Symi Dream interview, Elaine Chalus
Elaine Chalus is Senior Lecturer of History at Bath Spa University, a great Symi supporter and a long time repeat visitor. I asked her if she would be kind enough to run the ‘Symi Dream Interview’ gauntlet and she was happy to. So, here is our exclusive interview with Elaine Chalus:
1) When was your first visit to Symi, and what was your first impression of the island?
Jon and I first visited Symi in 2006. Both of us had friends who had told us that it was worth visiting, but we hadn’t really planned to include it in our trip to Rhodes that year … until we ended up in the Hotel from Hell. We were complaining to our travel rep about the hotel and he told us about Symi and that he thought it would suit us perfectly. He offered to arrange a room for us at Taxiarchis. We jumped at the chance and went out for a weekend. We loved it immediately; it was small and friendly and completely lacking concrete monstrosities. As a historian, I was fascinated by the history, and as a professional photographer Jon was entranced by the beauty of the place, and both of us saw possibilities for the sorts of holidays we really wanted — somewhere where we could get to know people and settle in for an extended period of time. We decided that we would be back the next weekend — and arrived at the beginning of the worst storm that we’ve ever experienced in Symi. We watched it, absolutely fascinated, from the terrace at Taxiarchis, and were convinced that we needed to come back for a longer holiday. We have been back almost every year since then.
2) How has Symi inspired you in a creative way?
Both Jon and I write (though Jon is by profession a photographer) and Symi has been a delight for writing. We don’t have internet while we are on the island, unless we go over to the Olive Tree (or I decide I need to fire up the iPhone), so we can work away, undisturbed. The pattern of our days lends itself to work. The beauty of the location seems to make writing easier…
3) What is your most lasting memory of the island?
There are so many memories. One of our most treasured memories is that first waft of pungent wild oregano and thyme as the ferry rounds the point and starts to head into port. It means that we really have arrived.
I remember walking past an old Greek lady’s house each day when we were staying at Anastasia’s one year. She had a plant covered with highly scented blooms that attracted me. One day, she was present when I stopped to enjoy the scent, and insisted that I take one of the flowers.
Last year, we went up to the windmills one morning to catch the sunrise. We were slowly making our way back into Chorio, near Tove’s, and stopping to enjoy the view and talk to the cats, when a Greek lady saw us. She went back into her house and came back to present us with still-warm, freshly baked, delicious cookies. What a treat!
It sounds like a platitude, but the friends we’ve made on Symi keep bringing us back. We maintain an active online presence, so can keep up with what’s taking place on the island through the year, but we look forward eagerly to meeting everyone each year in person and catching up.
Each year we promise ourselves that we are going to do something that we’ve not yet done. Last year, it was walking to Toli. This year, we want to walk to St Emilianos and hope to get to Datca. But there are also smaller goals, such as having more friends over for dinner, or even just managing to stay up past 10.20 (our shamefaced bedtime) in order to get to Astrid’s or the Sunrise for one of their music nights. The two last haven’t yet happened, but there’s always hope….
And, lastly, we are cat-lovers, so our memories of Symi are always cat-filled. One of the things that impressed us from the outset was the work of Symi Animal Welfare (SAW). Having a group that takes care of the cats matters to us.
4) What would you say to people who have not been to Symi before?
If you’re looking for a all-inclusive holiday ‘experience’, Symi isn’t the place for you; if you want brash and bullish and noisy holidays, go elsewhere. If, however, what you’re looking for is more genuine, more subtle and far more pleasing, then please consider Symi. If you are a writer, painter, photographer, or any other sort of artist, come!
5) What is it about Symi that brings you back time after time?
The people. The place. Friends and friendliness.