I dream about Şirince, a village I first visited in 2010. Gürkan and I were staying with a friend in İzmir and while walking through the university campus, we saw a student tour to Efes, Şirince and Kuşadası. It was dirt cheap, so of course, we took the opportunity to sign up. The tour guide and his organizational skills couldn’t have been worse, but the sights were all amazing, especially Şirince.
From time to time, I google Şirince and imagine visiting for the weekend, and staying there forever (kidding, mom!). Gürkan and I had planned to stay in Antalya and Olympos for the Ramadan holiday, but it was hot, too hot. He had the brilliant idea of heading back in the direction of Istanbul a day early, breaking up the long day of driving and spending the night in charming Şirince.
Şirince was originally home to a Greek Christian population and remains famous as a wine producing village. Şirince wines are most often fruit wines (think: quince, kiwi, blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry), as well as some wines made from Turkish wine producing grapes (Boğazkere, Narince). I find many of the fruit wines to be too sweet although the quince is madly refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
Life moves a bit slower in the village. Roosters crow, dogs laze about on the narrow cobblestone roads, women sell spices and homemade goods, and forgotten churches lay tucked away, hidden from the main road. Legend has that the Greeks named the village Çirkince, or ugly, in order to deter others from following them there, but in 1926, the governor of İzmir changed it to Şirince, or pleasant, clearly a more aptly fitting name.
We arrived at Şirince in the late afternoon after a long, sweaty (but beautiful) trip to Pamukkale. We checked into our guest house – an old Greek house – complete with fireplace, decorative wooden ceilings, and antiques.
We had less than a full 24 hours to enjoy the village so we made the most of it. In the evening, we did a wine tasting at Kaplankaya wines, purchased a couple bottles to take home, and then spent the evening sipping wine on the shop’s small patio. In the morning, we enjoyed an amazingly fresh breakfast in our hotel’s garden; in fact, the olives at breakfast were so good that we asked the owner where he had gotten them from. He pointed to the tree we were sitting under, saying he had picked them from there, and had processed them himself.
After breakfast, we took a morning stroll through the market area. We stocked up on olive oil soaps, cold-pressed olive oil, village olives, and hand-knitted winter socks.
Although we left around noontime, the long trek back to Istanbul was not completely uneventful. We stocked up on pears, melons, and homemade pomegranate molasses from roadside stands, beat the Istanbul traffic to the Yalova-Gebze ferry even though the TV stations had already staked out spots to document the holiday traffic, and found ourselves in an eerily quiet Istanbul. Luckily, when the landlord and his family wished us happy bayram, we had more than enough fresh fruit to share as our own bayram offering.