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Guests blogs
From time to time friends of Symi Dream send in their own stories and anecdotes about their Symi experiences. We were thrilled to have the first guest blog posted by Anne Zouroudi, author of Bloomsbury’s Greek Detective series to start the ball rolling early in 2010.

Other guest posts: Louise Baker |

anne zouroudiHow to drive eight miles in four weeks

In 1992, my mother and father – neither keen travellers, and both unadventurous by nature – set out on an epic journey from the north of England to Symi in an already elderly Vauxhall Astra. My mother had fond ideas of meandering through the countries of Europe, of long lunches and afternoons spent exploring the cobbled streets and shops of pretty towns. My father put his foot down, both physically and metaphorically, and they made the trip door to door in three days.

I drove that car in Symi for several years. It was one of the first on the island, and, though the driving was never easy and my car couldn’t handle the potholes on the still-unsurfaced road to Panormitis, it got me and George and a very young Will up and down the hills in what seemed luxurious style. The car’s here still, minus number plates, paintwork sun-blasted and dusty, the passenger window missing its glass. It was given to a relative when we left, and he drives it every day to his place of work up in the hills.

When we arrived in Symi, in mid-July, I asked my brother-in-law to ask the relative if we could borrow the car for one day to drive to Panormitis to light candles. The total distance, there and back  – correct me if I’m wrong – would be about eight miles.

Days slipped by. Finally, at the end of our first week, word came. We could borrow the car the following Sunday, when the relative didn’t have work. I sent word back via my brother-in-law to remind the relative to send us both car keys (last year, we had a false start in a similar endeavour when we managed to get the car and the ignition key in one place, but had no petrol cap key and no petrol. By the time we realised, the relative had, of course, gone fishing).
Sunday arrived, and with a completely unjustified sense of optimism, I prepared for a Grand Day Out: to Panormitis for candle-lighting and a visit to Will’s Grandma currently lodging at the monastery, on to Marathounda for a cooling swim and a long lunch in the excellent taverna.

But as I swung my knapsack onto my back, my phone rang. No car. The car was spasmenno, broken. A flat tyre.
I took the bus to Pedi, and with a growing sense that Plan A might not pan out, called at the petrol station to enquire after rental cars.

“Do you have any cars for rent?” asked I.

The proprietor (that young man who’s such an excellent dancer) looked at me doubtfully.

“Not here,” he said.

“The harbour?” I asked. “What about your office in Yialos?”

Reluctantly, he made a phone call.

“No cars today,” he said, replacing the receiver.

“How about tomorrow?” I asked.

His eyebrows lifted the teensiest bit, as if my question was impertinent but he was too polite to say so.
“I didn’t ask,” he said.

Time slipped by until Thursday, when word reached my ears that the flat tyre had been re-inflated and I could have the car on Friday, as long as Will’s clapped-out moped was left in its place, keys in the ignition, as substitute transport. So on the Thursday evening, George - grim-faced and complaining about being late for work - led me through the village to the relative’s house to collect the car keys.

The relative wasn’t home, though his wife, my niece, was. She made convincing promises: she would be there, keys in hand, the following morning. Will parked his battered moped alongside my old, decrepit car, and I went to sleep looking forward to my day out.

Knapsack on back – though deserted, for some reason, by any sense of optimism – I walked up, the following morning, to the car park. My old car wasn’t there. At the relative’s house, I knocked for several minutes. My niece wasn’t there either.

Disgruntled and disappointed, I took the bus to Pedi, where George took the news of the reneged-on deal badly.
“He’s a ******!” he said. “A total ****! The car was a gift to him, and he won’t lend it, even for one day....”
His rant was interrupted by a troubled-looking Will, who appeared, on foot, at the bend in the road. He brought trouble indeed.

“Someone’s nicked my moped,” he said.

Now George cursed the relative with real enthusiasm, but his anger didn’t help Will, who was very attached to his old moped, and seemed close to tears. He asked George to take him to the police station to report the theft, but George laughed.

“What will you report?” he asked. “No licence, no tax, no insurance, no documents of ownership – what do you expect them to do? The moped’s in bits by now anyway, broken for spares. When I see that **** (expletive in place of relative’s name), I’ll **** his ****** up his **** *****.”

But I know my son.

“Are you sure,” I asked tentatively, “that you’ve had a Really Good Look for your moped?”

Of course he was sure, and I, the boy’s mother, knew nothing about anything, of course; but Will was eventually persuaded to join me on the bus back to the village to have a Really Good Look for the missing moped.
And there, wheeled out of someone’s way and parked neatly amongst the branches of a thorny bush, was Will’s pride and joy.

After that, I gave up on the relative, and my old car. But there are two heroes (well, a hero and a heroine, actually) in this story. One hero was Lakis with the inimitable Symi bus, which is so often (though not always...) there when you need it. And the heroine is Miss Windmill, who on hearing my sorry tale, so kindly offered to lend me her own car, whose imperfections - brakes like wet sponges, iffy clutch and plenty of rattling - mirrored those of my old Astra perfectly.

So we got to light our candles in the end, and visited Grandma, and had our Grand Day Out. But only in Symi could it take four weeks to make an eight-mile journey.

Anne Zourourdi March 2010 ©

Here is a guest blog post from writer Louise Baker - posted July 10th 2010

Symi5 Amazing Facts about Greece

People have fantasized about Greece for centuries. The moderate climate, beautiful waters and fairytale architecture have left many dreaming of escaping to Europe and floating away on the Mediterranean Sea. Most have heard of the gods and goddesses of myth, but here are 5 amazing facts that may not be as familiar.

1. Land of Many Islands 
Greece consists of 3000 islands, but only 170 are inhabited. These islands are divided into 6 different groups plus Crete (which does not belong to any specific complex), including the Sporades, the Argo-Saronic Islands, the Ionian Islands, the Northeast Aegean Islands, the Dodecanese, and the Cyclades. The Cyclades contain Mykonos and Santorini, two of the most visited islands. Because of the geographical layout of the country, Greece boasts 8,498 miles of coastline.

2. Food of the Ancients 
The food of the Greeks has changed very little in the past 2000 years, with the exception of a few imported items, such as the tomato around 1500 years ago. Some of the most important features of the cuisine are olive oil, wine, fish, flatbread, aubergines (eggplant), courgettes (zucchini), and yogurt. Another key ingredient, lentils, can be traced back to Neolithic times.

Symi castro3. The Original Marathon 
A marathon is a long distance run of over 26 miles, with many being held throughout the world at any given time, but it's origins are based in ancient Greece. During the invasion of Greece, by Persia, in 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, was sent to request help from Sparta after the enemy landed in Marathon. In two days, he ran over 150 miles to fulfill his duty, then 25 more, to Athens, announcing victory. He then collapsed and died from exhaustion.

4. A Very Long Anthem 
In 1823, Dionýsios Solomós wrote a poem that was to become Greece's national anthem. At 158 stanzas, it is recognized as the longest national anthem anywhere in the world. The first two verses serve as the official anthem and were put to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros, who also composed a longer choral version for the entire poem. The shorter version has been played at the conclusion of every Olympics as a tribute to the birthplace of the games. View the anthem in Greek

5. Endemic Flora 
While many know that Mount Olympus, the tallest mountain in Greece, is said to be the home of the gods, it's a lesser known fact that it's covered with flora, over 1000 species, and several of those are not found anywhere else in the world, including the red-felted Jankaea Heldreichii, which grows on the sides of rocks.

Next time you're dreaming of paradise, also remember the poetry and patriotism. Enjoy some hummus, but include a bowl of lentil soup. And imagine island hopping on uninhabited spaces where one might be able to hear the song of the Sirens.

When she's not daydreaming about living on a Greek Island, Louise Baker writes about online schools for Zen College Life. She has recently also wrote about the best colleges online.


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