Symi symphony

Panormitis monastery

‘Oooh! Hope the crossing’s not rough when you go,’ said a member of the reception staff. ‘My mother goes often and she always worries about the sea being rough. If you’re worried take sea sickness pills,’ he advised.

Husband and I dismissed his worries. Even on the days when the sea looked slightly choppy it was nothing we hadn’t experienced hundreds and more times in Scotland. Besides we had sailed across the North Sea on many occasions, even during storms, so we though we could manage a two hour sail to the island of Symi, north west of Rhodes.

As it turned out, the day we went the sea barely rippled. Nor was it cold sitting on deck. Only the smell of diesel from the boat’s engines disturbed us – until we changed seats.

The barrenness of the small islands we passed amazed us. Sheer sides of cream coloured rock like pumice stone plummeted into the sea. Here and there hardy tufts of vegetation sprouted from clefts or depressions, but there looked little chance of much else growing. And as we sailed along the coasts we could see where the rock had been eroded by sea and storms into bays folded behind protective buttresses.

Spiral stairway to bell

I was fascinated when I noticed the spiral stair winding its way up the bell tower.

In fact we didn’t realise we had reached Panormitis until we headed for what looked like a wall of rock and found a narrow entrance into a sheltered bay on the shores of which stood what appeared an attractive hotel. It was the monastery dedicated to Archangel Michael, Taxiarchis, Michael Panormitis and its accompanying accommodation.

Who wouldn't want to stay here?

Panormitis monastery accommodation

It’s now no longer a monastery but remains a church of significance, one of the wealthiest in Greece. Pilgrims from Greece visit here regularly, and many stay in the former cells where once monks slept, or in other rooms.

A place for contemplation

Panormitis monastery courtyard with it patterned pebble floor.

Because of pilgrims flowing into the church we didn’t spend much time inside, instead we wandered around its other parts, enjoying the stroll along the quayside and the views of the bay.

Back on the boat we headed for Yialos, Symi’s main town, in the north of the island. In another secluded bay we gasped at the beauty of the houses stacked up the hillside, in places even built into the rock.

Blocks of colour

Houses in Yialos, Symi

Barren rock, colourful houses

Houses cling like limpets or colourful sea urchins to the rock.

If sea levels rise…

The waterfront with boats almost touching shops and houses.

Symi is a town of steps that have to be climbed to reach many of the houses, or the castle that can be visited by walking up the 357 steps of the Kali Strata.

Some climb

357 steps to climb to the castle – a few less to some of the houses.

Blue silk steps

More steps, quirkily painted blue, the colour having a special significance in Greece.

We gave the steps a miss as there was plenty to see at sea level where my camera was kept busy clicking the rainbow-coloured houses stacked around the bay, and shops selling herbs, leather goods, sponges and loofahs. And of course food and drink.

Dried herbs for sale

Dried herbs in profusion for whatever dish you intend to cook.

Sheltered harbour

Symi’s sheltered harbour containing boats registered in other parts of the world.

In ancient times Symi was famed for its boat building. The Argo for Jason and the Argonauts was built here, as were fast moving skiffs for the Turks who used them for raids. The sponge fishing industry thrived, its profits financing the building of the mansions tiered above the harbour. But the advent of the steam ship hit the economy badly, and in the early 20th century sponge blight decimated the sponge fishing, leaving the island mainly dependent on tourism.

Awash with sponges

Real sponges in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes.

We lunched at a tavern where our guide extolled the variety of fish on the menu. However we stuck to our Greek salad (it seemed the sensible dish for hot weather lunch) accompanied by a glass of chilled local wine.

Taverna blue

More blue at the taverna where a variety of locally caught fish was on offer.

Zinging with colour

Shady street, wonderful terracotta walls.

Green oasis

I just fell in love with this place, the light, the colours, the beauty of it.

High on the hill

Houses and church high on the hill as the sun drifts towards late afternoon.

On the sail back the sea remained calm. And as a fitting end to a glorious day we watched the sun dip to the horizon and provide us with an eminently photographic sunset.

End of a colourful day

Symi sunset at the end of a colourful day.



About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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10 Responses to Symi symphony

  1. Chris says:

    Lovely photos of a gorgeous place. Thanks for your words and photos about Greece. It’s a place I’ve long wanted to visit, and this post makes me want to drop everything and head over.

    • Recommend going in October as we did, Chris. Weather still great, but not so hot it makes sightseeing unbearable. And fewer visitors makes for a pleasanter experience as everywhere isn’t so crowded. Symi was gorgeous, I lost my heart to the place. It would be a wonderful place to spend a very relaxing holiday if it wasn’t for that two hour boat trip on top of a five and a half hour plane journey. But guess that’s what makes it such a special place. Rhodes certainly is well worth visiting. Standing amongst ruins on all the ancient sites is pretty special.

  2. Kev says:

    Love the way you relate all this. What a beautiful and most colourful place!

  3. Kev says:

    Reblogged this on Kev's Great Indie Authors and commented:
    A most beautifully colourful place!

  4. anneallen21 says:

    Thanks for this lovely article about Symi. I was lucky enough to be there in October and stayed for four days at a family run hotel, Pedi Beach looking over the most idyllic bay. You’re absolutely right about what a wonderful place it is and all on the holiday want to go back.

    • I’m not surprised everyone loved Symi. I’ve just met someone else who mentioned Pedi to me – she and her husband stayed there a number of years ago and became friendly with a local woman whom they’ve kept in touch with. People in the hotel where we stayed told us Symi was lovely, but seeing it came as a wonderful surprise, taking our breath away. Great to find someone else who also appreciated it.

  5. Wow. I was really transported there – thank you!

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