October 16, 2011
Şirince was our second destination in Turkey. We wanted to spend part of our Turkey vacation along the Aegean area of Western Turkey. The ancient Greek and Roman ruins, primarily Ephesus, were the primary draw to the region. We looked at the different places to stay in the region. Kuşadası was one possibility. It is a cruise ship stop and also a destination resort so it did not sound like our style. Selçuk which is about 10km from Ephesus sounded interesting but it was the small village of Şirince located in the hills above Selçuk that caught our eye and fancy. The idea of staying in a smaller Turkish village and up in the hills sounded really interesting.
Şirince was originally called Cirkince which means ugly. Stories say that the ancient settlers moved inland and uphill from Ephesus for security and called the village 'ugly' as part of their protection from outsiders. Up until the Turkish Independence in 1922, the village was inhabited by Byzantine Greeks. Most of the villagers migrated to Greece at Turkey became a republic. The village was later re-habited by Turks from different regions and the village was renamed Şirince which means charming.
We flew into Izmir, the 2nd largest city in Turkey and rented a car. It was an easy quick hour drive on the toll road to Selçuk. We knew from the instructions on the Turkey Travel planner to watch for a sign. We thought it might be a small sign; the turn was clearly marked by a large brown sign just as you entered the town. We turned and drove a few blocks along the outskirts of Selçuk before entering the groves of mandarin tangerines and figs. The road passes small roadside stands selling fruit or home cooked lunches. Most were closed already for the season. The road narrowed and started switch backing and climbing nearly 1,000 ft to the village through the hillsides covered in Mediterranean chaparral.
I had read that the village was being overrun more and more by busloads of day tripping tourists. We drove cautiously not wanting to meet a large bus on one of the curves. Fortunately, you could see the road farther up the hill and could see what traffic was coming down or going up. It was Sunday and we discovered it was a very popular day to visit Şirince.
We reached the outskirts of the village looking for signs to our hotel which was located above the village. The directions had us looking for a 'totem' which would point to the dirt covered road which would take us up around the village to the hotel located above. The hotel had told us not to enter the village because it is so small. We were met with a traffic jam of several buses and cars before we even reached the village. The buses and cars were waiting to turn into the main parking lot at the edge of the village. Once they had turned, we were able to locate the signs and proceeded up to our hotel. We noticed several over flow parking lots along the beginning of the road - a clear indicator that the village was popular.
We had a couple of hours before sundown and dinner so we decided to walk down from the hotel to the village. The village climbs up the hills and our hotel was located just above the village. The path started down over stone path and stairs to several houses that are part of the hotel. From there it was a little confusing. The streets crisscrossed between the houses, often seeming no more than a driveway. We continued down following a few others tourists until we reached the main intersection of the town.
Yes, it was crowded. The main portion consists of several streets radiating from a main intersection. The streets were lined with several stores selling the main products of the town, fruit wine and olive oil. Also lining the main street were village women selling a wide variety of home made goods from jam, pekmezi (grape molasses), needlework, jewelry, herbs, dried vegetables, flowers and soap. Each one was hocking and trying to get the tourists to stop and buy their goods. The village men were in tea houses talking and watching TV.
The village itself is very pretty. The houses were built in the 1800's and framed in dark wood. Many of the houses are two stories with the lower story made of stone and the roof covered with red clay tiles. We enjoyed climbing up the curving stone streets and looking up at the beauty of several of the restored houses.
We decided to sample the fruit wine. Most of it was pretty bad but we bought a bottle of the mulberry which was not too bad. It was similar to blackberry but a bit more interesting. Both black and white mulberry is grown in Turkey as part of the manufacture of silk. We had mulberry jam also one morning as part of the Turkish breakfast.
We stopped in the village again on Monday after touring Ephesus and found it much quieter. We had a good early dinner in one of the restaurants. It had turned very cold and we choose one of the restaurants that were heated. Several of the restaurants were located on open terraces and patios which would have been great in warmer weather but with the temperatures in the 40's we wanted it warm.
Would I stay in Şirince again or recommend it? It is tough to say. The large influx of tourists day tripping after or before Ephesus is good for the village business but looses the appeal for me. But after the day trippers went home, it was a very beautiful place. I can see how the charm would grow on you.
For more on this village, here is a good link from our hotel Nisanyan. Here are some scenes of the shops in the village.
Path from our hotel to the village
Jams for sale
Local bazaar selling clothing
Herbs and dried vegetables
Wooden toys, jams and soap
Fruit wine for sale
Mobile vendor selling eggs and other fresh goods - check out the scale in the van.
Local women buying at the vegetable stands
Pomegranates were in season - you could get one juiced for 1 euro.
Grapes were also being harvested
Village women with their wares
The real reason not to drive into the village
The village houses over the hillside - our hotel was the last white house at the top of the village