We rented a car and toured the island. Our favorite was the highest village, Zia. Set on a mountain side, it provides lovely views and has some very quaint, artistic cafes to enjoy the serenity. Although other parts are quite touristic, you can find a place to escape that. There is also a trail to hike to the top of the mountain.
We saw a HR 46, “Beaucastel” with a Swedish flag in the old harbor so we walked over to investigate. Nobody was on board but Roland recognized the name of the boat. After some texting we agreed to meet for dinner the following night and had a nice time with Leif and Anna Karin.
A nice sail took us next to Symi, to the southwest corner, Panormitis. Here we shared a bay with a large Monastery. The bell tower rang at the top of the hour and one chime the bottom of the hour through the day, beginning at 0600 until 2100.
The next anchorage was on the east side of the island, Pethi. This was our favorite as there is a very small village, one restaurant at the seaside. A very personable place. That evening we heard a large splash and a thump against the boat. We scurried on deck but as it was dark could not see anything but heard the rhythmic blowing and surfacing of what we think was a small whale. It did not sound like the quick movements of a dolphin. No harm done just a startle to probably the whale as well.
A short distance around a point took us to the main village of Symi. Here you do not find the typical Greek white houses. All the houses are painted in more sand and muted colors. The harbor, although quite small, is very active with daily ferry arrivals, a cruise ship and several tourist boats. It is certainly not a quiet, peaceful place but provides lots of entertainment.
We walked to the other side of the harbor as the Greek Coast Guard boat was arriving. They had a large turtle on board. They understood when they saw him that something was wrong as he could not dive so they got him on board, which was probably not a easy task. They suspected he had swallowed some plastic floating in the water so put him on the next ferry to Rhodes where there is a Aquarium so he could visit the “turtle doctor”.
On a more somber note, we also saw 50 Syrian refugees that had arrived during the night. They were lying on the cobblestones under a truck trailer for shade. Some were around the the courtyard playing with children. They were middle aged, dressed quite well and were obviously looking for a better life. They pay quite a lot of money to hire a Turk to smuggle them to the EU, the Greek islands being so close. Flashbacks of WWII movies present themselves as you see this.
We did find a cheaply made inflatable used for trafficking. Cheap plywood was used and you could see from the marks on the transom that the outboard had only been installed once. If coastguard spot them before stepping on Greece soil, the idea is to cut a hole in the tubes in order to be rescued and not towed back to Turkey. Unfortunatly not everyone can swim and have to pay with their life.
This was a turkish gulet without a engine, that was used to transport refugees to Symi. The refugees are a big burden for the coastguard. Roland asked Port Police what they do with the refugees? He was told that they let them loose after two days with a letter from the prosecuter that they are illegaly in Greece and have 6 month to leave the country. The refugees that can afford it then continue their journey to the northern countries in the EU in there search for a better life.
The village of Symi has steep hills on all sides. A restaurant we decided upon for my birthday was of course at the top. So after a climb and hundreds of steps we arrived to the restaurant only to find it closed. (too early in the season). Well at least we worked up a appetite for dinner back down in the harbor. The next morning with construction going on around our boat, we decided it was time to leave for our next destination, Rhodes.