There are many different ways to get to know Symi, depending on which of its charms you choose to explore first.
If you like gastronomy, why not try spinialo – pickled sea-squirt, full of briny flavor? You’ll feel as if you’re boarding a kagava – a sponge-diving boat – ready to set sail with the crew.
If you’re the nautical type, you can rent a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) and take a trip around the island. You’ll discover tiny bays, sea caves that you’ll remember forever, and beaches that look like paintings, such as Ai-Yiorgis Dysalonas, with its deep green waters and jagged rocks rising over 300 meters in height.
On the other hand, if it’s inner exploration you prefer, a stay at the Panormitis Monastery will really help you center yourself. Three days there is as restful as a full month of vacation elsewhere.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that any physical exertion on Symi takes place either before or after the hottest part of the day, which is all-encompassing, especially since shade is virtually non-existent.
A little before the sun sets, I start descending Kali Strata, once the main commercial thoroughfare, its five hundred-odd steps serving to connect the village (Ano Symi) with Yialos (the port). Most guidebooks recommend ascending this street, but that’s a waste of effort. A taxi, which costs about €8, gets me to Horio, from where I can enjoy a downhill stroll. To my right and left are the remains of townhouses destroyed in WW II, now overgrown with bougainvilleas, while at every turn I catch the sun as it slips towards the horizon.
In front of me stretches Yialos, full of all manner of yachts, stylish sailboats and fishing boats. My perspective changes suddenly when I reach the water’s edge and turn around to face the amphitheatrical layout of the village. All at once I’m in the midst of an Italian movie, as the colorful neoclassical houses of Yialos form a stunning cinematic backdrop.
The charming esplanade is quite long, and continues beyond the clock tower, which has graced the island since 1881. In any case, the finish line for me is always at the wine cellar in Georgina’s Market, where Nektarios will help me select a bottle from the surprisingly large selection. Some spicy cheese and some charcuterie complete my shopping, and I’m ready for a good evening in with friends.