The Greek Island of Symi


The author, Roger Bruton, at the Parthenon, in Athens.

The journey was from May 23rd - June 7th 1997. It was my 8th visit to Greece.

**** M A N C H E S T E R . A I R P O R T . & . M O N A R C H . A I R L I N E S ****

The flight was from Manchester airport, with Monarch, to Athens. (I travelled to and from Manchester by rail - the return fare was £17.50 as I travelled outside peak times. It's essential to get a reserved seat on these services, as they resemble refugee trains!)

 The trip had been limited to certain dates and for that reason, the flight was £199 each (inclusive). The booking was made a few months in advance.

 The plane (in both directions) was an Airbus A300-600R. It was not full, which was just as well, as the seat configuration does not really allow for six-footers, and I had the seat next to me to spread into. I would have otherwise spent a very uncomfortable 3.5 hours each way. Apart from this, the outward flight was unremarkable.

**** A T H E N S ****


Lycabetta Hill.

It is worth noting that Athens taxi drivers, from the airport, should not be believed when they say they know where your hotel is! At 01:45 however, you are really at their mercy. The amount on the meter is a point to negotiate from. They charge extra because it's dark, for each piece of luggage, for driving round in circles asking directions, because their mother needs a hip replacement, because the Pope is Polish. It's VERY important to establish the exact destination before starting, especially if it's a small street.

 Our destination was the "Hotel Acropolis View" (Tel:(01)921-7303 Fax:(01)923-0705), on Webster (Street), just off Robertou Galli, two hundred yards from the entrance to the Acropolis. The rate was Drs.21,000 per night for a double room. I would rate it as 2-3 stars in the U.K. You get a balcony with, if you ask, a view of the Acropolis. The view from the roof is pretty good. A good start for newcomers. Breakfast is Drs.1500 extra. (There is an Email address - - but nobody seems to read the mail!)

 Entrance to the Acropolis is now Drs.2000. Concerts at the open-air Herod Atticus theatre had not started at the end of May.


L to R - Hotel Acropolis View from the Acropolis,
and various other views taken at the summit.

I'm surprised Lycabetta Hill is not mentioned in the overview of Athens in the book - the view is spectacular, and it's a must for first-timers. There is a funicular, INside the hill, to the top, from Doras Distria - Drs.500 return. (Advisable for those NOT in their national Olympic teams.) The bar at the top is a rip-off - Drs.1000 for a large Amstel beer. Take your own and sit on the wall drinking it while viewing the city.

 Due to the new Metro line construction, Syntagma and Omonia squares are both total eyesores. Omonia is even more of a third world reugee camp than usual.

**** P I R A E U S ****

The ferry to Rhodes was arranged by fax from London, through "Sfigakis Travel", 8 Omirou Street (near Syntagma). (I SWEAR I'm not on commission!) It is run by Yannis Sfigakis and his wife. Lovely people - very friendly and helpful. Tel:(01)331-5993 Fax:(01)325-5195.

 Sunday in Piraeus is Market Day - chaos. A taxi from Athens will cost about 25% extra, due to the congestion. The metro is Drs.75 one-way, between Athens and Piraeus.

 McDonalds, opposite the Saronic Gulf ferries, provides a sane oasis, where you can gather your thoughts. Also, the toilets are "female-approved".

The Greek Navy

 The "Central Travel Agency" inside the Metro station will look after luggage if asked nicely. There is also a left-luggage office which looked less than reliable.

 The ferry to Rhodes was the G&A Lines "Marina". A two-berth ouside cabin was Drs.20,000 each. "Marina" is not "top-of-the-range" but more than adequate. Get on early and install yourself on one of the triangular shaped bench-and-table arrangements under a thatched(!) roof on the stern deck. Pole position! (Most of the two-berth cabins are at the front of the ship, so you get a good nights sleep.)


On board the "Marina"

 It sailed at 16:00 and arrived in Rhodes at 12:00 next day. Sunday was a good day to travel to "see" lots of islands - a 30 minute "snap-shot" of each. The route was Syros, Paros, Naxos, Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos and Rhodes. (Naxos - Kalymnos was midnight to 06:00.)


**** R H O D E S ****

At Rhodes, "Marina" docks at the end of the quay in the commercial harbour, out past the customs building.

 ****Taxis and Rhodes old town.****
Taxi drivers at BOTH harbours will tell you that they are not allowed into the old town. If you have luggage, this is NOT TRUE!

 (The old town is officially closed to traffic 13:30-17:00 and 22:00-10:00.)


Rhodes Old Town

 The reason they do not want to take you is that it is only a "minimum fare" journey, a lot of aggravation and they want the fares to "Fairly-Rocky" (Faliraki). The trick is to announce your destination only AFTER getting in. Police man all the blocked entrances to the old town and WILL open them to taxis carrying passengers with luggage. Drs.1000 is a fair amount to pay after having duped one of the drivers. Call a tourist police officer if there is any problem. If you think you can manage because your bags have wheels, forget it. The cobbles are designed to waste ANY bag!


Scenes near the ferry port

On Rhodes we stayed at "Stavros Bar"/"Sunlight Hotel", 32 Ipodamou. (Old Town.) Tel:(0241)21435. The rates are Drs.6-7000 for a double room. Some even have roof-top verandas. All have bathrooms. It is predominantly English, but caters to a very mixed clientele. American naval personnel are much in evidence if "the fleet's in". Take a football club penant for his wall to endear yourself to Stavros and his two barmen - Peter-1946 and young Peter(!). All but one of the rooms are far enough away from the bar to avoid the late-night noise. Beware of Stavros' water pistol. Don't ask for coffee - you will be told very loudly that his bar is not a hospital(!). Most drinks (beer and spirits) are Drs.600 each.

 A good average restaurant down an alleyway, 100 yards from "Stavros'" is the "Symposium". A bit "flash" by Taverna standards (butter with the bread) but not a rip-off.

 The Villa Cleobulos - Laurence Durrell's residence 1945-1947 - looks sadder than ever. The new, nearby, Hotel "Rodon" is **nowhere** near ready (May 1997). I would say May 1998 would be a better guess.

 The story on bungy-jumping is that due to a recent death, caused by less than adequate safety straps, the "sport" is on hold.

**** S Y M I ****

To avoid the day-tripper crowd, the best ferry to catch to Symi is "Symi-1". There is an afternoon departure most days at about 18:00 - arriving Symi at 20:00. You are then treated to a dramatic sundown entry to the harbour. The single fare is Drs.1400 if paid for on the boat, or Drs.2000 if bought at the desk on the harbour-side opposite Karpathou. (The day-tripper boat operators are still denying the existence of this service!) (There are other, better ways to see Panormitis than going on the morning departures.)


On board "Symi-1"

 On Symi, Symi-1 and Symi-2 (the newer, catamaran shaped boat) dock on the north side of the harbour, near the NEW Ionian bank buiding, which has an ATM (accepts ALL cards). The taxi rank however is opposite, on the south side. A taxi up to Horio is Drs.500-1000, depending on the amount of luggage and number of passengers. It's a lot further to drive than to walk.

 Don't even THINK of trying to get up to Horio (the village) with your luggage, via the (just under 400) steps of the Kalistrata. (P.S. Although the lower part of this *looks* "sinister" after dark, it is perfectly safe.)


Views from the Horio.

 We had booked a room (from UK) through the "Jean & Tonic" bar. It was the "Lemonitissa" studio, which was Drs.9000 per night. It has a *spectacular* view of the harbour, (blocked slightly by the dome of the large church) from its private veranda. You occasionaly have to put up with (lost) Germans taking photos of the view. Most locations up there also suffer from the noise from chickens!


Various scenes in Symi

The village is totally self-contained and the harbour area can be avoided during the day-tripper "rush-hour". Entrance to the museum is now Drs.500. Finding it is like an episode of the Crystal Maze. Drinks at the "Jean & Tonic" (only open 8 p.m. - 6 a.m.) are a bit pricey after 9 p.m. (happy hour). If you are "lucky" you will be treated to the sight of Jean using her TV remote control. It is a length of 4-by-2 that she wields while standing on a bar stool! Biscuits from the bakery two doors away are wonderful.

 The two hotels in Horio are very reasonably priced. (Double room rates quoted - inclusive of breakfast.) The hotel "Horio/Village" (Tel:(0241)71800/71801/ 72258 Fax:(0241)71802) during May and June - Drs.8000, July - Drs.13000 - August - Drs.15000. (During July & August you also get air-conditioning.) It's a very "pretty" building with a central courtyard, but with no views. The "Fiona" (Tel/Fax:(0241)72088) is Drs.6000 in April, Drs.8000 in May and June and Drs.10000 in July and August. The rooms have views of the harbour and beyond. (These prices made us think that the Studio prices were a bit "steep".)


The Kafenion at the top of the Kalistrata; Syllogos restaurant

 Of the daytime bars in Horio, the Kafenion is probably the best. The service, smiles and welcome are outstanding, and the beer is cheap. Drs.700 for a large Amstel in a frosted glass, with "nibbles". (The day we left, the owner even organised a lift into town for us when the taxi failed to materialise!)

Two of the restaurants in Horio are "Syllogos" (Greek for "Meeting Place"), which was formerly "Panorama", and the ubiquitous "Georgios". "Syllogos", although run by a very energetic husband and wife team, suffers from a lack of staff. When busy the waiting between courses can get tedious. The walls are decorated with scale model sailing ships, which can be purchased. The food is good - on a quiet night.



On the other hand, "Georgios" always serves excellent fare, which you choose from an excellent selection in the kitchen. There are no menus. The restaurant is ALWAYS busy. A good meal for two, with a litre of house wine is about Drs.6000. You can normally expect live music - often with the man himself on accordion.

 Scooters (new 80 c.c. Piaggios) can be hired near the Symi-1 berth. Daily rates are Drs.3000 for a one-seater or Drs.5000 for a two-seater. Full insurance is an extra Drs.2000 and given the state of the roads is a good bet.

 Pedhi "beach" is in an awful state, resembling a cross between a building site and a boat yard. Access to Ayia Marina and Ayois Nikolaos no longer seems to exist - one of the paths ends in a fenced-in farmyard, the other just disappears. I suspect that there is active discouragement in operation, in favour of the water taxis. Seek local advice - if you can find any.

 The coastal path to Emborio is currently being concreted. At the time of our visit it was impossible to even get there by scooter as the road was blocked by constructon equipment. Except on foot or by boat, I think there is now no way of getting to any beach, from the town, with the exception of Nos. This situation may change without notice - again seek local advice. (Water taxis can be found in front of the *OLD* bank building at the harbour.)

 The monastry of Panormitis is well worth a visit. To gain admittance, make sure you are soberly dressed. The entrance fee is Drs.200. There are four ways to see it.
(1) On the way to the island from Rhodes, on one of the tourist boats.
(2) On a day trip boat from Symi town - **recommended**
(3) By truck - a "tour" that meets up with the boat from (2).
(4) Under your own steam - by scooter etc.
With (1) and (2) you are limited to a very rushed half hour visit as well as being surrounded by dozens of other tourists. Occasionally there are also other boat-loads disgorging at the small jetty. With (2) and (3), the boat follows the monastry visit with a "barbecue" lunch on a small nearby island. The truck ride (3) is in the back of an open pick-up truck, with wooden seats. The ride can be hair-raising, especially on the hairpin bends. It is debateable whether it is safer than (4). By scooter/motorbike is is quite an arduous journey (it should probably be described as quite dangerous) - the tarmac road surface only gets you half way - to the Nanou turn-off. Ruts and loose rocks make for a very unsteady ride. The numerous hairpin bends are quite taxing for the novice rider. Having said that, the views that you can stop to admire are stunning - especially your first sight of the monastry from high on the hills overlooking it.

**** T H E . R E T U R N . J O U R N E Y ****

We caught the 15:40 sailing of the large "Symi-2" catamaran back to Rhodes. It was overrun with large - *LARGE* - German tourists. We again stayed at "Stavros" bar in the Old Town.


On board the "Rodos"; German "Gin Palace" in Kos; Kaymnos; sunset

 The next day (June 5th) at 14:00 we caught the Dane Lines "Rodos" ferry to Piraeus. It arrived at 08:30. (The ferry operators seem to be sticking to their time-tables like glue!) On Rhodes, the berth used by Dane Lines is next to the Port Police and OTE offices.


On board the "Rodos"

"Rodos" called at Kos (18:00), Kalymnos (20:00), Leros (21:00) and Patmos (22:30). The "Rodos" is a little more 'plush' than the "Marina", but there's not much in it. If anything, it is more comfortable on deck on the "Marina". The fare was Drs.17,500 each for the two of us - we had a four-berth inside cabin to ourselves.



 (Dane Lines phone numbers - Piraeus (01)4293240 (fax:4293493), Rhodes (0241) 77070 (fax:77084), Kos (0242)27311 (fax:26146), Leros (0247)22500 (fax:23500), Kalymnos (0243)28651, Patmos (0247)31314 (fax:31685). You can also get to Cyprus with them, from Rhodes. The number there is (003575)5367070 (fax: (003575)367919)


The National Archaeological Museum, Athens

 Athens airport - the only tips -
(1) take your own refreshments - drinks at the bar are expensive -
(2) cigarettes and perfume are cheaper than in Rhodes and on Monarch Airlines.
There are now signs everywhere in the departure areas forbidding laying on the floor (!) (despite inadequate seating) and smoking. The no-smoking signs were being totally ignored.

Site last updated on January 27th 2000.
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