After we had settled in, cooled off and calmed down we decided to do a little exploring and as we had already seen the harbour, today we walked further up the Kali Strata towards the upper town of Ano Symi passing on the way dozens of abandoned once grand mansions that were built over a hundred years ago when Symi’s sponge fishing and ship building industries were both thriving but which fell into decline in the first half of the twentieth century when both suffered serious economic failure.
Other houses were damaged during the Second-World-War during the German occupation and empty shells stand adjacent to some, like the Pantheon, that have been restored. Rules on restoration are very strict and this together with difficulties of access for modern vehicles (the only viable means of transporting building materials is by expensive donkey train) means that the cost of a restoration is often prohibitive and for this reason the whole process of regeneration is likely to take some considerable time.
The pace of life in the narrow shady streets of Ano Symi was much more relaxed than the busy harbour and we enjoyed exploring the crooked cobbled streets, admiring the old houses as we went and visiting the inevitable white churches built on the tops of the highest hills. Kim continued to complain about the steep steps but eventually felt guilty about that when we came across a disabled man with crutches valiantly making his way to the top and, with great difficulty, stopping every now and again to take photographs, which sort of put the whole thing into a very different perspective.
There were some spectacular views from the top over to the other side of the harbour where tiers of multi coloured houses rise like a cliff face above the narrow harbour piled randomly one above the other with shutters folded back like the wings of a thousand butterflies basking in the sun and after a drink in a wine bar we started the descent back to the Pantheon. It was easier going down and we could fully appreciate the spectacle of the colourful harbour with its rows of houses, restaurants and shops and the increasing number of holiday sailing boats that were arriving for an overnight stop in the town.
After a couple of hours rest we changed and walked back down to the harbour for evening meal passing and admiring the stamina and perseverance of the disabled man on his way down as we went. The harbour was much busier tonight and on the boats people were partying and having a good time over dinner before hitting the bars later. We had spotted a nice looking taverna earlier with simple blue check tablecloths and rustic furniture and although it was almost full the busy waiter obligingly found us a vacant table.
There followed an excellent meal of traditional Greek plates and interesting conversation, first with an elderly couple from Hunstanton who visit Symi every year and then a couple of walkers who gave us some tips on trails and sights. We shared our whinging story about the accommodation and lamented the lack of air conditioning in the room. They were sympathetic but he explained that he found it easier to sleep without this modern comfort and tried to reassure us that if we kept the windows open then we were sure to be nice and comfortable regardless.
Three hours later and stewing in our own sweat in temperatures of over 30º centigrade in an inappropriately pine paneled bedroom I was fairly certain that Kim did not entirely agree! And to make matters worse, sleeping with the windows open simply invited the mosquitoes to drop by and we discovered that the problem with lying on top of the sheets with no clothes on meant that we were laid out like an all-you-can-eat buffet table for creepy-crawlies.
I don’t like all-you-can-eat buffets much myself because I invariably overload the plate and eat too much and the mosquitoes suffered from the same lack of self restraint because in the morning Kim was suffering from fifteen irritating bites. I had only a couple and considering how many Mythos I had drunk the previous day took pleasure from imagining that the little blighter that got me would most likely be suffering from a monster hang-over! I had a vision of him in my head sitting there with is pals, rubbing his head and saying “never again. never again…!”