The last day of our stay in Turkey dawned. We thought that it would be better if we follow the coastal way to Cesme, in order to save some kilometers. The boat departed for Chios at 6.30pm. As a final destination we set the picturesque village of Sirince, located a few kilometers east of Selcuk. We took our time and woke up at 9am and prepared our stuff before taking our breakfast. Although we did not have many kilometers until we reach Sirince (about 200km). We departed from the pension at 11:30 a.m.
Following the western route through Denizli - Nazili - Aydin - Incirliova - Selcuk, drove in an indifferent, and-possibly-monotone path. We crossed a vast plain with low vegetation. The heat was enough, since we had descended elevation. The horizon, due to the humidity, was not clear. As we were used to drive into more mountainous routes we had forgotten these weather conditions.
At 2pm we arrived in Selcuk. He had become the first destination of our trip. We were in Sirince intersection and turn right; following a close-on-road curvy perched on one of the mountains. Having traveled about 10km. suddenly found ourselves at the entrance to the small picturesque village built above the mountainside. Sirince is a beautiful former Greek Orthodox village. The old name was «Cirkince» in Turkish means 'ugly'. The tradition says that the inhabitants gave this name to avoid the visit of the foreigners. They did not want to share its beauty with others!
Over the years whoever visited the village, called it «Sirince» which means "beautiful." Situated in a prime location, surrounded by olive trees, vineyards and peach trees, has a view that is literally breathtaking! Nowadays, is the result of a unique composition of Greek-Turkish culture. After 1920, with the population exchange that took place between Greeks and Turkish, the village inhabited by Turkish who came mainly from Thessaloniki. The new residents maintained their Greek architecture of the houses-mostly externally-making interventions inside. The result of this combination was amazing.
Most of these traditional houses have been converted into small guesthouses, reminding a lot of those at Pelion/Greece. Narrow cobbled streets through the village, giving a unique character and charm. Small shops are selling these souvenirs, scarves, embroidery, clothes, soaps, oils, wine, etc.. As you walk through the narrow streets makes you forget what country you're in! The village has a fierce Greek element and is part of the visit mainly by Turkish and foreigners who come for day trips from Kusadasi and Ephesus.
The accommodation is not cheap. We were lucky to find a relatively inexpensive and quite special one. It’s called «Gizli bahce» (100TL without breakfast) which means "secret garden" and looks like one indeed! The ground floor of a traditional house was renovated into 2 small rooms. The stone wall and wood give a special beauty. For sure you can find even more atmospheric accommodation... depending on what you pay-you get...
The village had 2 main attractions: the church of St. John the Baptist and the Old School. For start, we walked around the small streets and went to the church. The interior (free admission) does not offer somethingspecial, nor hagiography except 2 almost destroyed icons of Christ. The outdoor space was structured to accommodate a small cafeteria and 1-2 shops with handmade stuff. But what impressed us was the fantastic panoramic view of the village. As it was expected we sat down to enjoy it!
Our next destination was the school. It has been converted into a museum and restaurant. The neoclassical architecture reminding the relevant Greek schools in the early 20th century. Some of the interior space had been converted into museum where pictures, documents, certificates and Greek and Turkish books are exhibited. Some other places internally-and externally-converted into a restaurant (Restaurant Artemis), without affecting the aesthetics of the space. We sat down to eat in the restaurant which had a delicious cuisine at reasonable prices. At the same time it offered a different point of view of the village.
We returned to the alleys to drink a coffee in another traditional house that was transformed into a tasteful cafeι. Many have turned their homes into restaurants with beautiful gardens and good views. The night fall, when we decided to go back to the main square of the village which was close to our hotel. As we were getting closer we heard music. The square was full of people. They were sitting on chairs that had been placed in such a way like a dance floor. There was a central decorated table. This picture reminded me of something very familiar: premarital celebration! I felt very lucky once again, I had the opportunity to be in such an event. Naturally we decided to spend the night there now!
The good mood and fun had begun. The older women were sitting and the younger were on the dance floor and danced. The music was not live but the dj had the role of a singer also. The bride was dancing with relatives and friends until the time the groom and his family came and continued all together. Later, the bride changed by putting a fancy red dress with gold trimming. Then a dance started with young girls only. At a point one of them was holding a vase which she broke while dancing. The children rushed to collect both pieces and candies in gold wrapping.
The bride sat in the centre of the dance floor and the girls (her friends) wore the red gloves while they did a ritual with a sweet and a broken stone over her head. After a while the groom approached wearing also the red glove. The couple then danced alone-and at some point they tied them together by their one legs. The parents followed the dance and everybody joined them. The joy and the fun were unstoppable! The music spread throughout the village until late hours! The sounds were very familiar. Many times we had the impression that we were about to hear the melody of a Greek song.
When we returned to our room, the music reached up there as if we were still in the square! Emotions were mixed. I was wondering -once again- how many similarities these 2 nations have? At the end how similar manners and customs we have? Are there more things which unite us than those which divide us?
But what I liked the most was that through that small village I found the beloved Turkey, with original simple people who are not influenced by tourism. The truth is that Sirince struggles to keep its authenticity and succeeds, especially in the afternoons when all the tourists are leavingand locals just stay...