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

The Sunrise, an anagram of ‘Sure Sin’, and other matters

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Going Chinese (restaurant and jacket)

The last couple of days of our holiday were spent in the usual fashion for us: walking everywhere, stopping for lunch, having an afternoon café experience of some sort, doing some more walking and then spending an evening watching the world go by and maybe having a light dinner.

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I’ve seen furniture covered in plastic but wrapping your balcony in it…?

Our last day, waiting around for the boat, took us on one last lap of the town and the sites we’d not seen enough of yet, followed by a glass at what had become our favourite kafeneion. After this, lunch at the famed ‘Mummy’s Cooking’, a traditional Greek taverna which was, on this Saturday lunchtime, popular with local families. We’d read some reviews about this place on Trip Advisor and some had criticised the waiter for his arrogance. We didn’t encounter that at all and I have to assume those reviews were written by people visiting in the summer when I can see how the place would be very busy – so busy you have to book, apparently. We settled in for some banter, some homemade ‘gigantes’ and some homemade pork and leak stew, and very nice (and reasonable) it was too.

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Look closely – big lemons!

An after-lunch walk around saw us finally settle at the hotel terrace to wait for the boat. The sea was a bit choppy but we’d checked in with HQ (Jenine) to make sure the boat was running, and it was. Back at the port, with rucksacks slightly heavier than when we started thanks to the only-once-used dumbbells and a few extra ‘bits’ as gifts, and there was still plenty of time for a last Kos-cocktail as we watched various people check in through passport control. Seems a bit odd seeing such a thing, but as the town is so close to Turkey, many people come for a day, or go for a day, and pop in and out of Europe as if it were Sainsbury’s.

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So near and yet so far

Our boat arrived only a few minutes late and was not busy. We were treated to a spectacular sunset on the way back which we saw from the back of the Express. Just before arriving back in Symi one of the crew came up and found us and checked that we were getting off at Symi, which was nice of him. And of course we were. In fact we were the only people getting off at Symi and I got the impression that had we been going on to Rhodes the captain would have said, ‘Oh, let’s not bother stopping here then,’ like the bus drivers used to do on country routes when there was no one waiting at the stop. But there were loads of people waiting at the stop and, as one of the crew cleared our path as his only disembarking passengers, a throng of ‘embarkers’ bustled on.

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Kos at dusk

And there we were, back home again. Almost. We still had to get past Pacho’s, failed, and then the Sunrise, failed, where memory starts to blur (Sunrise is an anagram of ‘sure sin’ after all). Back home, Jack was pleased to see us, having been living outside for a week, but well looked after by Sam (and a little bit Harry), and before you could say ‘unpack’ we’d unpacked and were back into our usual routine.

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Traveling light

So, I hope you enjoyed our rush around Kos Town last week, now I can get the blog back to its usual mundane nonsense about nothing in particular and tell you:

Since being back I have been working on ‘Lonely House’ the novel I wrote during the summer. It is currently being edited and is due for ‘release’ in the New Year with ‘RC publishing.’ This is another horror story, a bit more horror than The Judas Inheritance, and not set on Symi. Once I have done my share of the proofing I will have more time to get back to the next novel, which is a comedy called ‘Straight Swap.’ More about that in days to come.

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A sunset to remember

Still in Kos and a bit about Symi

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Just in case the wall catches fire

To think, this time last week there was a large thunderstorm (or was that yesterday? No, I think it was today-last-week) while we were away. Luckily it happened while we were having breakfast. By the time we headed out to visit the castle it had all blown over, leaving puddles behind but no other big deal.

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Exploring old ruins. Or, old ruins exploring.

We took a stroll around the old fortification, the ‘Castle’, and admired the many and various bits and pieces the Knights had raided from other nearby sites in order to do their building. My favourite artefact was the fire extinguisher hanging on a stone wall, in a large open area, nowhere near trees, wood or anything combustible. I suppose that’s health and safety gone bonkers is it?

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View from a lunch table, the ‘Express’ on its way back from Kalymnos

Another good day was had, last Thursday, and the castle walk, which is very good value for €3.00, was followed by more sightseeing in town which was followed by another lunch but this time down on the beach. We had been to this taverna the afternoon before, just for a drink, and thought we would return to it as it had been popular with local families. And very nice it was too, with homemade mezzethes and then some pork chops, sitting outside away from any breeze, watching the sea and the boats go past.

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A room with a view

More walking lead us around the closed up holiday areas, the beach bars and the night clubs that thump and grind in the summer months. They all looked rather exhausted and tatty, as if they’d had too good a season and were now stuck with a winter hangover. We did get some strange looks from people as if to say, ‘You missed the party mate, you should have been here in August!’ but that was fine. And, while wandering we also spotted what turned out to be my favourite balcony railing of all time. (See picture.) One with a tune, which you can play by the way. But not only was it the creative use of the railing that got me but the fact that this place was in A Zouroudi Street. I liked that.

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Winter beach

And then, another evening of watching the world go by and a night time walk around the streets of Kos, stopping here and there for refreshment and finally forcing ourselves towards another restaurant, this time for a Chinese meal. You must think that all we did was walk, eat and drink, and you would be right.

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Musical balcony in (Anne) Zouroudi Street.

But, since we have been back we have returned to tap dancing, and Neil has been to Pilates classes and Zumba and has been doing his weights and walking up and down the Kali Strata, and I have been thinking about doing all of that but have been feeling rundown by a cold and apathy. I did get up to go jogging the other morning but it was blowing a gale and very cold. Will try again tomorrow. And I did go to tap dancing and that does involve some kind of effort, so there.

The high wind is still with us (at least it was yesterday) though the Blue Star did manage to come in, a little late. There is no boat tomorrow as there is a strike today, so our next big boat (for produce and cargo) will be Wednesday, giving a gap of one week. Best get to the shops soon and stock up before there’s a rush on rice, or a bundle for bananas, it’s that time of year again.Symi Greece photos

The Asklepion, a long walk and Syrian refugees in Kos

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Things you are not allowed to do at the Asklepion

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A view of the lower terrace

Here we are on day Wednesday of our holiday which happened last week; we’re back home and back to normal now and it seems we made it home just in time to be greeted by the cold weather – it’s the wind, it must be from the north or something.

Anyway, last week on Wednesday we visited the Asklepion, on Kos. We walked there from the town, it’s only four kilometres each way, and arrived early, so early that we had the place to ourselves, for most of the time at least. “Asklepion was an institution where healers were curing their patients, trying to systematize medicine and teaching other people the art of healing. It was also the temple of the gods who in one way or another were concerned with medicine.” It is an ancient site on tree terraces rising up to give you a wonderful view across the sea to Bodrum, Turkey.

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And a higher view looking across the terraces and the sea

Not long before we left, a teenage school party arrived. They all sat on the bottom steps and listened silently to a lecture given by a teacher and then, when that was done, applauded politely and started to browse the stones and monuments; all very well behaved and polite I thought. A few greeted us as we were leaving too. That’s another nice thing about living around here, you don’t feel threatened by teenagers as you do elsewhere in the world.

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Friendly and polite Greek teenagers

We walked back, passing through a small village on the way and stopping for coffee: two huge mugs of coffee and a small bottle of water each, total €4.00 – you don’t see much of that kind of pricing on Symi, sadly. The walk back took us past the ancient Odeum, the theatre, and through the Western Excavations, and finally back to the Museum restaurant for lunch. This was another affair that concerned a large salad to share, garlic bread, and a very nice main dish each too; I had soutzoukakia, but I can’t remember what Neil ate as a free ouzo was also involved. I do remember that we didn’t need to eat again that day.

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Neil appears in an impromptu scene from ‘Cats’ at the Kos Odeum

The evening was an interesting thing. At the hotel we were staying at were also some Syrian refugees, and we got chatting to a couple. A young man, in his early 20s, called Husam (whose name means ‘sword’ in Arabic) told us that he came from a small town called Anabil, near Damascus. He and his friends had left all they had behind to come to Europe, becasue back home it was a case of ‘kill or be killed,’ and they felt that had no choice. There was a large group at the hotel, with their mobile phones, smartly dressed, they were professional people, they had the means to travel and stay, and were looking relaxed and happy to be on their way.

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Mosaic

But behind that, they also said that they had had to swim the last 200 meters from the boat to the European shore, at night. Once the made it safely shore they registered at the port police and then, once ‘processed’ there, had been able to buy a boat ticket to Athens. While they were waiting they had booked into the hotel and spent the day outside it chatting and waiting.

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The group of refugees about to head off to a new life

As this particular group was preparing to leave, we were having a drink on the front terrace. They were all crowding around their bench like a group of students on holiday taking each other’s photos as keepsakes for when they finally went their separate ways. Neil went across and offered to take a group shot. They all ended up on the steps of the hotel, with Neil taking various images on various iPhones and the like before they headed of for the night boat to Athens.

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Asklepion columns

The guys at the hotel then told us that Kos was receiving around 150 such refuges per day, being so close to Bodrum. To us, it looked like the port police were well set up to deal with them, there was a large military tent on their forecourt, I assume for those who didn’t have money, and as a place to wait out of the elements. Husam and his friend Abdul were heading off to Norway and Sweden, where they had relatives already settled, as for the others, I have no idea, but they were certainly very happy to have reached Greece and were looking forward to moving on. Husam (whose English was nigh on perfect) wanted us to mention his story and to also mention that not everyone was a privileged as he. Of course, not all refuges are as well off, lucky or successful; I’m just talking about who we met and what we were told as their story.

Tuesday, Rhodes, Halki, Tilos, Nisyros, Kos

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Approaching Haliki

You remember how yesterday we were heading off from Rhodes to Kos for the second of our ‘two centre’ holiday? Well, before we get on that boat I just want to add a correction; thanks to Trevor from Rhodes who kindly sent in this message:

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Ditto

“Hi from Faliraki. Just read on the blog you have been to Saffron again. In the blog it says there are just 2 Indian restaurants on Rhodes. There are 4. One In Pefkos, only open in season. Likewise the one in Lindos. The 4th one is in Ialyssos & is called Sartaj. www.sartajindianrhodes.com – It is open all year.”

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Calm November seas

Very useful information for everyone visiting Rhodes who, like us, fancies an Indian meal. While we’re talking about meals, if I listed everything we had during our holiday you’d think me very greedy (I am) but I thought it might also show what variety there can be found. It’s not all Greek to me if you know where to look. For example, on Rhodes, we also ate at an Asian fast food place, opposite the Hondas Centre, where a huge plate of noodles was only €2.50; good stuff if you are on a budget. We also ate at Koukous where you can find Greek plates and some unusual mezethes, which make a nice change.

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A welcome at Tilos

But, because the boat on Tuesday left at 08.00 we didn’t really have time for our all included Lydia Hotel (€40.00 a night for a double room) breakfast, so we ate on the boat, a ‘Dodekanisos Express toasty’ and some coffee (coffee only €1.20). The route we were taking took us to three islands we’d never seen before, apart from when standing on the top of a hill on Symi and seeing a slight smudge on the horizon. We called into Halki first.

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A quiet boat

That was some kind of magical experience: the weather was calm and the sea flat. The approach to the island was smooth and there was such an air of calm that the tranquillity of the scene smothered the sound of the boat, it was like gliding in on silence. The population had come out to meet the boat, all seven of them (I’m only joking) and there was a brief exchange of ropes and gossip and the provisions were unloaded (four cabbages) before we glided out again.

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Nisyros mayhem

Next to Tilos where a similar welcome awaited us, a few more people this time and a crash barrier to hold them all back (15) which was a good safety measure. Still the sun was shining and the air was warm. And, as you can see from one of my snaps, the boat was not exactly busy. At one point there was more staff than passengers.

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Kos in the distance

And so on towards Nisyros. The arrival here is not a picturesque as the ferry doesn’t pull into the main port, but still, nice and calm and only the faintest whiff of volcano in the air. And then, about three and a half hours after leaving Rhodes, we pulled into Kos, which was slightly busier, but only very slightly. A walk with our back backs around the harbour to our pre-booked hotel, more about that another day, and checking in to our harbour-view room, and it was time to stock up on lunch.

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Kos harbour

Actually, we sat in the sun and had a pre-lunch snifter first, to celebrate finally arriving at our holiday destination; something we’d been looking forward to since the start of the summer. And then a wander around the centre of town for somewhere to eat and a stumble upon the Museum Restaurant that has an extensive menu and everything (apart from asparagus sauce) available and a wonderful lunch.

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And a nighttime view from the balcony

And so, the holiday really kicked off. We were a bit full from lunch still but managed to share a pizza in the evening after plenty of wandering around including a visit to some of the ancient sites that litter the town. Again, more about them another day when there should also be, I hope, some decent images from Neil to share.

A winter two-centre holiday in the Dodecanese

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Travelling light

We should be getting back to normal now, blog-wise, kind of. We took last week off and went on a short holiday to Rhodes and Kos; we’re back now and the rest of this week is probably going to read like a ‘what I did on my holiday’ session like we used to do at school a long, long time ago. But bear with me and you might find some of what’s to come of interest.

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At the Acropolis on Rhodes

So, just over a week ago, bags packed, and including six kilos of dumbbells as Neil was determined to carry on his weights while away, we set off down the Kali Strata for the afternoon boat. Pausing outside the old Symi Gallery to wait while Neil went back to collect the jacket he’d forgotten, I saw only two people; it was a quiet afternoon. But, as it turned out, not a quiet boat. Lots of day-trippers from Rhodes, mainly locals, and a few tourist, had come over for a Sunday on Symi, making the ‘Express’ a busy boat on the way over.

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The stadium; we walked around it.

In Rhodes the Christmas lights are already up, and the hotel had a tree in reception; obviously ordered in a moment of wild abandon and no regard for size or proportion, they’d had to cut the top off to get it in, but it looked festive. Sunday night involved a trip to Saffron, one of only two Indian restaurants on the island, and, as we were the only customers, a long and interesting chat with the people who were working there. All family run, the nationalities involved included Japanese, Egyptian and, on our last visit, Greek, German and (I think) Iranian. The chefs are from India and the food is very nice thank you.

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And along the cliff road towards the hospital

Monday: a walk around the town and up to the Acropolis and stadium in the sun, and then on (and on) to the hospital to visit Yiannis (Rainbow) who was there waiting for an operation. It’s one of those strange quirks of town planning that you can see the hospital for miles around, as it’s right up there on the cliff top, but walking to it is a bit of a gamble and, if you’re not careful you might end up arriving in an ambulance: no pavements along the main road, only in the areas where there are shops and turnings and where cars have to drive more safely.

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A large cruise ship in port

We were back and forth across the path of incoming traffic trying to find somewhere safe to walk. But we got there, took the family by surprise, said hello, handed over a couple of his favourite sports newspapers and then, feet aching somewhat, caught a taxi back to Mandraki for lunch.

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And an afternoon wandering and taking photos

The boat to Kos was Tuesday morning, so we’ll talk about that tomorrow, but the rest of Monday was spent in wandering around the usual sites of the new town and having a light supper at ‘Koukous.’ There, that’s days one and two dealt with, tomorrow it’s on to Kos via a quick look at Halki, Tilos and Nisyros.

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Detail from a building

Symi Greece photos

And a quiet evening relaxing

Symi books, Greece books, everything you need in one place

Symi Dream at Amazon

Symi Dream at Amazon

And finally in our week-long advertising campaign, if you’ve missed anything, if you would like to order one of my books but also want to order some other items at the same time, you can use our Amazon store.

Just click to the page and there you will see all of my books and novels, a list of those by Anne Zouroudi, other books about Greece, or set in Greece, maps and guides, holiday reading, all kinds of photography stuff and loads of other ideas for gifts. Every item bought via our store benefits us by a tiny-weeny per cent and every little helps!

Simply click here for our Amazon recommendations.

Neil gosling photography shop

Neil gosling photography shop

Or, why not check out some of Niel’s photos at his new Photobox gallery where you can order prints and mugs and other things. Click here to explore (still in its early stages). http://www.photoboxgallery.com/4073451