I don’t often go on the ‘Round-the-island’ boat trip but occasionally I do when I have visitors staying. Like recently. There are a number of excellent reasons for doing it:
1 It’s a good way to see the island
2 It’s relaxing for tired muscles after trailing around the mountains for a week
3 It’s a very good way to keep cool, not only because of the breeze on the boat but because it stops at five points for a swim
4 There is a very good barbeque on the beach at the tiny Sesklia Island to the south
The reason I don’t do it more often is that I prefer to be walking through the world rather than watching it pass by me with limited opportunity to side-track to look at things. I prefer more activity, more interaction with my environment. Sitting on a boat watching the shoreline pass by is a bit like watching TV.
The best compromise is to choose the day when the boat’s first stop is at the island monastery of Agios Emilianos. Described on the ‘Greek Island Walks’ page of this blog it’s a walk of between 2 and 3 hours across the island to the west coast (see). Having checked the evening before and arranged with the captain to be picked up at Emilianos, we knew we needed to be there by 11.30 when it left for the second swimming stop. We allowed 3 hours and took 2½.
With the prospect of an hour to kill on the beach at Sesklia while the barbeque was being prepared, I decided to use it to walk into the interior and visit the castle there.
‘The Interior’ sounds very grand for such a small island but it is surprising how different it is from what you see sailing around the coast. I last went to Sesklia more than 10 years ago and had no idea how much it had changed. The short stretch of concrete road from the jetty to St Paul’s church had been extended. What I remembered as a dirt track running westwards from there is now good quality concrete.
At the point where it turned sharply north to go around the back of the hill up to the large farm buildings on the top, I turned off and walked up through old stone terraces to the castle. The walk along the road was quick and easy but once onto the terraces it was a matter of following sheep tracks winding through aggressive vegetation, much of it long-dead from drought.
There is more left of the walls of the castle than most of the others on Symi, with one corner nearly 3 metres high. There seemed to be few large ‘ashlar’ blocks lying around so either they have been cannibalised and used in the construction of the nearby farm buildings or, like in other old castles, large blocks were used for the base of the fortification topped by smaller stones.
Only half a mile from the jetty in the bay, it’s an interesting alternative to sitting under the tamarisks at the top of the beach. A comfortable stroll back in time to join the queue for the barbeque.