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Capturing the Magic of Symi's Traditional Female Dress

As a photographer working on my 'Caryatis' project, I recently had the opportunity to visit the stunning island of Symi. The island, located in the Dodecanese group in the Aegean Sea, is known for its rich history, culture, and natural beauty.

The beautiful Greek island of Symi.

My journey to Symi began with a ferry ride from Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands. As the ferry approached Symi, I was struck by the island's stunning coastline, with its rocky cliffs and crystal-clear waters.

Once on the island, I set out to explore its many charms. One of the first things I noticed was the unique architecture of the houses in Symi. The island's neoclassical buildings are a testament to its prosperous trading past, and the interiors of many of the houses are adorned with intricate carvings and frescoes.

Traditional costumes at the harbour of Symi, by photographer George Tatakis
Traditional costumes at the harbour of Symi

Symi's main town, also called Symi, is known for its beautiful neoclassical architecture, with colourful houses stacked one on top of the other around the natural harbour. The town was built in the 19th century, during the island's period of prosperity as a major sponge trading centre.

One of the most impressive buildings in Symi town is the clock tower, which was built in 1881 and stands on one side of the town overlooking the harbour. The tower was used to signal the arrival and departure of ships and is now a symbol of the island's rich history.

Traditional costumes at the harbour of Symi, by photographer George Tatakis
Traditional costumes at the harbour of Symi
 

Acquire a print from the work

Make a statement in your home or office with unique, one-of-a-kind art from the work in Symi island, by the awarded photographer George Tatakis. Not only will you be adding beauty and interest to your space, but you'll also be supporting important ethnographic work. Click here

Acquire a print of the work from Astypalaea, Greece, by photographer George Tatakis
 

Symi's traditional houses are built into the steep hillsides around the harbour, with the lower levels of the houses facing the street and the upper levels often accessed by outdoor staircases. The houses are typically constructed with local stone and lime mortar, with brightly painted walls, shutters and doors.

Inside the houses, the design is often simple and elegant, with high ceilings and whitewashed walls. The floors are typically made of wood or marble, and the windows are often adorned with lace curtains or embroidered textiles.

I was lucky enough to meet a local architect, Dimitris, who had renovated a beautiful house at the harbour, turning it into a small luxurious hotel. The house has kept its traditional character, and staying there would transport you to a different era. I spent some time in the hotel and photographed the traditional costumes inside the place. I highly recommend this for your visit to the island. The hotel is called '1900'.

Inside the 1900 hotel at Symi island, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside the 1900 hotel
Inside the 1900 hotel at Symi island, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside the 1900 hotel at Symi island
Inside the 1900 hotel at Symi island, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside the 1900 hotel at Symi island

One of the most distinctive features of Symi's interior design is the use of decorative wooden facades, known as "Mousantra" in front of the beds, usually located in the mezzanine and accessible by a wooden stair. What also impressed me were the painted ceilings, featuring intricate decorations, often with a 3-d effect.

The houses are often decorated with traditional furnishings, including wooden tables and chairs, embroidered textiles, and brass and copper utensils. The walls are adorned with artwork and photographs of family members and historical landmarks.

Symi's interior design reflects the island's rich cultural heritage, with a mix of traditional Greek and neoclassical elements. The simplicity and elegance of the design create a serene and welcoming atmosphere, making visitors feel at home.

Inside a local traditional house at Symi island, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside a local traditional house

Symi is also home to numerous churches and monasteries, including the Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis, located on the island's southern end. The monastery was built in the 18th century and is a popular pilgrimage site for locals and visitors alike.

In addition to its cultural and historical attractions, Symi is also known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. Some of the most popular beaches on the island include Nanou Beach, Agios Georgios Beach, and Marathounta Beach.

HISTORY CORNER \

The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Neolithic period.

During the Byzantine era, Symi was an important centre for the production of silk, which was exported throughout the Byzantine Empire. The island was also a major shipbuilding centre during this time, with a thriving shipyard and a skilled workforce.

In the 14th century, Symi was conquered by the Knights of Saint John, a Catholic military order, who ruled the island until the Ottoman Empire took control in the 16th century. During the Ottoman period, Symi became a major centre for sponge diving, with a booming industry that sustained the island's economy for centuries.

In the 19th century, Symi experienced a period of great prosperity as a major trading centre for sponges and other goods. This era is reflected in the island's neoclassical architecture, which was heavily influenced by the wealthy merchants and traders who built their grand houses and public buildings in the town centre.

Inside a local traditional house at Symi island, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside a local traditional house at Symi island

Today, Symi is known for its unique cultural and artistic traditions, including traditional music and dance, as well as its stunning natural beauty. The island is home to numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year, including the Symi Festival, which celebrates the island's history, culture, and traditions.

Symi's cuisine is also a reflection of the island's rich cultural heritage, with a mix of Greek, Ottoman, and Mediterranean influences. Local specialities include seafood, such as the famous Symian small shrimp, octopus and sea urchin, as well as traditional dishes like lentils with fava, cabbage dolma with fava, chickpeas with mushrooms and dill and more.

Inside a local traditional house in Symi wearing the traditional costumes, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside a local traditional house in Symi

My visit to Symi was a true adventure, full of beauty, culture, and history. The island's unique character and traditions are still alive today, and my photographs of the people, places, and traditions of Symi will always be a reminder of this remarkable place.

Whether you're a lover of history, culture, or natural beauty, Symi is a destination not to be missed.

Love

xx

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