Every approach to Symi by sea runs beside long stretches of rocky and inhospitable cliff: the island seems virtually uninhabited. Then, suddenly, rounding sharply into a long harbour, the steeply rising theatre of coloured, neoclassical houses on all sides comes into view and unfolds—and goes on unfolding. The town seems bigger than expected; and still only a part of it is visible from below. This is just Gialos, the 19th century harbour area; but beyond its high southern ridge it blends continuously into Chorio, the old town of Symi—high up, more ventilated and hidden from the predatory view of passing pirates. The shops, hotels, eateries, cafes and offices are below in Gialos; the museum, the former acropolis, most of the churches and the older houses are in Chorio. A broad staircase of some 500 steps, called the Kali Strata, unites the two. It was in effect the main thoroughfare of the town, on which the rich aspired to possess a house. By the water, warehouses lined the cooler north-facing side of the harbour; administrative buildings and the port offices, its south-facing front. At the northwest corner of the inlet, the line of houses draws back, defining a long, open area faced onto by some particularly fine buildings—the Town Hall, the Nautical Museum etc.: this was the old ship-yard and sponge depot, and the commercial heart of Symi. The oddly ‘Cotswold-style’ stone bridge which cuts this area from the sea was only built in the 1970s, once those activities had long since ceased here. At first a desalination plant was projected for this space; now it has become part plateia, part car-park. Ship-building still continues on the island but on a small scale, and is based in the next bay to the north of the harbour.

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


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

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