We had walked down the historic ruins of Ephesus, gorged on mouth-watering doners in the Selcuk town market and sipped on warm apple çay (apple tea). After having spent 5 days in the lovely little town of Selcuk in the Izmir region of Western Turkey, we wanted a flavor of the ‘slow village life’. The best place for this (as we were told by locals and most guide books) was Sirince!
There are several legends on how Sirince (pronounced Shi-rin-jé) got its name – including one that says this village was set up by freed Greek slaves who named it Çirkince (meaning “Ugly” in Turkish) to deter others from following them. The village’s name was later changed to Şirince(meaning “Charming”) in 1926 by the then governor of Izmir.
A small village about 8 kilometres off the Selcuk town centre, Sirince has just about 600 inhabitants. It is a quiet, quaint village and most of the buildings there date back to the 19thcentury. While the village now thrives on tourism and one might say it is getting a bit too touristy – its main attraction is still the old world charm. Walk away from the market street into the small by-lanes lined by shops & houses, watch sheep grazing by the odd meadow or walk uphill to get a view of the village from the church boundary.
We were staying at the Selcuk town and took a dolmus (mini bus) from the Selcuk Otogar (bus station). 25 mins and 3 Turkish liras took us up a comfortable ride to Sirince village.
The Dolmus dropped us at a small village square where a little brown board announced that this square was the dolmus station for the village. From here, we could walk around Sirince (walking is the primary mode of transport for tourists – although locals maneuver their own cars or tractors thru the narrow lanes). It was almost sunny with a cold nip in the air – made the perfect weather for a walk.
We walked past the main village market street where we browsed through shops that sold wines, herbal soaps, wooden handmade toys and artefacts. It was a colorful sight!
When the wine sellers and souvenir shopkeepers got too touristy for us, we took off on one of the by-lanes flanked by 19th century houses – some swanky, some dilapidated. We walked uphill past the local mosque to cross a small meadow with sheep grazing to their hearts content.
Further on, we reached St John the Baptist Church – a 5th Century church which looked like it had seen better days, The (what were once) beautiful frescos were damaged but thankfully undergoing structured restoration. We lit a candle at the altar and said a quiet prayer. The church path was lined with vendors selling hand made lace shawls, soaps and even freshly baked bread.
The walk made us hungry and we went to a restaurant called Ocakbaşı (meaning ‘fireplace’ in Turkish). This was an open air restaurant overlooking the valley serving up hot gozlemes (stuffed crepes), wood-fired kebaps, meat stuffed vine leaves and not forget the staple apple çay (apple tea).
After a hearty meal that made us warm and cosy, we walked back to the market and browsed through some more souvenirs before catching a dolmus back to Selcuk.
We indeed found the village so charming and a great way to spend a bright sunny morning!