My SymiWillChristmas on Symi 2007 26/12/2007, 01:26

Christmas Day was a hot day 25 December 2007

Take a look at the picture on the right…What is wrong with it?

I’ll help you by telling you that this is Nos Beach…and that this photo was taken today. Got it yet? No? Ok…well Nos is on Symi and Symi is in Greece…and it’s December…Ah, I see comprehension is finally dawning!

Yes, Christmas Day was a hot day on Symi. I arrived at Nos at midday to find nine other people there, walking around in swimming cozzies, laying in the sun, even enjoying the waters. Last Christmas Day (and the one before that) there was a bitter wind blowing and the water felt like ice.
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Today, I discretely wriggled around beneath a beach towel and changed into a pair of Christos’s swimming trunks as I had forgotten my own (Christos’s were impossibly tight…of course) and then walked all manly-like into the sea to find it was as warm as I’d expect it to be in May…maybe even June. I took the plunge without that nasty breath-stealing shock, swam about for a few minutes, and trod water as I chatted to a lady on the beach. No teeth-chattering, no urgent need to get out and wrap myself in a towel…bizarre!

After I got out, I sat dripping on my towel enjoying the sun, and while it wasn’t going to burn, it was certainly able to add a nice red tinge to my pale pastiness. It’s amazing. If this is what global warming does, I’m going to burn more stuff.

I didn’t start my day by swimming though...oh no. I was woken at around 8 a.m. by the sound of the church service down at Ai Yiannis being broadcast to the island on the tannoy system. I roused my leaden body and decided to go for a Christmas Day walk.

I left the house to do a circuit of all the churches in Yialos and Chorio, to see which were open and to light candles in memory of the lady that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog had died.
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I sneaked into the back of Ai Yiannis during the service, left my coin and a burning candle, and quietly snuck out again. Not being a religious man, I always feel an intruder at church services, despite quite enjoying the spectacle.

I walked up the Kali Strata, with the rising sun and warming air making me sweatily aware that my heavy coat was not really necessary. As I did the tour of the churches (and found two thirds of them closed) I met Barbie enjoying the sun. Of course, she became my companion for the rest of the day.

I made sure I said “Kala Hristougena” to everyone I met and “episis” (“to you in return”) was the usual reply.

One old lady said “perimene!” and as I obeyed and waited she reached into the bags she was carrying and handed me first a kourabie and then a melomakarono…the little cakes that are served this time of year. With an “euharisto poli”, I went on my way, Barbie begrudging every sweet and yummy mouthful of my Christmas present.
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I had a chat with Clare, while her cats Tallulah and Rufus basked in the sun, and then visited my final three churches (all closed) before coming back down to Yialos at midday. I had managed to light five candles in five different churches (out of 14 visited) which I thought was quite good, all things considered.

I spent the next hour and a half at Nos. Dimitris was briefly there supervising the work on the terracing at the beach (see the video below) and shortly after he left, I dressed and went off to find Lucy and Gap, my companions for the obligatory Christmas feast.

We sat out in the warm sunshine at Aris’s and ordered up a delicious lunch, a nice traditional Greek meal…lamb, soutzoukakia, melitzanosalata, salad, bread, shrimps, gavros, patates, feta etc. which was all very nice (except for the feta which is NEVER nice). Lucy ate most of it ‘cos she’s a piggy.

After a drink at Kantirimi, I came back up to the house; the sun had set behind the hills and the temperature had dropped considerably.

A sweet fat cat squeaked with pleasure to see me when I came in, and I have fed her and she is sitting with me now. Barbie, after eating a Christmas can of dog food has trotted off back down to Yialos.

I think I shall go down to Kantirimi again later…Lucy is fine company.
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I wish I were that young again 24 December 2007

Ah, today I became an old man…well, it was my birthday and I became another year older, and as I’m already a decrepit old git.......

One of the worst aspects of getting older is that members of your family, people you have known all your life, and even people of a not too dissimilar age to yourself, seem to pass away more frequently.

This day started with bad news, somebody that Christos and I knew and cared about had died in the night. She had lived a long life, full of good karma, devoted entirely to the care of other people. Wherever she is now, I wish her peace and rest.
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So many young people live their lives as though they are so invulnerable; my own dear Claudia not the least. For them, it’s impossible to believe that the decades will pass and their own lives will end even though this is the only thing of which there is no doubt at all…and yet, I’d want it no other way.

On my birthday, I am more aware than ever that life is something I’ll only live once, and for such a short time. Kids Claudia’s age are so different from those when I was just 12 years old…they’re so much better…and may it ever be so.

After a beautiful moonlit night with more clouds than usual, the day dawned with typical weather for the past week…clear bright skies, no breeze, and a warm sun that it was a pleasure to sit out in.

Symi was bustling (relatively speaking) with folk out doing last-minute Christmas shopping.

Packs of children were roaming the streets and alleys knocking on doors, armed with triangles which they banged furiously as they sang the kalanda in return for a few cents.
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The sun set not long after 5pm and the children went home. For them, “Father Christmas”, old “Saint Basil”, will visit on New Year’s Eve, unlike for my dear Claudia who will sleep tonight with the discovery of presents in the morning. I know what Father Christmas will bring her and she’ll love it.

Claudia, though, is one of the lucky ones. She’ll be in Symi in a few days’ time and get the festive fun all over again. Ahh…I wish I were that young again!

Wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever you’ve done (even whether I like you or not!), I wish you ALL a Merry Christmas! Kala Hristougena!

Dancing Zeibekiko 23 December 2007
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Ah, those live music nights at Kantirimi…they can make you miss a night’s sleep and drink too much. It’s all their fault…I was entirely innocent.

I sat there listening to the music and these drinks kept appearing next to me and as soon as they were gone, more replaced them. It’s also rather strange how they tend to steal your mornings as well…I woke up at 2:30 this afternoon.

Agapitos provides the premises, Kostas serves the drinks, “To Synergio” put on the entertainment, Lucy and Christos provide the company and the result is a very pleasent evening…night…morning…whatever.

To Synergio played for something like 5 hours during which Nontas sang as well as ever and Lefteris and the “other one” played, plucked, twanged and squeezed their instruments very well indeed.

The bar was packed, and the floor was awash with Symiots dancing Zeibekiko (have a peek at the videos).

Just when we thought the evening was coming to an end, and after almost everyone had gone…in came a group of about 20 new people. Agapitos put on the music and…it started all over again. It was great!
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The new influx included a posse of off-duty policemen, the gorgeous Naya, and several other people whose faces I knew, but whose names I didn’t. I know a few of them now, though. The members of To Synergio joined in the dancing, and everyone was performing Zeibekika…on the floor surrounded by kneeling, clapping people, on the tables surrounded by standing, clapping people, or in the case of Nontas, with his dog, Mahos…who was standing but not clapping.

While Christos scuttled around with his camera, Lucy clapped and cheered, and I sat there watching, and made origami horses and bats…they were in demand, you see. Honest.

A glance at my watch showed that 6am had come and gone and I felt like an old party-pooping git when I excused myself to seek the comfort of my bed (which was very warm and heavenly…complete with obligatory fat cat). Barbie followed me up, of course, bless the old mutt. She lay outside my door and was still there at 3pm when I looked out.

Later, as the sun set on a missed day, Lucy and I sat and played Tavli (all three varieties) at Kantirimi. Barbie mooched for crisps. Christos went up to the house and she followed, while I sneaked to “To Emporio” for a can of dog food. When I got to the house, Barbie had gone. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that dog.

I’m now listening to Dimitra Galani as I type, and as a nice chicken casserole is being put onto plates in the kitchen. It smells yum. By the way, my briam yesterday was tasty…although it did get a bit burned…Christos’s fault, of course.
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A hug and snog session 22 December 2007
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Hey! Guess what? Yes! It’s been another gorgeous day here in Symiland. Mr. Sun just doesn’t seem to know when to quit. I have heard that back home in UKland it is a) cold, b) wet, c) overcast, or d) any combination of a,b and c. I would like to take this opportunity in my blog to scoff at everyone there. Scoff, scoff!! It’s cruel, I know, but I have been told I’m a thoroughly nasty person so I’d better live up to the reputation.

Unlike yesterday, I slept in a bed last night. It was very cosy under my duvet. During the night, a cat lay across my legs, before moving up and drapsing herself over my chest (she weighs a ton…no really…1000 kilos, I kid you not!), and then finally she flopped next to me with her tail flipping against my nose. She’s a sweety, so I don’t mind. We’re looking after her for Xmas. Christos and I are honoured. I may decide to not give her back when her owners return.

Venturing out into the scorching heat of the day with a thick layer of sunscreen spread over our exposed skin (that was a lie) we were met by Barbie who had been camping outside our door all night. She joined me in a hearty breakfast of cheesy Wotsits and biscuits, and then dumped copiously by the Roloi. Bless her. I can report that she has worms…lots of them…so I shall de-worm her, poor dear. I am sure you’re glad I told you that.

We met Andreas, enjoying a post-lunch break with a frappe, texting outside Aris's. I suspect that he was telling someone about how wonderful is….though I could be mistaken…unlikely as that may sound…which I’m sure it does…or not…whatever.

During our walk, we met Lakis, Coco and Mickey, all enjoying the pleasant weather. Christos, under my strict direction of course, took some photos (good, aren’t they) and we made our way around to Pitini to greet the Aegli as she brought in her day's supply of passengers.
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One of these was none other than our dear Lucy, who emerged into the intense glaring sunlight & searing temperatures (more lies) to a hug and snog session. Bless her.

It is Live Music Night at Kantirmi this evening and “To Synergio” will be entertaining us once again. Nontas sings a good song, and Lefteris knows a thing or three about the bouzouki. I am looking forward to it. Christos and Lucy know far more of the words to the songs than I do, but I shall try my best.

I shall probably drink too much for my health and feel bad in the morning, but I aim to have a great time.

Claudia has just called to inform me that she has had a French manicure. I didn’t know what one of these was; I do now. She also wanted to weedle some cash out of me to pay for a new dress. What can I say…of course I agreed. I’m looking forward to her joining me after Christmas so we can spend New Year together. She wants to win the coin in the Vassilopita.

I have made two huge dishes of Briam…one with chopped-up pork sausages mixed in, the other with chopped-up turkey sausages. A wonderful smell is drifting in from the kitchen.

I’ll let you all know how yummy it was tomorrow.
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I can smell summer coming 21 December 2007

Going to Kantirimi for “just one drink” at midnight can be an unpredictable business…the number of drinks you’ll actually consume being the least predictable thing of all. Our excuse was that we had an Xmas prezzy to give to the Bar (Agapitos had to do the unwrapping…he has hands, after all.) An Agios Vassilis nutcracker now adorns the bar and can be used to help you open those few pesky pistachios where the shell hasn’t cracked during roasting.

About 6 drinks later we got home. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up in the early hours of the morning (still dressed), mouth feeling like a dog had dumped in it, a bad case of tinnitus, and a fat cat sat on my head…yes, on my head. Desperate to relieve myself of a large part of the previous night’s drinks, I lay there wondering what to do…disturb the puss or burst. The decision was made for me, however, when I fell asleep again.
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A few hours later, puss was gone, and my eyes slowly opened. Never have I wanted my toothbrush or a pee more. A short while later, much relieved, I was standing on my balcony in the warm late morning sun downing a can of Red Bull. Very nice.

Christos surfaced looking terrible and was lost to the bathroom for 30 minutes before emerging clean and looking disgustingly healthy. It’s not fair.

We went out. A dog was waiting for us. We are happy to report that dear Barbie has put on a bit of weight these past two weeks (she’s fed daily near Nikos’s Wine shop in Yialos) though she still has shaking fits which is a worry. Barbie was, of course, our companion for the rest of the day.

We wandered slowly around to Nos beach, to check out the place before our Xmas morning swim. I am still trying to persuade Christos that this is a good idea, but for some reason he doesn’t believe me. Nos is getting a facelift at the moment, by the way. Dimitris is there most days building walls and terracing the place…I shall make sure that I show you a video of the work in progress soon.

The beautiful clear Symi air had cleared our heads of the previous night’s excesses and so where better to go than back to Kantirimi to chemically abuse ourselves all over again. When we got there, however, a nice frappe seemed a better idea. I can report that I beat Christos at Tavli (the Feuga variety). He says it’s because he didn’t throw any 5s or 6s for about 10 goes, but you shouldn’t believe him.
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The light here in Symi this Xmas has a beautiful, translucent quality to it. Everything is crystal clear, colours are sharp, but it can feel almost as though you are looking at things out of the corner of your eye, even when you are looking at them directly.

When the sun sank behind the hills it cast a shadow on Yialos though the whole of Vigla became white. The shadow rose quickly up the mountain and soon Symi was dark again.

Tomorrow, the days start getting longer again…I can smell summer coming!

Symi via Munich

This Xmas will be my third in a row on Symi. I shall be updating this blog (I like the word ‘blog’ as it’s no-nonsense and unpretentious, unlike the ridiculous ‘bliary’ for instance) on a (hopefully) daily basis over the Festive period. The pictures are all “clickable” so you can see a bigger version.

I am sitting in my house in Symi, with a big soft and chirrupy puss on my lap, and a can of Kopparberg (my second of the evening..tut tut!) at my elbow. Out of the window I can see Symi lit up for Xmas, and very pretty it is too.

After leaving the UK last weekend, Christos and I decided that a stop-off at the Xmas Markets in Germany was in order, an appetiser to the “main event” as it were. In my opinion, nobody “does” Xmas better than Germany; a fine nation with beautiful cities, friendly people, and delicious glühwein!
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I have a collection of over a hundred glühwein mugs back in the UK, gathered from a decade of Christkindlmarkt visits; I also have a dozen here in Symi. The first sip of the first glühwein of the Xmas season is still one of those delightfully surprising annual experiences in a similar way to the first strawberry of the summer; the surprise being twofold…firstly it’s “wow! this is SO delicious” and secondly “HOW could I have forgotten that it was this delicious?!” For those of you who don’t know what glühwein is, it's what's dully called mulled wine back in the UK.

After glühwein comes eierpunsch, a delightfully sweet and warming mixture of sweet white wine, egg yolks & vanilla,…it tastes like hot, sweet, alcoholic custard…mmmmm!!!

After the gluhwein and the eierpunsch come sausages! They come in all shapes and sizes at the Xmas Markets in Germany.

This year, we returned to Munich and while the sausages weren’t quite of the standard we found in Frankfurt last year (only ‘cos they weren’t cooked on big grills swinging over large fires like they were in Frankfurt!) they were still very nice indeed. When at Xmas markets, one should always eat the most ridiculously long sausages that one can find. Christos was too embarrassed, but I always like a big sausage. Ahem.

After the sausage comes more glühwein…maybe some macadamia nuts…and then the joy of looking at the hundreds of stalls selling all manner of Xmas goodies.

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Of course, being in a big, bustling city like Munich is also a perfect excuse to do lots of shopping. Munich has a surplus of department stores, each of which can suck you in and keep you occupied for hours on end. As usual, neither Christos nor I had finished our prezzy-buying but visits to the numerous Karstadt, Galleria Kaufhof, Oberpollinger etc. stores solved this problem for us.

Dinner EVERY night for me when at the Xmas markets is a rare steak in pepper sauce. I am set in my ways. Fortunately, there are lots of eateries in Munich serving slabs of delicious, bleeding cow for me to gobble down. Christos usually ate salad. He has a lot to learn.

I’m sure you’ll agree that four days in Munich in December can be quite agreeable. We stayed in a nice hotel a short walk from the action (it even had free internet so I could do some cretin-baiting!) and slept until late every day. You can probably guess correctly what breakfast usually was…and what it was washed down with!

We were soon back on the train to the airport, feeling fat and content, knowing that we would be back on Symi by the end of the day.

A two-hour flight to Athens, a short stop, a 40-minute flight to Rhodes, a taxi-ride, a couple of hours in Rhodes (more shopping!) and we were onboard the Proteas where all around us there were agreeable (and some disagreeable) faces. One lady remarked that the whole of Symi seemed to be onboard.

Soon we passed by Agia Marina, turned the corner and we went up on the top deck to enjoy the view of Yialos lit up for Xmas.

Hopefully, it’s going to be another good Xmas.
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Here are some extra (clickable) photographs and videos of Munich...enjoy!

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(1) Comments

  1. Simon said on 20/12/2008, 23:27

    Been to Dusseldorf and colne, but not at Xmas. Looks fab,..the german squezzing ketchup on your sausage made me laugh!..ahem!

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