|The flat, wind blow After visiting Ephesus in southwestern Turkey, do not
miss the opportunity to visit the beautiful mountain village of Şirince. From the town of
Selcuk where Ephesus is situated, a winding road takes you through green countryside to
this corner of paradise just eight kilometres away. Surrounded by forest clad hills, the
village lies on the south and west slopes of a valley.
Şirince overlooks the Ephesus
plain, whose olive groves, orchards, vineyards, and fields of tobacco and cotton stretch
to the sea. After 15 or 20 minutes the road from Selcuk rises over a hill and winds down
the other side into the village square. Our first objective in coming here was of course
to eat! So before looking around Şirince, we headed straight for Artemis Wine House and
Restaurant on the hill on the edge of the village. The restaurant is housed in a re-stored
building that was formerly the village school and serves homemade wines and delicious food
made from local produce. The wonderful views over the village and plain lend their own
savour to the food.
|Hunger satisfied, it was time to explore Şirince. The main street and
square are shaded by great plane trees and lined by shops, coffee houses and restaurants.
We sat for a while in the coffee house in the square drinking tea and chatting to the
village muhtar (elder) Ali Vurmazdere. He is delighted that Şirince is becoming so
popular with visitors, and hopes that tourism will reverse the fortunes of the village.
Local inhabitants have been moving away in large numbers in recent years, both for
economic reasons and because of problems like their childrn'sc education. The population
has fallen from 840 in 1980 to 704 today.
|Some writers refer to Şirince as Ephesus in the Mountains, asserting that
Şirince - formerly Kırkınca - was established in the fifth century after alluvion
carried down by the Kücük Menderes River and flooding made the ancient site unfit for
habitation. Hearsay relates that the name Kırkınca was later changed to Cirkince (the
Ugly Place) so as to prevent others discovering this beautiful spot and moving here.
|When the Turkish Aydınoğulları Principality took Selcuk in 1348, some
of the town's Byzantine inhabitants fled and settled in Şirince. In the 19th century
Şirince is recorded as consisting of 1800 households, all Greek. In the wake of the First
World War the Greeks of Şirince migrated to Greece, leaving Şirince empty until 1924,
when Turks from Salonika, Kavala, Provusta and other Greek towns arrived as part of the
population exchange between the two countries.
When governor of İzmir Kâzım Dirik visited the village he was so charmed with
Kırkınca that he altered the name to Şirince
|Ali Vurmazdere took us around the village. The narrow stone streets are
full of picturesque shops selling lace and other handicrafts made by local women. There
are also stalls selling homemade soap and the local wines for which Şirince is renowned.
Tobacco, olives, and peaches are also grown in the area, and tourism is becoming another
important part of the local economy.
|As we climbed up through the village, which rises on the slopes on either
side of the river, we were fascinated by the old houses along the narrow streets. Şirince
is one of the few places in Turkey to have preserved its 19th century texture intact. The
ground and first floors are built of rubble stone and the second floors of lathe and
plaster. The upper floors, which oversail the lower, contain the living spaces, while the
ground floors consist of store rooms and stables.
|The window frames and eaves are decorated with flower, bird and leaf
motifs. Handmade lace curtains hang at the windows. Oleanders and other colourful flowers
and shrubs grow luxuriantly in the gardens on either side of the lanes.
Some of the
houses have been restored and turned into pensions for over-night guests, so it is now
possible to make Şirince a base for exploring the region. Şirince is within easy reach
not only of Ephesus but other ancient cities like Priene, Miletus
We talked to Ahmet Kocak, the owner of Hotel Şirince Houses and a former tour guide.
He fell in love with the village at first sight and resolved to settle here. He restored
two of the old houses and turned them into a hotel.
|'Şirince is a place where visitors who want to get away from the beaten
tourist track can enjoy the authentic village atmosphere, waking to the call of the
cockerels, and participating in traditional harvest festivities in the vineyards and olive
groves,' he explained.
Several local people have set up small restaurants in their
gardens, some specialising in gözleme, a griddle bread with various fillings. It
is unthinkable to leave Şirince without tasting this simple but delicious dish. You can
watch the dough being rolled out, being filled with cheese, aubergines, mushrooms or
minced meat, and then cooked on the griddle over a wood fire. Accompanied by a drink of
cold ayran (yogurt beaten with water) it makes a wonderful meal.
The two churches in Şirince are now being restored. The Church of St John the Baptist
was built in 1832 and is being restored by an American foundation under the auspices of
Ephesus Museum. The second smaller church is also thought to date from the early 19th
When the time came to leave Şirince we remembered the words of the Greek writer Dido
Sotiriyo in his book, 'Greetings to Anatolia': 'If there is a paradise on earth, then our
Şirince is surely part of it.'
By Yusuf Tuvi, photographer