With the close proximity of Symi to the Turkish coastline, historically their inhabitants haven't always got along.
However, there are many events held on the island through the year to bring the people of Symi and Turkey together. Symis nearest Turkish town is Datca (See my Must See tips)
Sept 1st 2004 is World Peace Day , and there is now an annual swimming race from Symi to Datca, for the athletic contestants from these 2 places on this day.
There is also due to be a trip for Symi inhabitants to Bodrum and Izmir for shopping, sightseeing, and socialising.
As is typical of most Greek Islands Symi has an abundance of cats, roaming the streets, restaurants and accomodations.
As well as feeding from the titbits fed by tourists and scavaging the bins of restaurants etc, they breed!!!
In order to look after these cats, and control the numbers, donations pay for a vet from the UK to spend a week each year on the island neuturing the felines.
In September/October 2004 the vet was on Symi. treating any ill cats and neuturing !
(I'm not sure of the dates for 2005's visit)
Volunteers (locals and holiday makers) helped round up the cats, or helped in other ways ie coffee making etc.
Cans of sardines/cat food were requested, to help catch the cats.
Donations (money or food) accepted all year round at Symi Visitor office, Pat & Alis, Jean & Tonics Bar or Vapori Bar.
Please see Symivisitor web site for more details www.symivisitor.com
8th May each year is a Bank Holiday on Symi, as VE Day is commemorated.
Les Catherinettes Restaurant on the waterfront (clock tower side) has a plaque to recognise that at this place, the peace treaty between Germany and Britain was signed. During WW 2, Les Catherinettes was the Italian Headquarters. Today, it is a hotel and restaurant.
The celebrations include a parade of local school children, army personnel, a band, and locals in traditional costume. It is headed by local dignitaries , including the Mayor, and clergy.
We were lucky enough to get a front row seat to watch the parade. Four of us had walked over from Pedi, as the bus was on Rhodes for repair work. We weren't sure when or where the parade was going to start, as we had seen various groups walking in different directions. We decided to stop for a drink, and spotted a table at Manos's Taverna. This turned out to be a great spot for watching the parade.
2 /3rds of tourists to Symi are estimated to be return visitors!
It's not long before you realise that most of your fellow holidaymakers have been to Symi before - and each encounter is started with the above question, or the statement We've been to Symi XX number of times, before they launch into a spiel of how special this place is, and that once you've been you'll keep coming back.
I made the mistake one night of commenting that although it is a nice island, there are other places that I've preferred, (Crete for eg) the girl I was talking to glared, then turned her back on me! Luckily most that I met were friendlier.!!
With the sizeable ex -pat community (mainly english), who live here, and those that own/ are in the process of renovating holiday homes, and these boomerang visitors, it can feel as if you've encountered a large club meeting, with everybody seeming to know each other. It can feel a bit claustrophobic at times too!!
On my second visit, it WAS nice to meet up with some familiar faces, and I may go back one day, but if I meet you and say " I've been here 36 times" please feel free to slap me!!
More cats here on Symi as on Rhoddes and Kos ;-0
They seemed well cared for and indeed each year a volunteer vet comes over to attend to any medical attention they need and to neuter them if necessary.
If you want to learn about the history and customs of Symi then its worth a visit to the Archaelogical and Folklore museum which is located in a mansion in the parish of Lieni in Chorio. The museums has exhibits of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine works as well a folklore artifacts. Just follow the blue arrow markers to find it.
Due to the barreness of Symi's landscape water is scarce and virtually ALL the town's water is brought over by ship to the island. Hence its best to used the water in your apartments sparingly as you'll never know when it may run out!
As in many other greek islands the faithful donkey is used to porterage good up and down the narrow stepped streets and alleys where cars cannot go. Watch out for them especially on the Kali Strata, they move pretty fast and watch where you put your feet!
The Greek islands claim to be the home of the Frappé, basically iced coffee with a nice foamy head on it. You can get these almost everywhere, and there are some cafes that seem to serve little else - you can even by "instant" ones in supermarkets, that come with all the ingredients in a little sachet and a carton of iced water. Just add the sachet to the water, put the lid back on and SHAKE! I brought a load of these home for my workmates - they weren't very impressed.
(The best Frappé we had on Symi was at the Hotel Nireus, absolutely delicious!)
There are a lot of stray cats on Symi, but these cats do not seem to be starving, or sick, or unhappy. And they're certainly not a problem. Sometimes one, two or more will come and sit near you at your table while you eat, but they don't do more than just sit patiently. I never really saw people giving them food at restaurants - I guess this is not to be encouraged - and nor did I see anyone chasing them away. Just live with it - there's some really lovely cats there!
Be prepared for the usual routine with the toilets when in Symi, i.e. no paper down the loo, put it in the bin instead. This can kind of put some people of the idea of holidaying in Greece - don't let it. It's really no big deal.
I think these ducks have become permanent residents here we saw them several times in the day - always up to some sort of mischief ;-)
Symi haas a strong fishing history, the sponge diving is not as plentiful as in former days and is declining somewhat but fishermen can still be seen mending their nets in the sun at the harbourside.