SYMI



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Symi - general

ALIMNIA An unusual bargain underpins the recent history of Symi and the impressive beauty of its port which unfolds be fore the arriving visitor. By maintaining a guaranteed supply of high-quality sponges to the harem of the Otto man Sultan’s court, the islanders of Symi gained in return a substantial measure of self-government under the long period of Turkish dominion. They were such talented sailors and renowned shipbuilders that they were also en trusted with making and manning the fast skiffs which carried official post between the Sublime Porte and the Ottoman fleet. This was a calculated and realistic compromise on the part of a small Greek community, living on a dry, rocky, infertile island closed in on two sides by the Turkish mainland. It allowed them to continue doing the two things which they did uniquely well: the fishing of sponges and the building of fast boats. As a result, tiny Symi prospered remarkably in the 18th and 19th centuries and became in proportion to its population one of the richest ports of the Aegean: in the process it also became one of the most beautiful, as the harmonious amphitheatre of neoclassical mansions grew and grew around the slopes of its harbour. This was Greek resourcefulness and pragmatism combined at their best. Today Symi lives by tourism: in the summer the day trips from Rhodes can seem to engulf the town; but in the evenings and early mornings the island regains its tranquillity and enchantment. A visit to Symi might ideally have three quite different aspects: the leisurely exploration of the harbour and old-town areas; the discovery of the mountainous interior; and a journey by boat around the island’s deeply indented coast. The first, which can all be done by foot, would include the stately streets and waterfronts of the port and the old town; the island’s two museums—the Nautical Museum for its memorabilia of sponge-fishing practices and ship-building and the Archaeological Museum for its evocation of the is land’s history and architecture; the castle, built over the ancient acropolis; the churches, many with fine pebble mosaic forecourts figuring mermaids and sirens; and the houses and grander mansions that line the ‘Kali Strata’ (the ‘fair’ or ‘beautiful street’) which unites the upper and lower towns. Close to this area are the remains of Ancient Syme: the imposing, circular, stone podium of ‘Pontikokastro’, which was probably a victory monument mentioned by Thucydides; the enigmatic remains at ‘Drakou’ which may be part of a Hellenistic farm, or possibly a chthonic sanctuary; and the Late Roman or Early Christian mosaics at Nimboreio, found within the remains of an early church. The interior of the island is as rugged as the town is urbane. Sometimes it is just pure rock, some times wooded with cedar and fir; it is dotted with painted churches and fortified monasteries. The remains of dozens of Byzantine wine-presses, now ruined, are mute evidence of the island’s flourishing trade in wine. But much of Symi can still only be reached by sea: its many pebbled shores with pellucid water and shoreside chapels or monasteries—Aghia Marina, the Panaghia on Nimos, Aghios Aimilianos and, most famous of them all, the monastery of St Michael the Archangel Panormiis, dedicated to one of the most important patron saints of the Aegean world and its mariners. Nor should any boat journey miss, if possible, the uninhabited island of Sesklia, with its shear waters and seals and shaded shores.


Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.



Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


access

Symi Island, Greece.

 

The island has no airport, and only three or four ferry services a week from Piraeus (16 hrs). Access is easy from Rhodes, however, where there is a selection of fast daily (c. 1 hr) services by hydrofoil (Aigli), and catamaran (Dode kanisos Express), or by regular ferry (Symi I and II): these are all managed by ANES Co., T. (Rhodes) 22410 37769; (Symi) 22460 71444. F/B Kalymnos runs local routes to Kos, Kalymnos, Astypalaia, Rhodes and Kastellorizo, once a week
Symi Travel Guide

eating

Symi Island, Greece.

 

On the south waterfront of Gialós are two good eateries of quite different character: Mythos serves ambitious variants on traditional Greek dishes—mostly imaginative and successful (especially with simpleredients such as courgettes and aubergines): both chef and wine-list are acclaimed. Further out along the same waterfront is Dimitri, for those seeking a simple, unostentatious mezedopoleion, serving fresh fish mezes, expressly prepared. Similar in style, Meraklis (set back from the port near the Metropoli tan Church of Aghios Ioan nis) has good home-cooked dishes that are less specifically fish-oriented.
Symi Travel Guide

further reading

Symi Island, Greece.

William Travis, Bus Stop Symi, Readers Union, Newton Ab bot, 1973.
Symi Travel Guide

lodging

Symi Island, Greece.

Historic, with painted ceilings and delightful views from the rooms, the Hotel Les Catherinettes (T. 22460 72698 & 71671) on the north water front of the harbour (close to where the ferries dock) is not expensive, but the comfort is basic and the balconied rooms can be noisy at night. Garden Studios (T. 22460 72429)—quiet, in a Symiot house surrounded by a garden—are set some way back from the southwest corner of the harbour; just beyond this, Opera House Hotel is similar in concept, but is larger and less intimate (T. 22460 72035). Both have comfortable studio apartments at moderate price. More expensive and stylish is the Hotel Aliki (Apr–Oct only) in a restored mansion on the south waterfront (T. 22460 71655), with a pleasant roof terrace. Monastic lodgings can be arranged at the Monastery of Panormítis in the south of the island (T. 22460 71354).Symi Travel Guide

practical info

Symi Island, Greece.

856 00 Symi: area 57sq. km; perimeter 88km; resident population 2594; max. altitude 617m. Port Authority: 22460 71205. Travel and Information: 22460 71397, www.symi-island.com
Symi Travel Guide

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