Symi, Greece – From a half mile out of the harbor, the colorful homes that climb the steep hills sparkled in the sun light reflected the warm golden tones of many of the buildings. This island, where every house is known by its name, brings the history of the towns and its people to the forefront. Whether they’re known as Elpi’s House, Jack’s House, Nico’s, or something less personal like The Town House or The Little House, they all make you wonder who’s that or why was it named that? You get a real feel for the small town that the island is.
Symi is tucked in between two peninsulas that jut into the Mediterranean Sea from the mainland of Turkey only 5 miles away, and it’s twenty-six mile from its neighboring Greek island, Rhodes. But whereas the Turks haven’t built much on their ragged southwest coastline, the Greeks have conquered their environment and possessed it with charm and beauty. The small harbor must be one of the most enchanted places in Europe.
As we approached an available spot along the sea wall where we would spend the next few days moored, my gaze jumped from one interesting site to the next. I wanted to jump onto the dock and start exploring immediately. Forget about all the chores that needed to be attended to: setting the anchor forty-feet off the bow so it will hold the catamaran off the dock, throwing dock lines to those ashore who came to help secure our stern to the dock, protecting the boat’s two hulls with fenders so we won’t bang into the dock with every wave. Who needs a passerelle de bateau, the bridge that has to be set up at each port so we can cross from boat to dock. And electric and water…pfft. We can tend to them later.
I wanted to get off and investigate every narrow set of stairs that climb the hills, see what lies behind every colorful doorway, walk through the stalls set up on the sidewalks, touch the sponges the fishermen bought in for sale, read menu boards and decide where we should go for lunch. It was all right there in front of me, just a feet away. But that first foot was a big one. The one getting from the boat to the dock. So I waited, secured, protected and then the bridge went down.
John and Coralia gave us the walking tour around the harbor, pointing out their favorites, then Bill and I were off on our own to climb all the steps that we wanted. I hoped and prayed as we walked along that every door would be opened just enough to give us a peek into their lives. Most doorways along the walk passed through to gardens, not directly into homes. The now popular idea of outside rooms must have originated here.
By mid-morning, the ferries from Turkey, Rhodes and Kos arrived. Throngs of tourists filled the shops and restaurants, trying to make the most out of every moment. We get a different sense of urgency from these travelrs then the ones that travel by sea. When we travel by boat, we don’t feel so much like tourists; we don’t really fit in with that crowd. On our boat in the Caribbean, it’s our home. We can stay at most ports for as long as we want and we fit in more with the locals than the one -week- stay tourists. We had this same feeling staying aboard our friend’s catamaran. They surely made us feel at home. We moored right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Symi’s harbor but we could jump back on board to rest or get out of the sun. The most we had to do was check emails.
I can’t imagine visiting for a day or two for a quick tour via ferry then leaving again to go onto the next harbor. We, in effect did the exact same thing but we never felt rushed. It can’t be the same with packing and unpacking and waiting in lines. So thank goodness we were able to wait out the peaks in the busiest parts of the sunny days on Malbec and after the crowds moved on we enjoyed the relaxed island the way it was meant to be.
By evening, when it cooled and the romance took hold, the whole harbor awakened with a more energized bustle. The restaurants filled to capacity with the conversational hum of German, Italian, Turkish, Greek and even English. Couples walked hand in hand along the quay. Children played tag on the walkways. And lights glittered. The perfect end to the day.
Whenever we go somewhere we really love, we wonder what it would be like to live there. As we walked along the stepped paths of this town, I wanted to be sitting up on the second floor verandas having my morning coffee, gossiping with neighbors as they walked pass below. So I’m wondering, do you ever get too old to learn Greek?