Sunday, 31 October 2010

Greece 2010, 200 Steps in Symi

The Dodekanisos Seaways ferry to Symi left Rhodes at half past eight so there wasn’t time for breakfast at the Caravel before we caught a taxi from the hotel to take us to the harbour. As usual the fare was more than the advertised fixed rate but being ripped-off by Greek taxi drivers is just inevitable and the reason why, whenever possible, I avoid using them. The Dodekanisos Express was the type of ferry that we don’t really like, a high speed with matching prices but we were early enough to bag a seat on the open top deck rather than sit inside and as the warmth of the sun began to strengthen we waited for cast off and the forty kilometre, fifty minute crossing which took us close to the coast of nearby Turkey and docked right on schedule.

The approach to the harbour town of Symi was probably the most spectacular of all the islands that we have visited flanked on both sides by colourful neoclassical houses in a riot of complimentary pastel shades, contrasting wooden shutters, decorative iron balconies and red tiled roofs. It reminded us of Santorini but the difference here was that the houses spilled right down to the water’s edge rather than sit on the top of black volcanic cliffs and the ferry docked right in the middle of the attractive town rather than ten kilometres away on a chunk of ugly concrete.

When arriving by ferry we have become accustomed to being met by someone from the apartments to take us to our accommodation and we looked for someone with a sign announcing the Pantheon Mansion but as the crowd drifted away and dispersed into the surrounding streets it was clear that there was no one there and we would have to find the place for ourselves. Another apartment owner that we spoke to thought this was bad form and so did we but things were about to get even worse.

We walked around the harbour with the expensive yachts and the local fishing boats competing for space on one side and on the other rows of bars and shops selling all varieties of sponges, which is just about the only thing the little island is famous for. Not being absolutely sure of the location of the Pantheon we stopped in a bar and telephoned the number on the booking confirmation but no one answered.

After a couple of further unsuccessful attempts we abandoned this approach and asked for walking directions. The people that we asked all indicated that it was up a steep road called the Kali Strata with a lot of steps to negotiate and as they gave instructions they looked sympathetically at our bags as if to say ‘oh dear, rather you than me…’ but with no real alternative we carried on and predictably I took the wrong turning and we had climbed about fifty precarious steps before it was obvious it was the wrong way and we had to turn back and start again.

At the second attempt we found the correct street and then we started to climb; and we climbed and we climbed and we climbed until Kim could physically climb no more and gave up before she passed out. I carried on and after nearly two hundred steps with great relief found the Pantheon Mansion and partially collapsed! After getting my breath back I returned to give Kim the good news and help her to the apartments.

It wasn’t all good news however because the place was deserted, there was no one to meet us, no notes pinned to the door or instructions giving any sort of advice at all on what to do and the phone was still not being answered. It was eleven o’clock and extremely hot and all we could do was sit on the sun terrace, sweat and wait. Luckily I had a couple of tins of Mythos in the bag so I had to drink them quickly before they heated up in the sun and after an hour so and after I had almost recovered from the ordeal of the climb I went all the way back down the steps to get some more and to buy some food for lunch.

Getting back up the steps returned me to my previous state of sweat streaked exhaustion and what I really needed was a cool blast of air conditioning but still the phone remained unanswered and still no one came. A French guest came and went and told us that usually someone came by at about two o’clock so this meant that we would have an hour or so to wait so we made some lunch and drank some more Mythos and competed for the shade of the wooden pergola.

Two o’clock came and went and so did two-thirty and Kim was beginning to lose her patience and then was suddenly successful in getting an answer on the mobile phone. There were apologies of course and a promise that someone would be there soon so it seemed the situation was improving. Sadly it wasn’t because the only person that turned up was a six year old boy with a key to a room that he was reluctant to hand over because as it turned out the air conditioning was broken. A few minutes later a workman, who might have been his father, arrived and allocated us an alternative but greatly inferior room and we had to phone Andreas, the owner, again. Andreas wasn’t anywhere near of course, he was somewhere on the Greek mainland so wasn’t a lot of help but eventually a woman arrived who spoke a little English and after a conversation with the owner she moved us to our original room (which was very good it has to be said) with a promise of repairs to the air conditioning tomorrow. This was a bit of a nuisance but we accepted and moved in.

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