It had been a long day, so, on our first night in Kusadasi we decided to sleep late and spend the next day doing something fun and easy. A quick search showed us that the right thing was to visit a village called Şirince thirty kilometers away. In recent years it has become famous as a casual day trip out of Kusadasi or Selçuk. We left late in the morning, drove through Selçuk, and turned on to a charming country road. The village sits at the tip of a hill and is surrounded by farms. The history that we read claimed that the village has been occupied since the early Ottoman times, perhaps the 15th century CE, and that in the 19th century CE it was mostly an Ottoman Greek village. During the Balkan wars of the early 20th century the villagers sided with the Greeks, bringing down on them the full force of the Ottoman empire. A post-war settlement forced an exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece. The village was then settled by Macedonian Turks.
Cars are not allowed into the village. We parked in one of the several large parking lots just below the start of the cobbled roads. Near the parking lot we saw a familiar car: a Tata Xenon. India and Turkey do significant trading these days. We had sturdy shoes which had taken us through Ephesus, and they were certainly even more useful on the steep paths of this village. It seems that you can hire a horse or a small cart if you want, but to us it looked like it would be difficult to negotiate parts of the village if you have difficulties walking.
One of the intriguing things about this village is that it is known for its fruit wines. About 4000 Turks from Macedonia were settled in this village after a piece of rebranding. Apparently the village used to be called Çirkince (meaning ugly). In 1926 the governor of the province, Kazim Dirik, renamed it Şirince (beautiful). Still, there wasn’t much of a life to be made here, and many families moved away over the years. In the 1993 an Armenian Turkish linguist, Sevan Nişanyan, settled in this village and began to restore it so that tourism from nearby Ephesus could be tapped. He has been stunningly successful, as we saw. It is due to his efforts that the village is now a national heritage site. His own story does not end too well; he was jailed in 2012, escaped, and is now a political refugee in Greece.
This village of about 600 to 700 people is utterly charming. Of course, the local population is completely outnumbered during the day by visitors, so don’t go looking for authenticity. We had a very relaxed day walking about, having lunch, and coffee, and, most important, trying out the many different fruit wines that they have. They are all very sweet, of course, but one can think of lots of uses for them. I would have liked to carry several bottles, but The Family pointed out that we had limits on how much weight we could take with us. Too bad. I’m talking to you, airlines management.