Why Symi?

Friday, August 7th, 2009 No Comments
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SymiI used to write a monthly column for Symi Dream and for Symi Visitor called Village View, but have now decided to change this page and call it Why Symi? (Or even why Greece?)

Instead of the monthly rambles I thought I’d use this page to post short notes about what it is about Symi that a) brings visitors back year after year, b) attracts people from all over the world to set up home here, and c) keep people here.

We are often asked ‘why Symi?’ (as a place to choose to live) and it’s a question that is very difficult to answer, in fact it is the general subject of the new book I am writing, due out later in 2009. So, from time to time, I thought I would add short paragraphs and put them up here, as and when they occur to me.

If you want to contribute you can either email me or register and post your reasons as comments. This page will obviously take time to grow, so keep an eye on it. Like everything else we try and do on our Symi Dream website, this is a place for positive thoughts about this beautiful island, the pleasant side of life, a place to celebrate ‘the jewel of the Dodecanese’ and a place, also, to have some fun. Not all of what you will find here relates to everyone’s experience of course, simply to ours and that of other people who have contributed ideas. Much of it also applies to Greece generally.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my personal thoughts on reasons why people return to, and sometimes choose to live on Symi, Greece. And if you've never been, perhaps this will help you make up your mind about taking a holiday here…

Why Symi?Symi
Well, that’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? (Or the €44,545 one if you want it in Euros at August 2009 prices.)

The pace of life is slower, the weather is better, life is more relaxed. But you probably know that. Perhaps a short list would help get us started:

Although I want to shoot the persistent one that is outside my window just now, the sound of the cicadas in the olive trees is infinitely better than the continuous rumble of busses in a street.

The day-long crow of cockerels and the braying of donkeys are more natural than the wail of sirens.

The commute through cobbled lanes, saying good morning to strangers and friends alike, is pleasanter that the slow crawl up the M23, or a bus ride into a town centre...

Here is a list of 100 things I love about Symi, made one evening while sitting in the village square, in no particular order:

1. The island is teaming with history
2. There are so many characters here, in fact there are more characters in Horio and Yialos, Mr Shakespeare, than are dream’t of in your philosophy
3. You’d be hard pushed to find ‘last orders’ being called in a bar
4. When you return for another holiday, even after a break of some time, you are remembered
5. Music is everywhere
6. The culture
7. The variety of languages you hear
8. There is always something going on
9. The support you receive from friends
10. Even supermarket queues are entertaining

Celebrating tradition

11. Everyone has a story to tell
12. Local traditions, dances and song are kept alive and honoured
13. Joyful things are publicly celebrated
14. The dead are not forgotten
15. Old friends return year after year (live ones I mean)
16. The street life – the kafeneion life
17. The Symi festival
18. Being welcome at church festivals
19. People are genuinely interested in you
20. Children can play safely in the streets

Wintery skies

21. You can walk through a group of teenagers and be greeted politely, and you don’t feel threatened
22. It’s safe to walk the street late at night
23. There is a lack of violence
24. Most people don’t have a bad word to say about you, or if they do they do it in private
25. The family is important
26. The sea is always nearby
27. You can find solitude in the mountains and the village lanes
28. The scenery
29. Long walks with only nature as your companion
30. Interesting wildlife

Traffic jam - road blocked

31. Creativity is encouraged
32. Children count
33. The little things are appreciated; good mornings, how are you, how is your family?
34. Life is simpler
35. There is less choice so decision making is easier
36. Wild fruit grows in the lanes
37. The generosity and friendliness of people
38. Businesses pull together (one bar owner will call another to borrow a keg of beer, the two photographers sweating it out while photographing an event in the summer will share their water, ‘can you watch my shop while I just pop down to Yialos for an hour?’)
39. There is a big mix of nationalities
40. Quiet beaches

Tribute to the island's children

41. A laid back attitude
42. Living and life is important and there to be enjoyed
43. No one cares what you do in your private life
44. Hard work is appreciated as much as silent siesta times
45. People attend church, children, families, teenagers alike
46. Everyone is welcome in church and greeted warmly
47. People are proud of their island, their fellow residents and island life
48. You can stop the Mayor in the street for an informal chat
49. Just about everyone has nicknames
50. People smile in the face of adversity

Oxi Day

51. People are trusting, ‘pay me tomorrow’
52. People appreciate you being yourself
53. They are not afraid to tell you if they think you are an idiot
54. Honesty abounds
55. The architecture, the colours of the buildings
56. There are no nasty, concrete holiday hotels blighting the view
57. You won’t find streets full of rowdy 20-somethings throwing up at three in the morning and flashing their backsides
58. You are never far from a breathtaking (as opposed to shocking) view
59. There is no airport and you don't have planes coming in to land directly overhead.
60. Everything happens slowly, there’s no rush

Slow works in progress

61. People walk with their heads up and greet each other
62. You just get on with life
63. Arguments are short and soon forgotten
64. When family and friends visit they are stunned to see where you live
65. You don’t feel that you have to shave in the winter
66. You are sad when you leave but you feel that you've ‘come home’ when you arrive, even on your first visit
67. The light and shadows on the hills
68. You even get to like the red tape, rather the blue and white striped tape with a cross in the corner
69. The food, fresh, natural; bread baked daily
70. The joy of finding something unusual in the supermarket in the winter (i.e. a pineapple)

Fresh bread

71. The diversity of cuisine
72. The ‘posh’ yachts tied up along side the fishing boats in the harbour
73. The lights of Yialos at night
74. The darkness of the village lanes
75. There is a sense of national pride
76. The game of trying to secretly buy someone else a drink before they buy you one
77. Being invited to sit with the fishermen, builders and other workers after you close up shop, and discussing football (if you like football), the state of the sea, what it was like to be a merchant seaman, the grandchildren; being made to feel part of the gang
78. Easter celebrations, the black shrouded church on Good (Big) Friday, the parading of the bier, the darkness at midnight Saturday, lighting your neighbour’s candle, the procession home through the village
79. Theatrical weather (winter mainly)

Getting lost in the lanes

80. That ‘end of term’ feeling, at the end of the summer, when the visitors have left, things are slowing down, some businesses are closing, and you know that you are staying
81. The smell in the air when the season changes, that clear, cool and fresh scent of approaching winter
82. Chatting to a stranger in the shop, at a bar, or on a beach and discovering that you are talking to an opera singer, a stage director, a window cleaner, a civil servant, an actor, the King of Belgium (no, honestly)
83. The travelling peddlers and their calls of 'chairs', 'nice tables', 'watermelons', 'honey', 'clothes', 'live chickens'
84. The lights and sounds of the Panormitis festival, the busy market at night, the solemn precessions, the liturgy
85. Jumping from a boat and into the transparent sea
86. Going around the island on a boat trip with strangers and returning with friends
87. Greek TV adverts (No honestly!)
88. ZouZoukakia
89. Getting lost among the ruins
90. Listening to the church bells and service on a Sunday morning

That end of term feeling

91. Hearing joyful bells and knowing a happy event is taking place
92. Good medical care
93. The steps (yes, they are good for you, honest)
94. Mules (not the shoes, though I am sure they are very nice too)
95. Helpful and welcoming people
96. The variety of shops
97. Talented people, musicians, artists, craftsmen
98. Sitting on the balcony and watching boats come and go
99. Picking fruit and herbs from your own garden
100. Knowing that you are on Symi

Celebrating Symi

More to follow
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