional, and a bedroom. A quick iron of a clean shirt and I was out for a walkabout, some photos from which were up on the blog yesterday.

Thiseio, Athens

According to Wikipedia: “Thiseio or Thissio (Greek: Θησείο, pronounced [θiˈsio]) is the name of a traditional neighbourhood in downtown Athens, Greece, northwest of the Acropolis, 1.5 km southwest of downtown. Long ago, the name was derived from the Temple of Hephaestus which was mistakenly known as Thiseion in reference to Theseus, the mythical king of Athens, which gave rise to the neighbourhood being named Thiseio.

The area has many cafés and cultural meeting points. Thiseio is served by the nearby Thissio ISAP station or Thiseio metro station.”

Thiseio, Athens

After a wander about there, I headed for Ermou Street. “Ermou Street (Greek: Οδός Ερμού, Odos Ermou, “Hermes Street”), is a one and a half kilometer-long road in central Athens, Greece, connecting Kerameikos archaeological site with the Syntagma Square through Monastiraki, Psiri and Thiseio.” This street started with second-hand shops, street markets, the old flea market at Monastiraki, and then later gave way to stylish shops and even more cafes. I was looking for a new pair of shorts but not being the greatest of shoppers, I gave up after one quick tour around Marks & Spencer which I found to be smaller in the menswear department than the one in Rhodes, and thought I’d just keep my eye out as I walked. I didn’t go as far as Syntagma as we’d been there only a couple of months ago, and so walked back to Thisieo where, after another shower (the temperature was nudging 35 +) I took myself out for the late afternoon/evening, staying in the neighbourhood.

Thiseio, Athens

The paved street, with craft stalls either side, led me up the hill and around the base of the Acropolis to the Parthenon museum (also visited a few months ago) and I noticed that there was a festival taking place at the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus. “…a major theatre in Athens, considered to be the world’s first theatre, built at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis.” Glancing at the banner advertising what was on, I discovered that there was a production of Sondheim’s ‘Company’ and so rushed to find the box office. Closed (only open 10.00 to 14.00) and asked at the other ticket office, the one for the Acropolis/Parthenon. I got a bit of a grumbled response there from the young chap who was clearly miffed at having to work all day in a small cabin in that heat, and so decided to check the banner again in case there was a phone number. It was then I noticed that the show wasn’t due until July 9th, so that was out of the question anyway.

Thiseio, Athens

In the evening, I hung out at one of the cafes with an orange juice before deciding where to eat. Having had two baguettes on the boat that morning, one for breakfast and one for lunch, I was in dire need of something wholesome and so settled at ‘Lontos’, a restaurant/café with outside and inside seating and a roof terrace (I discovered later). A few restaurants on that street have roof terraces, and wonderful views of the Acropolis lit up at night, but their prices reflected that, so I stayed downstairs and watched the world go by. A massive salad and a glass of wine later and I was starting to feel the effects of the journey and so headed home. It had been a long day of walking, sweating and sightseeing (though I didn’t take many photos) and an early night was called for. I wanted to be refreshed for the awards ceremony the next day, which will be the topic of conversation on the blog tomorrow.

Thiseio, Athens

(It’s a balloon on a string with lights in it, looking like some kind of deep sea jellyfish.)