Sunday, June 15, 2014

A morning in the quaint village of Sirince, Turkey

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!

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 19th century. 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.

The quaint main square

Flowers in bloom at Sirince

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 (mini van) that shuttles passengers between Selcuk & Sirince

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.

The 'dolmus station' at the village sqaure

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! 

A variety of locally brewed wines made for a colorful sight in the Sirince market

Souvenirs in the market with the Turkish evil eye 'nazar'

Wooden Toys - most of them like Pinochios
Handpainted tiles, Herbal Soaps and Pickles & Vinegar - all sold at the village market
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. 

Scenes as we walk past the bylanes of Sirince - the village mosque, a tastefully done up house & sheep grazing in a meadow right behind it

Scenes from the village - a man cutting wood for making woodfired kebaps, a farmer maneuvering his tractor thru the & a lady selling local spices and pickles

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. 

St John the Baptist Church - the facade, the altar and the 'what were once artistic' frescos
A lady selling handmade lace shawls & capes

An old lady was selling freshly baked bread outside the church gate - which she had covered with a blanket to keep them fresh and warm

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).

The Ocakbasi restaurant overlooking the valley served up hot woodfired kebaps made by local village-women & meat stuffed vine leaves

A restaurant owner scrubbing the walls clean

Locals & Tourists catch up over some Apple Cay at the village sqaure. The conversation eventually broke out into a peppy Turkish song

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. 

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. We indeed found the village so charming and a great way to spend a bright sunny morning!


Useful Info:

Getting There:

Sirince is ideally a day trip from Selcuk town in Western Turkey. 

Selcuk town is about an hour’s drive from the Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir (Western Turkey). Izmir is well connected with daily domestic flights from Istanbul.

Selcuk to Sirince: Take a Dolmus (Minibus) from the Selcuk Otogar to Sirince – 25 mins, 3 Liras per person. The Dolmus leaves from Selcuk every half hour during summer and drops you at the Sirince main village square. When you get off, make sure to ask the driver for return dolmus timings (especially the last bus back) so that you can time your return. 

Child Friendliness Quotient: Very High. Children will love walking through the village (with very little traffic), watch sheep/ cows/ donkeys/ roosters around the village, sit on the one of tractors (which most owners are okay with) or take a horseback ride around the village.Most of Sirince is cobble-stoned though, so makes for a slightly rough pram ride if you have infants.

Vegetarian Tips:

Most restaurants serve a variety of vegetarian Turkish meals – try the vegetable stuffed vine leaves, cottage cheese stuffed gozlemes and goat cheese stuffed baked capsicum.