Ok, you'll only have a few hours to spend here, so although the harbour area is nice, it can become a bit crowded..so off the ferry boat, walk in a horseshoe pattern til you're opposite the ferry, look for the taxi rank or the Symi bus, and head for Pedi (a beach resort, with a few tavernas) or Chorio (The Village) and spend your time either sunbathing in Pedi, with a wander to a taverna for lunch, where you'll get served quicker than in Yialos. (Check times of returning bus!) or wandering around the village (Chorio) then walking back DOWN the Kali Strata, easier than walking up..again, there are tavernas/bars, where you'll probably get served quicker, and you'll have seen a bit more of the island, and experienced more of Symi.
Some of the trips from Rhodes include a boat trip to Panormitis (see my tips)
By The Way, a lot of the Symilovers call the day trippers Rhodeants (Rodents)!!!
Most of the people I've met who've seen Symi as day trippers have loved the place, some have booked hols here because of their day trip experience.
Greek Orthodox Easter is based on the Julian calendar, and therefore can occur upto a month later than in Western Christendom.
It still maintains a religious rather than commercial importance.
Greek Easter Sunday 2008 is April 27th
On Symi, it is possible not only to witness, but to also join in with the celebrations.
In the week leading upto Easter, there is much preparation.
-Fasting begins. No meat, fish, oil, wine or eggs are taken.
The smell of baking wafts from open windows, and a lamb is slaughtered.
(a warning..this can take place in public places).
-Women can be seen scrubbing and whitewashing steps outside their homes.
- Holy oil is brought home to bless the house -using sprigs of basil.
-An all night vigil, when the church crucifix is decorated with candles and flowers
Eggs (hard boiled) are dyed red symbolising the blood of christ.
The velocity and frequence of firecracker and dynamite explosions steps up a gear....with competion increasing between Yialos, Chorio and Pedi!!
Loud noises were believed to chase away evil spirits that wandered the earth , particularly on this night.
Traditionally pots and pans were used, but firecrackers and dynamite are surely more appealing to the Greek Machismo!
-Universal day of mourning ,with solemn funeral bells ringing through the day.
Working with wood, hammer or nails is taboo.
At night, candlelit processions can be seen all over Symi,as a symbolic flower strewn bier of Christ is accompanied by church dignitaries, and general population.
I was advised that the best view is probably in Chorio, where these processions wind up and down the hillsides.
After the preparation, (please see previous tip) celebrations begin. Families return from other islands or the mainland to celebrate at home.
Groups of families and friends are seen heading towards their church, clutching candles, either plain or wrapped in ribbons.
Even those who don't usually go to church attend for this special service which begins just before midnight.
People crowd into the churches, or stand outside.
I went to the church in Pedi. Although I stood in the entrance for a short while, I preferred to stay in the background.
A minute before midnight the church lights are dimmed (signifying the death of Christ) A hush descends, the priest produces a holy flame, which is passed to the congregation. One by one they light their candle , in turn lighting their neighbours', until all are lit. Fireworks , flares, firecrackers and dynamite errupt .
The greeting "Christos anesti" (Christ is Risen) with the reply "Alithos anesti" (Truly He is Risen), is exchanged, before hurrying home , hopefully with the flame intact. A sign of the cross is made with the sooty wick, over the door to bring Good Luck for the year.
The Fast is broken,soup made from the intestines of the sacrificed lamb,lemons, egg, dill and rice is eaten. Red eggs are cracked, for luck.
Lamb is roasted, usually over a spit.
Some restaurants/tavernas advertise special Easter lamb menus, there may be boat trips with spit roast too.
Early evening in Yialos, a procession heads towards the clock tower, with an effigy of Judas Iscariot carried on a chair. Crowds gather, and Judas is burnt, again accompanied by firecrackers. A spectacular firework display lights up the sky.
Celebrations continue for the rest of the week, with much visiting, exchanging of traditional cakes, biscuits and pies - as well as singing and dancing.
Even if like me, you're not religious, you still feel part of something special even just as a bystander to the celebrations.
Boats leave on Saturday mornings about 09.30 to this Turkish town (returning about 16.30), which is about 75km W. from the resort of Marmaris. and 35km E. of the ruins at Knidos. (possible to visit Knidos by taxi, the minibus service is reportedly irregular).
Afraid I can't remember how much this trip cost, think it was about £30.
Arrange through tour offices or directly by the captain.
You need to hand your passport into the captain the day before, so he can take it to the customs office for documentation (you get it back on the boat next day)
The Customs office is in the corner of the harbour, just before you get to the bridge.
There's a small Duty Free inside with a good selection of perfumes, alcohol and tobacco. (No Duty Free in Datca)
Euros/ Sterling/$/travellers cheques etc can be changed into Turkish Lira at the nearby carpet shop. (There are banks/ATM's up on the main street)
Since my trip, the new Turkish Lira has been introduced.
Change a small amount at a time, as you won't get a good exchange rate for any left over lira, and you may not be able to exchange on Symi.
The Turkish are generally very honest and will help you, with your currency, but they sometimes make mistakes too!
Sterling or dollars will often be accepted if buying goods.
Datca is 1 hour by boat from Symi.
A chance to experience another country, and Shop! There's more variety and cheaper goods than on Symi.
Tho' not the prettiest of towns, for me it has a certain charm, being a working harbour/town rather than a resort, with little if any hassle.
www.datcainfo.com for info.
It's easy to get around, with 1 main road that runs for about 1km. With a few off shots.
Along the road are many shops, selling clothes, jewellery, honey, spices etc.
Also teahouses, ice cream/pastry shops, restaurants and lokantas (tavernas)
Things to try
Turkish breakfast bread butter honey/jam, cucumber, tomato, egg and olives.
pide or lamacan (turkish pizzas)
kebabs (sis or doner)
mezze a selection of small dishes
Although secular, Turkey is a Muslim country, so you may not find bacon or pork.
Turkish coffee, cay (black tea), Efes beer, rakki (like ouzo) or fruit juices my fave is visne (bitter cherry juice)
For bargains head to the market. Turkey has no copyright law, so you can buy "genuine fake" designer gear Gucci/ Swatch etc watches for GBP5, Levi jeans GBP8. Sports brand t shirts, CD's, bedding, belts, bags, footwear etc as well as handcrafted goods, even a belly dancing outfit!
For local life head to the food market, where ladies from the nearby villages sit behind stalls stacked with fresh good quality fruit , herbs and veg, along with bottles/jars of home pickled veg and garlic. Good photo opportunities too!
Spices, dried herbs, cheeses and cooked meats scent the air. Nuts, dried fruit and lokkum (Turkish delight) are offered as you pass by.
Gold and silver is very cheap (1/3 of Uk price) buy from one of the shops. Price is based on cost of the metal, and each item is weighed, and the days price checked in the newspaper.
Carpets, Leather and antiques are also good buys. Haggle for a good price!
Theres also a Hammam (Turkish Bath) a real experience as you're soaped, scrubbed and massaged for GBP10, well worth it for feeling so clean and relaxed.
It's possible to reach the monastery by road, but I prefer to combine it with a boat trip.
The Monastery of Archangel Michael, is well worth a visit. The original church was built on the site of an ancient temple, believed to have been dedicated to Apollo, around 450 AD.
St Michael is the patron Saint of Sailors
Panormitis is a major centre of pilgrimage. Various festivals are celebrated here through the year.
The brightly coloured and decorated bell tower stands out in this small port. An intricate mosaicced court yard is surrounded by rooms housing a couple of museums and the small church. The dimly lit church contains good examples of icons, including a famous one of St Michael. The Byzantine frescoes and artefacts are interesting too.
It is possible to stay overnight at the monastery.
Panormitis offers a few small cafes, and a bakery, which provides excellent pastries and bread.
This old pathway leads up from Yialos to Chorio. I've not counted the number of steps, but there's rumoured to be about 300 plus!
So, take a deep breath, and set off slowly, enjoying the views over the harbour, and the old buildings on your way. Carry a camera, then you've got plenty of excuses to stop! A bottle of water should sustain you, til you reach the bars near the top!!
You'll pass by the bakery and a few small shops, then some neo -classical buildings, in various stages of dilapidation.
You'll probably encounter children smiling and shouting hello, maybe an elderly man leading a donkey, local ladies carrying laden bags of shopping, or scrubbing their steps, and a few holidaymakers in various stages of discomfort, ascending or descending the well worn steps!
There is a bench as the path curls towards the end of the steep climb. Enjoy the panoramic view over the island towards Turkey, and maybe a cooling drink at the nearby Kali Strata bar,(see nightlife(sun downers) tip) then head for the final steps, which take you into Chorio.
Here you'll find more bars and tavernas, houses, windmills and churches. Plenty of chances to get off the beaten track, and see something of Symi village life. You can easily lose track of time scrambling around the paths and alleyways!
Don't forget your sunscreen, hat and a bottle of water!
An easier way to enjoy the Kali Strata is to catch the bus or a taxi to Chorio, then walk down.
The Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis is a Greek Orthodox monastery built on the southwest coast in the early 18th century. The monastery is built on the tip of a beautiful bay, Panormos, from which it takes its name. The name of the Panormos bay is derived from antiquity. The Monastery of Panormitis on the island of Symi is a huge marine shrine. Considered to be the patron saint of sailors and sponge-divers, he helps them in their quest to pluck the 'sea-flower' from the depths of the sea. In the Ecclesiastical Museum of the Monastery there are exhibits of wooden replicas of caiques, bottles, boxes, etc, sent in from all over Greece with names to be recited in mass for health, or for their souls to rest in peace. Sometimes some money, wax or incense is inserted into bottles, thrown in the sea that brings them to shore. Ships collect them and bring the to the monastery harbour. The bells of the unique baroque-rococco bell-tower ring out and the head monk recants a prayer to the Archangel. Symian fishermen built a village in Laconia and settled there. They are called Symoyiannades. They built a small church dedicated to the Archangel, from which the village took its name. From there they emigrated to Africa and took to fishing on the open seas. The silver coating on the miraculous icon of the Saint in the monastery was built by Iannis Peloponnesios sponsored by the captains, sailors and sponge-divers of Symi.
Free monthly paper, available from tour offices, bars, restaurants shops etc, or from the Symi Visitor office.
Lots of useful information re. the island, things to do, places to see as well as opening hours/emergency numbers for doctor/ dentist etc and a map of the island.
Lots of local info too, such as forthcoming festivals, local news about changes to the island, and recipes etc.
Before you travel, check out this web site
This website provides a wealth of information about the island.
Ferry timetables and upto date info if there are changes; accom details, with the chance to book through the SV office, lots of photos of the island and recent events, recipes and regular bulletins about day to day life. Messageboards and a chat page, where Symiphiles can get their daily fix, until they return to Symi!!
To see all the beauty of Symi you should make your way up to Chorio via Kali Strata. It's the beautiful, winding stairway, said to be 350 steps. Well, I was counting them and I already had 300 way before it was finished. I think there are much more but the views and the mansions you see on the way are worth every step.
Climbing up the Kali Strata you can see many Neoclassical Mansions. Many of them are beautifully renovated and painted with a full palette of pastel colours. They were built during the big prosperity period which was achived thanks to the sponge business.
Many streets are so narrow and also steep that it's impossible to drive there by car. Sure enough, it's not possible to drive on the stairs either. Some places are accessible by motorbikes and most of them can be reached by donkeys. So, it's quite typical mean of transport in Symi.
Pre departure, I hadn't had time to get my hair cut/coloured, so asked around and found Minas Salon De Coiffure in Yialos. Its a classy joint!! and she made a good job of cutting my hair, but didn't have time to colour it. (it is quite expensive too)
Jean (of Jean & Tonic bar - Who recently retired, so I don't know if she's still on the island) recommended Yianna, a local girl, and made an appointment for me to go to her house.
Sitting at her table in her kitchen, surrounded by photos of her family and friends, and carved religious icons I had a great view through the open door down onto the harbour, as she set about bleaching my hair. Yianna doesn't speak much english, and my greek is practically non existant, at least she didn't have to ask the usual hairdressers question of "where are you going for your hols"? ;-)
Her mother even brought me a slice of delicious Baklava that she'd made.
I'd had a really pleasant few hours, and I was very pleased with my hair.
Strangely enough, I usually find it quite stressful having my hair cut and coloured back home, especially if it's a new hairdresser, as I can never seem to get the style I'm looking for- so I find it quite amusing that I happily went along with a complete stranger, when we didn't speak each others language!
This was definitely a great experience, just wish I'd had my camera, for the view.
Symi was once home to some of the world's finest sponge divers. The value of their harvest was so big that the island became one of the wealthiest seaports in the Mediterranean. The 30 000 inhabitants were all able to live comfortably off this product.
You can still buy sponges here but it's far from being Symi's main product now.
There are still many mansions that would need renovating and many being renovated. I'm not sure if Symi gets some government money for this purpose. If not, these must be tourists who would pay for it. Today Symi consists of only 3000 inhabitants, with practically all of them occupying the field of tourism.