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Symi island news and views

Symi is a small Greek holiday islands in the Dodecanese just off the Turkish coast and near to the Greek holiday island of Rhodes. Symi is a popular destination for day trippers and noted more for peace and tranquillity than for its beaches, which are in short supply. The neo-classical mansions that hang off the hills around the main port of Symi are a reminder of the rich pickings once enjoyed by the island's inhabitants.

Harbour at Symi Greece
Symi movie

Symi island set for movie shoot. The holiday island of Symi looks set to be the backdrop for a low budget horror movie. Moviemakers have raised cash backing to film 'The Judas Curse' on Symi island later this year. The atmospheric island with its neoclassical buildings is reckoned the perfect setting for a horror movie. Those behind 'The Judas Curse' hope the movie will help promote the popular holiday islands to a new audience. British writer James Collins, who lives on Symi, thinks the barren landscape of craggy rocks and wild coast provides a great backdrop. The film's plot is based on supernatural events ignite the suppressed memories and fears of a man returning to his childhood home following his abusive father's death. Cash was raised through the Kickstarter website which appeals for public donations to help fund projects such as this. The film project by 1066 Productions Ltd raised more than £20,000 in less than a month British actors Kurtis Stacey (Emmerdale), Rebecca Grant (Holby City, Prisoners' Wives) and Lorna Doyle (The Tudors) are signed up alongside veteran actor Richard Syms and one of Germany's top TV performers Wookie Mayer. The Judas Curse was specially written for various Symi locations which is why the island is considered almost a character in its own right. The Judas Curse will be shot on the Greek island of Symi in October and released in the first half of 2014.

Symi harbour
Symi visitors soar

Everyone in the Greek Islands welcomes this year's rise in tourist visitor numbers but it has brought some problems too. The island of Symi, in particular, is suffering under the weight of tourists who arrive on cruise liners and daily boat trips. Island officials report a massive 40% rise in tourist visitors so far this year sailing into the port at Yialos. Stressed-out police, who are required by law to check cruise visitors' passports already report two-hour queues as passengers wait to be processed. Once they get ashore the problems being again. The single narrow road around the harbour gets jammed with visitors. Symi mayor Lefteris Papakalodoukas is demanding help to cope with the massive influx of tourists. He said: "The last tourist who had to go through the process, waited 2.5 hours in line, resulting in severe irritation. We must not force visitors to pass from this time-consuming process because they will not come back." Not only is Symi a favourite port of call for scores of cruise liners on tours of the Greek Islands, but it's a popular day-trip destination for excursion boats from neighbouring islands such as Rhodes. The beautiful harbour bay is a major attraction in itself with pastel-painted houses tumbling down the hillsides of the attractive horseshoe bay. Thousand of tourists walk around the bay admiring the views and taking photographs. But they pose a traffic hazard on the narrow harbour road, the only one on Symi to be used by vehicles. The mayor added: "This is particularly so for ships that anchor on the side opposite the clock. As the only road used by vehicles in Yialos is very narrow, unsuspecting tourists descend from the ship and risk their physical integrity." Symi is also going through a heatwave at the moment with daytime temperatures over 40°C. Symi is sheltered from sea breezes by the Datca peninsula while the large, arid areas of rock that soak up the heat during the day and release it at night to keep night temperatures in the 30s.

Symi island cruise ship
Symi delays

Symi tourists face passport delays. Tourism leaders are warning that cruise ship visitors to Symi are facing long queues at passport control. Now travel agents are calling for government help to deal with speeding up the passport checks carried out on visitors sailing into the island's main harbour. They have written to the Greek Minister of Tourism for more staff to speed up queues at passport control which has only one single stamemberff and one computer. The port at Symi is visited daily by large numbers of yachts with hundreds of visitors stepping ashore, mainly from Turkey, or sailors from other Greek Islands on their way to Turkey. Passport and visa issues are handled by Symi police but they can be overwhelmed by the numbers requiring passport checks. Cruise ships can arrive with hundreds of passengers aboard and passport checks can take hours to process through passport control. For passengers at the back of the queue, it means all they get to see of Symi is the police station. By the time passports have been checked they must be back on board ship. The delays mean visitors often sail away again without delay or even decide it's not worth the trouble to go ashore and the island misses out on valuable tourist trade. Island tourist leaders point out that Symi is a very small island and many holiday visitors may stay only for a few hours strolling around the picturesque harbour and visiting tavernas and shops. The long delays in checking visitor passports is enough to prevent many coming ashore at all. They stay in their cabins until the cruise ship leaves. This year Symi police have been told to tighten up on passport control and to check passports in the presence of tourists – especially nationals of countries outside the European Union. They fear even more trade will be lost as potential visitors sail away, disappointed at Greek bureaucracy, especially when cruise ship passengers can be forced to face passport checks at every Greek Island they visit.

Symi ferry Skiadeni
Symi ferry starts

Symi gets new ferry service from Rhodes. Greek island visitors can enjoy a new holiday service to Symi after the launch of the ferry boat Panagia Skiadeni. The ferry service started on April 1 with regular services on most days of the week between Symi and Rhodes. It ends months of concern about the future of ferry services to the popular Greek island after rumours that the ferry firm ANES might axe services by rival ferryboat Proteus, a claim that ANES has always denied. The Panagia Skiadeni ferry can carry 120 cars and up to 710 passengers. It has an open deck with seating and bar as is expected to call in at the Panormitis monastery which is a major tourist attraction for the island. The ship was recently in the Chalkis shipyard for a major refit with extensive repairs and improvements The Skiadeni timetable has sailings between Symi and Rhodes each day except Saturday with the Sunday route including a stop in Panormitis. Other ferry services to Symi include the Dodecanese Pride which arrives daily from Rhodes and the Blue Star ferry Diagoras which calls in on Wednesdays. The Proteus has not yet issued a timetable and times of sailings can be found here. The launch of the Panagia Skiadeni service was not without a hitch. All ferries sailing to Symi were having to berth near the clock tower and cars and bikes coming off the ferry had to drive right around the harbour. Road resurfacing by the Customs House wasn't finished on time and cars, bikes, and small lorries coming off the ferry were forced to squeeze through very narrow alleys and back streets. Some years ago a berth was built opposite the bus stop, but only ANES Lines use this berth, and they have yet to announce any sailings. A row broke out when rival ferry operators wrote to the mayor of Symi warning of problems facing ANES, the company that operates the 'Proteus' ferry throughout the year. They claimed ANES was unable to guarantee regular ferry crossing from Rhodes and offered to launch their own service with the Skiadeni ferry.

Harbour at Symi Greece
Symi volcano poser

Prospects of an underwater volcano near Symi could spark row over who owns it. Evidence of volcanic activity near the Greek island of Symi has raised questions of who would 'own' any new volcano that might emerge from the sea – Greece or Turkey. Seismologists report considerable volcanic activity in the sea between the Turkish resort of Marmaris and the island of Symi, part of the Greek Dodecanese island group. Research scientists blame it on high temperatures around two active craters of an underwater volcano discovered about 200 metres below the surface in the seas that stretch from the Greek island of Symi to the Turkish coast at the popular holiday resort of Marmaris. If the craters continue to grow at their current rate they could rise above the sea surface any time within the next 20 years. Turks have already named the underwater volcano 'Kiountour'. But the arrival of a new volcano raises the question of who would have jurisdiction over it in the disputed seas between the two countries. Turkish newspapers forecast a crisis between Greece and Turkey over ownership with a news headline of 'Boil Water in Marmaris' fuelling speculation. The volcano has already sparked friction. When Turkish scientists tried to measure water temperatures in the seas off Symi they were intercepted by a Greek Coastguard patrol and ordered to leave over claims they were violating Greek territorial waters. Turkish professor Ahmet Ercan, a consultant geologist of the University of Istanbul, said he was aboard the boat investigating the undersea eruptions in the Aegean between Bozmpouroun, Marmaris and Symi. Professor Ercan said they managed to take measurements before being approached and followed by the Greek Coastguard and they eventually returned to Turkish waters. The current borders between Greece and Turkey were set out in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The treaty set out the boundaries of Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey and ended all Turkish claims on the Dodecanese Islands that line the Turkish coast. If a volcano were to surface in the seas between the Greek islands and the Turkish mainland it is unclear who would 'own' the new territory and both countries may well attempt to establish territorial claims on it.

The Proteus sails into Rhodes harbour
Symi sailing pledge

Symi holiday ferries sailing pledge. Visitors hoping to catch a Symi holiday ferry this summer have been given reassurances that the car ferry service from Rhodes will continue. A row broke out when rival ferry operators wrote to the the mayor of Symi warning of problems facing ANES, the company that operates the 'Proteus' ferry throughout the year. They claimed ANES was unable to guarantee regular ferry crossing from Rhodes and offered to launch their own service with the 'Lady Skiandeni' ferry. A letter to the Symi mayor said: "There is no guarantee that it ('Proteus') will continue after its services on the known economic problems of the company . . . we urge you to request the deployment of 'Lady Skiadeni' that is to our knowledge readily available and therefore wil definitively resolve, in the best possible manner, the transportation problem." But the chairman of ANES Ferries , Anthony Hadjimarcos, has dismissed the claims as "shameful and slanderous" and insists that the 'Proteus' will operate car ferry services between Symi and Rhodes as normal. The Proteus is currently in dock where it is undergoing its annual inspection and is unlikely to sail for at least a month. Mr Hadjimarcos said regular ferry services would be back on schedule before the start of the tourist holiday season. He said the 'Proteus' had kept to ferry schedules between Rhodes and Symi over the winter season despite receiving no subsidy and he accused rivals of trying to cash in on Symi holiday traffic. There are two ferry boats currenty connecting Rhodes and Symi, the 'Proteus' and 'Symi II' car-ferries. The 'Symi II' leaves from Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes New Town, the 'Proteus' sails from the Commercial Harbour outside the walls of the Old Town. The 'Proteus', built in 1973, can carry 860 passengers and 135 cars. The ANES ferry company has a kiosk in Mandraki harbour Rhodes and ferry tickets to Symi are also sold by agents in the commercial harbour. The Dodecanese Express hydrofoil also runs regular services between the Dodecanese islands and the 'Tilos Star' ran a Sundays only service between the Greek island of Rhodes and Symi last summer.

Gialos harbour on Symi
Storm brews

Storm brews over Symi holiday sewage. Tourism on the Greek island of Symi could collapse if nothing is done to clean up pollution and provide safer drinking water, officials have been warned. Sewage outflows into the sea at Gialos and the nearby Symi holiday resort of Pedi is causing increasing concern for local people. A letter to the regional council urges swift action to investigate the extent of pollution and to set up a well designed project for the collection and biological treatment of waste water. A letter to the regional council says: "Pedi sewage ends up next to the stadium where children play sports and where water is pumped for desalination. "There are no suitable resources to develop the proper infrastructure such as waste water purification. Tourism development in Symi is in danger of collapse at any time if there is no directly appropriate environmental infrastructure." Political infighting among municipal leaders are blamed for years so of inaction over improvements to the island's sewage treatment problem. Now locals have asked regional officials to "undertake a survey on the situation in Symi with waste water treatment and to immediately inform the district council on initiatives to stop the pollution and environmental contamination." Visitors to Symi have complained at the stench of raw sewage going straight into the bay at Gialos. "It does not add much to the general atmosphere," said one visitor. Holiday companies advise visitors to Symi not to drink the local water. They say the tap water is safe but recommend that tourists drink bottled water. The water supply on Symi is very limited and, in the summer months, water is shipped by tanker from Rhodes and rationed out weekly to homes and hotels on the island.

Wind power on Greek islands
Wind power plans

Many smaller Greek islands plan on going green in the near future by meeting the full total of all their power needs entirely from renewable energy sources. Now, in a programme announced by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change and financed by the European Community, there are plans to give several Greek islands a zero footprint in terms of the energy they use. The aim is to enable as many Greek islands as possible to supply all their total energy needs from renewable energy sources only. They will use wind and wave power to supply electricity, drive electric vehicles, promote energy conservation in all island buildings and use agricultural waste to create gas and fuel. The Greek holiday island of Paxos as well as Leros, Fourni, Symi, Tilos, Gavdos and Agathonisi have all expressed interest in the scheme.  To qualify for aid the islands must have a small population (500-800 people), get the backing of the island community and have the ability to utilize alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal, biomass, waves and agricultural waste. The aim is to create a zero energy balance so that power production with be greater than demand, with 100% renewable energy.  Island authorities have until late July to lodge submissions of interest and judging the cases will take place by the end of September. Islands that have been selected for the scheme will be announced in October and November. The trend for islands to become self sufficient in energy has been growing in recent years.  The island of Samson, in Denmark, is the most famous along with the Pelvorm island of Germany.  Similar projects do exist in Greece, notably Lipsi which has only limited help in meeting its energy needs which is generated largely from renewable sources.