The legend goes that Sirince, built by the Greeks 800 years ago, was settled by liberated slaves who named their village Kirkince (Turkish for Ugly!) to dissuade others from following them. This lasted until 1926 when the Governor of Izmir Province changed it to its current spelling, meaning pleasant or charming!
History might have seen the village slip into oblivion in modern times, as its 20th century inhabitants sought a better life and work elsewhere, unable to sustain their lives by working their holdings. However, from the 1980s tourists began to make tracks to this mountain gem, which is set in the most wonderful of landscapes, bringing about a revival of fortunes. These days, coach-loads of visitors arrive daily throughout the summer season to discover its charms.
With fabulous views of thickly wooded forests, olive groves, valleys and vineyards, and buildings noted for their traditional 19th century architecture, it is not surprising to find that restaurants, boutique hotels and shops have sprung up to serve the tourist arrivals. Both national and international visitors come here, adding it to a rewarding sightseeing itinerary that starts with the crowning glory that is Ephesus.
Agriculture is still the way of life with a wide variety of delicious fruits grown (said to include the best peaches in Turkey), much of which goes into winemaking; you may be offered a free tasting! As well as locally made wines, villagers produce olive oil, vinegar, honey, soaps and hand crafted souvenirs, spurring the local economy and encouraging younger people to remain and work here. Avoiding weekends, and coming perhaps later in the day, you are more likely to see Sirince in true village life mode, when the commercial fever created by cash-rich tourists has died down.
Populated by Muslim Turks, who moved here in 1924 with the post-war exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece, the village has a single minaret mosque but also two churches; that of St John the Baptist which is privately owned – but visitors are allowed in to view its frescoes – and that of St Demetrios with its carved wood screen bearing icons. Greek author Dido Sotiriou presents a version of life in Sirince in her novel Farewell Anatolia, published in 1962, with the events of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 as its setting.
Protective building legislation has been in place since the mid 1980s, and new construction is meant to conform to traditional standards, but while some of the more striking 19th century buildings have been reformed with some open to the public, others are decaying. Hidden passageways, now mostly blocked up, once connected whole rows of houses as most neighbours were family. Streets are paved but steep making flat walking shoes the sensible footwear if you are planning to explore the village.
The area here, which is a district of Selçuk in Izmir province, has been referred to as ‘Turkey’s Tuscany’ and anyone familiar with the beauty of that region of Italy will agree that here too there is much to have the visitor reaching for the camera or sketch pad. Travelling by hire car from Kusadasi Golf & Spa resort (distance 43km) will take you through spectacular countryside, so take it leisurely and enjoy. Parking outside the village you can walk, or take a shuttle bus during busy times, into its centre.
October visitors to Kusadasi should look in on the village’s main festival of Vintage Culture, Art and Friendship, with live performances and wine tasting. Those arriving during a wedding celebration may well find that the whole village have gone to it!