nihat akkaraca - english

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

By The Courtesy of Symi Visitor

Manolis and the Sentimental Dolphin

With his gristling moustache, his rolling sailor’s gait and his ever-present cigarette, Manolis Tambacakis is one of Symi’s more colorfull figures...... and for four summers he had one of the Island’s least enviable jobs-manning the chain barrier by the Yıalos Bus Stop everyday to make sure that only authorised vehicles entered the harbour are between 1100 and 1500 and 2100.

Creatan-born, but christened on Symi, Manolis like many of his countrymen, has spent his life at sea. First as a sponge fisherman for twenty years in the water around Crete, Africa and the Greek Islands, then for eighteen years as a senior officer in the merchant navy.
Like all sailors, he has some good stories to tell, but one of the most incredible- but absolutely true- is how he saved the life of a dolphin, and in turn had his own life saved by the same creature.

Manolis relates: ‘İn 1953 the Symi Sponge boats didn’t go out, because the banks had refused them loans, so like many other Islanders I went to find work on Kalymnos and set sail as a diver with the ‘ Kalymian’ for Alexandria.

‘it was on August 15- the day of the Virgin Mary- when I went ashore with my of my friends to collect cockles. About one hundred metres away we saw something black moving on the beach. When we got close we saw that it was a small dolphin, about one and a half meters long, trashing about on the sand with a wound on its tail. I immediately asked my friend to return in the boat to the caique and to bring me a piece of sheet, some turbentine and some tabacco.

‘ He rowed as fast as he could and brought me what I asked for, so I carefully cleaned the wound (Which had presumably been caused byn the propeller of a caique) with turbentine; then I covered it with tabacco and finally dressed it with the sheet. Then we gently picked the creature up and put it back into the sea to give it its freedom.

‘from the moment on the dolphine never left the side of the caique. İt followed us everywhere we went and we fed it fish and watched it as it played its endless games besides us as we dived.

‘ A month passed and I was collecting sponges at a depth of fifteen fathoms as the day come to end and the sun had set. I couldn’t see very well, and it was time for me to give the signal for going up when a dark bulky shape came towards me and tried to hit me with its tail. I tried to move out of the way but thr huge fish kept coming back trying to knock me over.

‘in my efforts to ascape my air tube got tangled, limiting my movements, so I thought that I would lighten my weight and free myself more easilu by untying the net of sponges. The net was threaded onto a rope which passed over your shoulder, around the nape of your neck. One end of the rope ties the net, the other is tied to the belt and holds the diving jacket in place so that it doesn’t float upwards. But it also the rope that goes up to the caique.

‘İn my confusion, I untied the wrong end of the rope with the result that the jacket floated upwards and covered my head, cutting off my contact with the caique. I had no vision and couldn’t do anything; then my air got cut off because the connecting key to the tube broke.

‘ I was left in a void. I was with God. I lost consciousness, and the rest of the story was told to me by my companians on the caique. ‘they stayed searching for me in the dark, knowing that I had no air and that my contact with the caique was lost. But they found nothing, and with heavy h hearts they left to meet up with the large container boat, leaving a bouy to mark the spot where they had lost me so that they could resume the search at first light.

‘ the weather was and the sea was calm so at two O’clock in the moırning everyone was asleep on the deck. Suddenly, one of my shipmates felt splashes of water and heard a noise outside the boat. Bending to look over the side he saw something unbelieveable.

‘ the dolphin was holding me, afloat, against the side of the caique so that the tide wouldn’t carry me away anmd was splashing water onto the deck trying to attract someone’s attention.

‘The crewmen dived inbto the sea to get me, believing that I was dead. But when they lifted me aboard they were amazed to find that I showed signs of life. So after some recussitation, I came around.

‘I owe my life to that creature, who it seemed, had wanted to repay me for the help that I had given it when it was hurt. It stayed with us until October 15, when our season ended, and followed us as far as Crete. There I lost Sight of it and couldn’t keep myself from shedding a tear for my savior.... The reason why I am still alive.’ We are grateful to be able to produce this story which first appeared in the annual Greek-Language magazine ‘Aigli’ produced..

By Symi writer Sarantis kritikos.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

By the Courtesy of The Symi Visitor

by Jimmy Gibbons
Symi is a kingdom of nonclemature in which ‘titles’ are passed down from father to son across the generations... To start at random there is Bubbles and Rainbow and Cork and Speed...
‘İt is a firm believe that there is nowhere else in the world where the sobriquet flourishs as strongly as it does in Symi.’ says German philologist Gunter Storch who, with his Danish wife Inge, an anthrapologist and prize-winning artist, has spent the last five months researching the originsof local names which have a lineage often streching back over centuries.
‘The tradition is that the nickname passes to a man’s firstborne male child. If there is no son, then the name dies with him.’ says Gunther.’What is delightfully refreshing about these names is the way that they fanfare identity and define and flesh out an individual in the fulles way. İn the rest of the world a person is so often reduced to a plastic ID tag, or worse, the truncation of an E-mail listing.’
So far he was unearthed and documanted nearly 250 nicknames including....

‘Bubbles’ for example, was originally bestowed on a man who had a specialist role in sponge diving. He watched the surface of the water under which a diver was working, and from the size and volatility of the air bubbles, could tell whether or not the diver was in trouble.
Today, well over a century later , ‘Bubbles’ is the nickname of a local Blacksmiths.
The Genesis of ‘Rainbow’ goes back at least three centuries. The original Rainbow painted the ceilings of churches in celestial colours. Current ‘Rainbow ‘ is a stockbroker in Athens who visits Symi at least three times a year. He is proud to be addressed by his forbear’s nickname, which will one day be inherited by his son, a pilot wit Olimpic Airways.
‘Cork is of more recent vintage-no more than a century old-and was given to the man who carved the stoppers for ships’ casks. ‘Cork’ bobs on today in the person of Manolis, a fisherman who lives in Chorio.
‘Speed’ was the name given to a man who, two hundred years ago, was astonishingly fast at everything from sailing a boat to building a house. The name now belongs to a taxi driver who is more noted for his sedate pace and tendency to stop his cab in the middle of the road to have a leisurely conversation with his friends.

Smoke, Punch, Stitch, Slice’

‘Smoke was a sailor who in the early 19th century returned from a voyage to Cuba with a ton of tabacco leaves, and set up a cottage industry manufacturing cigars. İt didn’t last long, but the name has endured and today’s ‘Smoke’ runs a souvenir shop.’Punch’ was a legendary Symi Character- a seaman famed for his prowes as a bare knuckle boxer who fight at professional venues in America. The story is that he had five thousand fights and never lost one, retiring in his 70’s as a wealthy man... and maybe he did, because today’s Punch is a Symiot who runs a chain of Jewellery store in Florida.
‘Stitch’ goes back two centuries to a craftsman who sewed ships’ pennants. ‘Stitch’ today? Approprıately enough he is a tailor called Demetrius.
‘Slice’ was the sort of Sweeny Todd of Symi-a barber, reputedly so skillful that he could shave a man, using a cutthroat razor, with just one stroke. He died 1910 at the age of 94 and is remembered today in the person of a baker.
‘Parrot, Birdman, Wink’
‘Parrot’ was a ship’s captain who regularly brought back consigments of these birds from the Amazon for sale on Symi. Today’s ‘parrot’ peals away as a bell- ringer.
‘Birdman’? He was a Symiot sailor who witnessed the wright Brothers’ first flight in Dayton, Ohio. Returning to Symi he made his own flying machine, launched it from the Vigla..... and walked away from the wreck un harmed. The contemporary’Birdman’ works in the Pedi Boatyard.
‘Wink’ was a one-eyed ship’s captain with an eye for the ladies. He lost one eye in Athens when onather man took exception to the wink that he gave to his wife. He kept on winking though until he died at 87, some say while making advances to his nurse.
Gunther’s resaerch, which he says is ‘ more fascinating that any other I have done’ is to be published in an international acedemic journal, and later expanded into a book... Which means that every Tom, Dick and Harry will be able to enjoy Symi’s historical status as the Kingdom of the nickname...
The Symi Visitor is a monthly newspaper published in Symi, Greek İsland.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jeff Evans Writes about Can Yucel


Can Yüçel was a poet; a very good poet, but more than that, a controversial one. Among university graduates and the sophisticated stratas of Turkish society he was either revered as a humane genius, or else reviled as a red dedicated to the violent overthrow of the bourgeois state. The same went for his poems, they were either loved or despised.
Twenty years ago he bought a house in the oldest part of the village. He spent a good part of the year here, writing in the peace and serenity of the surrounding mountains. The locals, in general not highly educated or worldly, had never heard of him and, were it not for his unusual appearance, would have shown little interest in him. Physically he was the very personification of William Blake’s Methuselah, ageless with his long flowing tresses of white, matted hair and beard, the fierce eyes and hooked nose of a sea eagle. He was not a big man, but something in his reality made him appear so. The same went for his personality. As poets often are, he was a heavy drinker and smoker, in his cups given to long flights of words piling crescendo on climax and climax on crescendo. Most of his drinking he did at home, favouring the very cheapest of red wines named Evim that he bought by the case from a wholesaler. But in the evenings he liked to go out, passionately declaiming his views, political, social and artistic, adding to alcohol the analytical insights of a creative eye. Altogether he was very strong meat, too strong by far for many.
His wife, too, was larger than life. A big woman but not fat, monumental in the Henry Moore manner might better describe her, her large unmade up face topped by what looked like the wreckage of yesterday’s elaborate coiffure, always teetering on the edge of imminent collapse into a tangle of grey. Each of them dressed colourfully but without pretension, together making a conspicuous pair as they wandered about the village or drank wine in a café-bar.
One evening he was sitting drinking and carrying on in his own uninhibited way. It reached a point in his discourse when he was describing in phantasmagorial terms the beauties of last night’s full moon, likening it to a Dutch Gouda cheese rolling across the sky. A meagre-minded keeper of a small grocery store listened to him in stupefied amazement. The Yüçels rarely patronized his shop and then only to buy the occasional bottle of cheap wine, and – because of this - he soon could take no more. “Don’t be so daft, the moon ain’t made of nothing like cheese, we all knows that!” he protested in an obstinate voice full of pique.
The poet fixed his fierce features on the daring shopkeeper. “I beg your pardon, Sir,” his voice boomed out in mock politeness. “I did not quite hear what you said.”
“I said it taint.”
“What’s not taint?”
“The moon.”
“The moon’s taint what?”
“Made of cheese, Dutch or any other kind for that matter.”
“Oh, I see, and what then my good friend, may I ask is it made of?”
“Don’t know, but not cheese,” said the shopkeeper, already wishing that he had not become involved.
“No, my friend, probably not cheese. To be frank nor do I know what it’s made of, and I have absolutely no interest in accurately finding out. So I might as well say it’s made of cheese as anything else then, might I not?”
“But still taint true, even tho you says it,’ is it?”
“No, of course it’s not true, but only the very literal minded would misunderstand me. I, Sir, for better or for worse pursue my calling as a poet. And most of the world allows me a little poetic license. It is a tool of my trade.”
“What you mean?”
“It means that I am allowed a little exaggeration, hyperbole, to go over the top, say something is something when it’s not really true.”
“Well, grumbled the shopkeeper, standing to leave. “Still seems right odd to me!”

Three years ago Can’s body at last gave up its long struggle with his abuses. He died and so his tongue was stilled forever. Only then did the village finally appreciate the true stature of the man who had lived among them. From newspapers journalists flocked on Datça to attend the funeral, from literary faculties in the universities came professors and lecturers, from far and near the great and the good converged on Datça out of season and a great deal of welcome money was spent. Even the Government, despite his open communism for which he had once been jailed, sent the provincial governor to represent them; after all his father had been a close associate of Atatürk. For one day there was massive coverage of Datça on television and in the press. The Municipality, sensing a good thing, promptly changed the name of the local festival held every year in August. No longer did it celebrate almonds, but Can Yüçel instead.
During the first year of the renamed festival a hand written notice suddenly appeared in the window of the shop of the man who had tangled in life with the poet over moons made of cheese. As carefully as he could manage he had written:
“Can Yüçel bought his wine here from me.”
“Not true,” some people protested to which he replied. “Why not…it’s only this poetic license he was on about. If he could ‘ave some, why can’t I ‘ave a bit of it, too?”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Poem by Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı


I want a country
Let the sky be blue, the bough green, the cornfield golden;
Let it be a land of birds and flowers

I want a country
Let there be no pain in the head, no yearning in the hearth
Let there be an end to brothers’ quarrels

I want a country,
there be no rich no poor, no you no me;
On winter days let all have house and home.

I want a country
Let living like loving, come from the hearth;
And if there is complaint, let it be of death.

Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı;

Monday, October 30, 2006

Emine Teyze And The Devil's Machine

(July 2002)

Nihat Akkaraca

This is not a story, this event happened last week in Datca. Upon reading it , a lovely smile may come to your face.

My brother’s wife related this incident to me the day after it happened. It would give me great plesure to share it with you. The word “Teyze,” -meaning aunt- is used after the names of an elder ladies in Turkey. Like “Emine teyze,” Fatma teyze” etc. So in here, I’ll call the main character of this event as “Emine Teyze.” That means “aunt Emine.”
Emine Teyze has been living alone in a house up at the slope of İskele district of Datca for fifteen years. She doesn’t consider herself living alone, as her son and his family live above her on the second floor. She takes care of herself, keeps her house very tidy, and her garden properly tended. She is seventy eight but appears to be younger than her age. During the past year, she has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and takes a daily pill to keep her blood pressure normal.
Two years ago The Social İnsurance Office instigated a new system to prevent the waste fullness of medications. Under the new system when a prescription is written indicating one pill per day for a month, thirty pills are indicated on the prescription and entered into a computer system used by the pharmacies. A patient is not able to get more pills untill the thirty day period ends. İf a patient goes to a doctor on the 25th day of his first prescription order, the doctor will gladly renew the prescription, however it cannot be filled by the pharmacist. He will check his computer and tell the customer to come back five days later, after the first prescription has ended.
Our Emine Teyze being a tidy, well organized women wanted to renew her prescription eralier, until she was confronted by that Satan Machine! Computer! While still having six pills left from her first prescription, she went down to the Hospital, saw her doctor and received a prescription renewal for the next thirty pills. With her prescription in hand, she walked cheerfully to the pharmacist. Upon handing the renewal prescription to the pharmacist, he checked it with the computer, turned to the Emine Teyze and saidleft. I cannnot give you another month’s su, “you have six more pills pply untill you finish them. You must return in six days.”
Emine Teyze’s face reddened. She extenden her open hands toward the computer and said:
“Look, my son, I don’t have any pills with me.” The pharmacist replied.
“Okay, you may not have them on you, but the computer says you have six more pills. You have to go and check out your house because the computer doesn’t lie.”
Emine Teyze slowly walked back up the steep slope to her house feeling discouraged to return home empty handed. On her way home she stopped at her neighbor’s home to see “Fatma Teyze.” Fatma Teyze, age 96, lives alone in a single room. She still cooks, clean and visit her sons. Emine Teyze quickly relayed what had happened at the pharmacy.
After hearing the story, Fatma Teyze said, “One time, I heard something about those machines. They know everything and they never tell a lie. İf you have six more pills in your house, the machine knows it. Now, you must use your head. Tomorrow morning collect all the pills that you have and bring them to me, then you go to the pharmacy. I will keep them here. When you haven’t any pill in your house, the machine will verify this and say that you do not have any pills in your house. Okay?”
Emine Teyze found this to be sound advice, decided to do so next day. She having had her Turkish coffe Fatma Teyze offered her, left for her home. She slept very well that night with her neighbor’s advice…
Next day early in the morning she awakened, had her breakfast and after consuming her daily pill, she look carfully in the pill box. There she got only five pills in it. At nine o’clock she was out of her house to go to pharmacy. On her way she stopped at Fatma teyze’s home, after saying her “Good Morning” she gave the pill box to her neighbor.
She slowly walked down to the same pharmacy and waited her turn. When her turn arrived, she walked to the pharmacist who was sitting in front of that “Satan machine!” Being earlier hours of the morning, the pharmacist himself didn’t arrived yet, but one of the girl who works at the pharmacy has been taking care of the customers.
She took the Emine Teyze’s prescription, entered it in the computer and a little later replied:
Teyze! You still have five each unused pills.” After hearing what the pharmacist girl said, Emine Teyze murmured by herself: “This devil also counts the pills I consume daily.” Looking directly to the girl’s eyes she said aloud this time:
“Your machine is not telling truth today, it is telling lie. There aren’t any pills on me and there aren’t any pills in my house today, because I took all the pills to my neighbor’s house. Yesterday, your machine was telling the truth, but today it is telling a lie.” The pharmacist tried to explain nthe matter, Emine Teyze didn’t want to listen.
So what could she do? She had to come five days later. Before walking out of the pharmacy, she gazed the liar computer with anger. On the way to her home she talked to so many locals that half of the local population of Datca heard the story same day.. I think I was a little late to hear it. At the third day I have heard. You are the lates ones hearing this. Because I am telling to you now…

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


An article about Datca is published in England in magazine of Conde Nast Traveller’s Sept. İssue
(Article by Jeremy Seal.)


With its beehives and beaches, olive groves and vine-shaded cafes, Turkey’s Datca peninsula is a bucolic treat ripe for discovery, says Jeremy Seal. And it’s within hopping distance of Greek islands.

‘You don’t want to go there,’ advised the petrol attendant at Masrmaris, twirling an index finger at his right temple. İt was not the first time I had been warned against visiting the Datça peninsula, the 45 kilometer finger of little-visited uplands on Turkey’s south-west corner. Turks regards the Balıkaşıran (or Fish leap), the narrow isthmus that connects the peninsula with the mainland some 20 kilometer west of Marmaris, as a psychological Robicon: to cross it is to unhinge, along with the local topography which descends into a disorienting scatter of gulfs, bays, capes, coves and aven intrusively adcesent Greek islands, such as Symi. But I had heard different that the locals were not mad so much as different-raffish, maverick and unorthodox- and that their peninsula was as unspoiled and bucolic as south-west Turkey got. İt was too tempting for words.
An atrocious access road has long kept the Datca Peninsuala largely off-limits; quite an achivement given that the trio of adjecent holiday destinations - Marmaris, Rhodes and Bodrum- would appear to have it backed into a corner marked for comparable development. Until last year, when the access road was dramatically improved., the peninsula was effectively an island; so much so that it was best reached by the compact car ferry which serves it from Bodrum. For a panoramic spectacular of the Peninsula’s back water virtues, the two-hour ferry crossing remains the best way to arrive. You leave behind the unsightly white villas that sprawl beyond Bodrum, and cross the Gulf of Gökova looking out for dolphines, to quite another landscape: the north shore of the peninsula at Karaköy, empty except for ruined windmills and a single minaret, and a Hebridean-style harbour mole amid an Amazonian luxuriance of sandalwood, wild pistochia and mastic trees.
But I was arriving by the newly surfaced and widened road. I crossed onto to peninsula without knowing quite when I had done so; there was no sudden outbreak of loopiness nor leaping fish to signal the moment, and the fjord-like contours with high rusty bluff consealed wievs of the isthmus, But it was not before I knew I had arrived. What little development there was beyond Marmaris gave way to pine forests and olive grooves. Bleached blue beehives covered the hillsides, ( honey is a peninsula speciality along with the almonds and fish.) A horse hauled and a cart along a farm track And at the somnolent village of Reşadiye, I drew up beneath a great plane tree and passed through a gate into walled gardens heavy with rose scent.The laens were scattered with hammocks and shade kiosks. I had arrived at Reşadiye’s konağı, or mansion, which was opened as a small hotel in 2004.
The past twenty years has seen the desruction of so much of Turkey’s provincial peripd architecture in favour of concrete that this fine building the early -19th- century residens of one Mehmet Ali, a local aga or chiftain, is probably unique. Not only have its Turkish owner-managers, the Pir Family, restored it- the original hamam, an acreage of intricately patterned wooden ceilings, the bedrooms’ window shutters, sleeping platforms and arched stone fireplaces- with remarkable fidelity and at eye popping cost, they have also inroduced faultless modern bathrooms and service standarts. Calling it a ‘museum Hotel; as the Pirs like to do, may convey the Konag’s heritage-the restored frescoes of İstanbul waterside scenes in the main room and likeably odd fictures such as the Bakelide phones in the badrooms- but fails to conjure the perveasive charm of a place stuffed with flavoured perches: the extra-wide and roofed veranda. For example where I sat one night in a state of genuine entransment and watched the dusk creep across the perfumed garden as the loudest of owls began to call.
I explored the peninsula in the knowlageable company of Nihat Akkaraca. This veteran local historian showed me around Eski (OLD) Datca, which had been the peninsula’s main settlement back in his school days. The place was but all abondened by the 1980’s when presperous İstanbullus and northern Europeans began acquiring old houses here. They have since restored the village as a verdant corner with very Datça, this –strong artistic and ecological insticts. As we wondered the rutted country lanes which run between stone houses, kichen gardens and walled orchards. Nihat evoked the world of his childhood here. He pointed out the home of the former quack whose cure –all was a cupful of blood tapped from his captive turtle (Though Nihat’s mother has preferred to be shipped to Symi when she got ill).
We explored the peninsula’s country mosques, ancient wine presses and pagan ceremonial sites before going down to the sea at Kargı. Here was Datça style in microcosom: a simple, vine-shaded cafe above the shore where a rickety wooden jetty thrust into the bay, and a shingle beach with three sunbaters who had each attracted a bevy of attandant geese. A barrel-vaulted church, abondened since the expulsion of the local Greeks back in the 1920s, stood dung splattered in a walled yard where cattle were kept. Along the water front were old stone warehouses which had stored volania acorns, one-time mainstay of the dyeing industry. Volania oaks had once covered the peninsula, shading Nihat’s walks to school, untill artificial dyes did for them in the 1960s. Breaking from his reverie, Nihat retired to Kargı’s cafe to drink coffee laced with the local honey (he swore by its health-giving qualities) while I took a swim in the bay.
The road to the west followed the spine of the peninsula. İt passed through wooded hills riven by deep river gorges, each with its pink seam of oliander. Ruined barley mills stood along the banks. The shallow domes of the rounded water cisterns resemled mosques that had failed to rise. On a whim, Nihat veered of down a track in search of honey. We drove through scattered goats to the village of Sındı which seemed , with its shawled women praying behind cottage windows and the shy men exercising their worry beads outside the tea house, like a set-piece from the Türkish east. Never had the lights of Bodrum, with its outdoor discos and lewdly named cocktails, seemed more distant. Nihat found the honey man at a nearby shed. He bought a barrel of the stuff -28kg for about 40 pounds- and slung it easily onto his 75-year-old shoulders.
The road led onward beneath overhanging carob trees. Surviving stacks of overgrown ashlar sprouted from the hillsides. We were approching the peninsula’s end , the site of its one recognised attraction: the antique port of Knidos, whose bluff-backed harbours had been a heaven for shipping from the 4th century BC. The city was home to famed astronomers, architects and historians, but Knidos’ best- known inhabitant was its nude Aphrodite. According to Pliny, many people came here simply to admire the statue One of the supposedly stained her marble tigh by the force of his embrace, a perfectly Datça type scandal. The statue was long since lost; Nihat and I contented ourselves with less salacious visions- of triremes and star gazers and the 19th century plunderings (Now in British museum) of Sir Charles Newton- which the city’s surviving basilica arches, floor mosaics and magnificent waterside theatre vividly conjured.
I went out to eat in Datça one evening and stumbled across Fevzi’s Place. This apparently nondescript restaurant was tucked away among the usual Türkish motley of ironmongers, mobile-phone dealers and carpet shops, and, it served fish. But not fish as I know it. I was expecting the coastal standarts for the Türkish south-west grilled barbunya (red mullet) or palamut (tuna) served with chips and a tomato-and-onion salad. What I got was octobus meatballs followed by a cuttlefish stew. There was a salad of tender , lightly pickled caper sprigs and a plate of something.called deniz börülcesi, which the dictionary manfully rendered as black-eyed sea peas’ (it was some kind of samphire). The following night, at the Mehmet Ali Konak’s excelent Elaki Restaurant, many of these dishes came round again, trumped this time with a pudding of savoury-sweet dumplings made from cheese and crushed carob pods. I had even heard it wishpered that the plentifull wild boar, forbidden by İslam , continued to have a clandestine place in cooking. Nihat had spoken of famines in his childhood and I recalled that George Bean rowing pioneer of Türkish archeology, had writing of having had in 1950 the greatest difficulty in getting enough to eat’ on the peninsula. Necessity had inspired, it seemed, an intentive local cuisine.

Then there were the İslands from another world, The Greek Southern Dodecanese, which ring the peninsula to the west and south. Their high backs turn purple towards sunset. Os and Nissiros, Tilos and Rhodes but none was as invitingly as Symi Islands and mainland had been an united territory under the control of Rhodes in ancient times, but mutual suspicions of Greeks and Turks had made it difficult to move freely between the two more recently. Last year, however, the authorities on Symi encouraged traffic across the five-mile strait by slashing their mooring rates, and though services are not yet routine nor shuttle-cheap. I was able to find a Datca boat bound for Symi.
The İsland initially appeared as acres of dazzling, inhospitable limestone, but concealed at the head of its deeply intended harbour was an intact neoclassical harbour town in equal parts picturesque decay and sympathetic restoration. Nineteenth-century Symi had flourished on sponges and shipping , the depopulated mainland opposite had barely signified except for timber supplies. The houses seemed to compensate for their structural simplicity-as white washed boxes below tiled roofs-with an excwss of decoration; the plaster work on the low -pitched porticoes picked out in yellows, brown and blues, the wooden shutters, iron- railed balconies, pedimented front doors and the ground- level hems of white wash. Here, too were churchyards with cypresses and herring-bone mosaics in black-and-white pebbles, chiming bells and higher up the steps of the Katarraktes, the war-bombed shells and derelicts mansions, hand-shaped brass knockers still clinging to their weathered doors. At the venerable waterfront Aliki hotel, which a local ship’s captaın had built as a dowry for his daughter, there was fin de stecle china and a bookish British clientele who came , they said, becauıse nowhere else in the world looked quşte like this.
Nicholas Shum, ex-pat South African editor of the Island newspaper, drove me across the island the following morning. He told me that the links with Datca had been strengthening recently. Orthodox Greeks and Muslim Turks annually swam out to meet halfway across the dividing strait in a gesture of friendship. Beyond Horio, the hillside settlement above the harbour , the habitations soon petered out. The high interior was threaded by hiking trails which led through pines and cypresses to a profusion of cfountry chapels and monastries. At St Michael of Red Earth, the shrine was flanked by simply furnished cells for visiting pilgrims. İn the shade of the ancient, buckled cypresses tree a tin bucket drew chill water from a cistern.
The road led to the remote southern coast where a perfect pond of a harbour was hemmed by brilliant-white monastry of Panormitis, patron of dodecanese sailors. There were hospices , a refectory and ornate belltower and , in the candle –lit katholikon, novist priest were stroking the smoke- stained frescoes with their kissed fingers.The only other building was and old peopl’s home. Panormitis was where the locals came for their final wind-down; as much it seemed, Symi’s Eastbourne as its Athos.
Nicholas returned me to the waterfront where I took a boat back to Datca. I felt richer for having been able to combine Turkish and Hellenic, mosque and monastry, raki and retsina; cultural elements which were too often kept separate despitye the geographical proximity of these communities. And from where I was now sitting, halfway between the two (around about where the swimmers annually came together), Greek island and Turkish peninsula looked aqually alluring.
Datca is a excellent year-round destination, with mild winters, restuarants that remain open out of season, and fine weather that only breaks in November. Go there for late summer sun.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Donkeys On Symi Island

By the courtesy of The Symi Visitor Newspaper

Note: To read article, please double click on the picture.