- History of Şirince
- Şirince’s “Apocalyptic Fame“
- Practical information about Şirince
- What to do in Şirince?
- Visit the Church of St. John the Baptist
- Stop by the Church of St. Demetrius
- Do winehouse hopping and wine tasting
- Pay a visit to the designer of the accessories and jewelries used in Brad Pitt’s movie, “Troy“
- Wander along the nostalgic alleys of Şirince and pet the pawed residents of the village
- Buy herbs and olive oil products from the local grandmas
- Grab a cup of Turkish Coffee brewed in sand to boost your energy
Imagine a colorful village nestled among the fertile mountaintops of Aegean Turkey, a unique amalgamation of authentic Greek architecture and Turkish rural lifestyle, and surrounded by unadulterated, ineffable nature. You will find all of that in Şirince, or as it was originally known, Kırkınca, a tiny, tourist-friendly village known world-wide for its wine production.
All of the tourism values that Turkey stands for towards its visitors, intriguing history, unique food, stunning nature, limitless hospitality can be found in this quaint area.
I recently paid a half-day’s visit to his wine heaven, which is all the time I think one needs to enjoy it, and I was indeed marveled by the gems it beheld. Devoid this year of its usual tourist influx due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Şirince left me with an unforgettable memory and a little tipsy. Let’s start our trip to this paradaisical village!
History of Şirince
Şirince, located 10km away from the world-renowned ancient city of Ephesus, is one of the most characteristic villages in Turkey. The earliest human activity in Şirince dates back to the 5th century BC, however, this village was primarily settled in by the Ottoman Greeks starting from the 19th century. In those times, Şirince was known for its abundant production of fig, which was enough to export to various countries. With 1800 households, Şirince had been one of the most prosperous villages in Western Anatolia during the Ottoman era.
Şirince’s Apocalyptic Fame
What spiked Şirince’s local and international fame was the 2012 Doomsday scare, which had speculated that the 21st of December, 2012, marked the final day on the 5,125-year-long Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, and therefore, the end of the world according to the ancient Mayans. A commentary on the calendar by a new age spiritualist group called “The Blue Energy Group” announced that only two settlements in the world would not be affected by the so-called apocalypse, them being Şirince Village in Turkey and Bugarach Village in France. It need not be mentioned that the Mayans were ultimately wrong, however, this phenomenon skyrocketed Şirince’s tourism and made it among the most visited areas of Turkey.
Practical information about Şirince
Vehicles are not allowed inside the actual village of Şirince to keep it free from exhaust gas and loud noises, and of course, to keep it safe for tourists walking around the streets. Upon arriving to the village, you’ll be required to leave your vehicle in a large parking lot located right by the entrance of the village. The parking rate is fixed at 10₺. I heard some visitors question if this is a scam and I can assure you that it is a legitimate parking space, and you are provided with a receipt in return of your payment. If you are not willing to leave your vehicle to the paid lot, I suggest you can take the road that goes to the right of the parking lot by the entrance of the village and try to find a parking place there.
The cobblestone alleys and streets extend all along Şirince which is a hilly town, and so may be uncomfortable to navigate through for people with walking difficulties. In many parts of the village, the ground is slightly rugged, and much of it requires walking uphill, so I would suggest you to abstain from hard shoes and opt for comfortable sneakers. While it’s hot most of the year, wearing sandals and flipflops will certainly result in painful blisters.
Google Maps and other navigation providers show the total number of churches in Şirince to be more than two, which is not accurate. Şirince has two churches only, them being the church of St. John the Baptist and the church of St. Demetrius.
What to do in Şirince
1-Visit the Church of St. John the Baptist
Church of St. John the Baptist is one of the two main Christian religious complexes in Şirince. Situated in the southern part of the village, this church contains one of the most well-preserved frescoes in the Aegean area. The church was built in 1805. Since undergoing restoration in 1832, this church has been receiving hundreds of visitors daily.
As I was entering the church, I noticed a beautiful marble slab embedded above the door with inscriptions in Greek. Apparently, it reads:
“The Prophet and Baptist St. John Church was built on the order of the blessed Heliapolis priest and together with the grace of Kallinikos of Siphnos for his very dear God and was completed with invaluable help of the dear religious people here and around. The church was destroyed after it was completed and a new church was erected with the great expenses and efforts as well as with the help of God, in September 1805.”
With the Greek population leaving Şirince for Greece following the 1923 Population Exchange that took place between Turkey and Greece, the Muslim Turkish residents of the village have been taking good care of the church, maintaining and preserving it. In addition to being a common spot for wedding photo shoots, photo exhibitions are also occasionally held at the Church of St. John the Baptist. The frescoes and the other remains have survived today thanks to the preservation work funded by the American Society of Ephesus / George B. Quatman Foundation.
2- Stop by the Church of St. Demetrius
Since no epitaphs or inscriptions were recovered, sadly not much is known about the Church of St. Demetrius. It was built in the 1800s on a hill that stands on the right side of the entrance of the village, right behind the paid parking lot. The well-preserved frescoes on the wooden board that covers the ceiling above the altar are the main attractions of the church. Moreover, the names and paintings of two apostles remain intact on the reliefs framed on the walls.
3- Do winehouse hopping and wine tasting
Wine! Şirince owes its current popularity largely to its wine production. In Şirince, you’ll be seeing a wide range of fruit wines and classic grape wines produced at their finest taste by winemakers adherent to the old methods.
If you are a wine lover, you’ll hit the jackpot in Şirince with some very unique and rare flavors. Raspberry, plum, banana, chocolate, pomegranate, blueberry, apple, strawberry and mulberry are some of the many flavors that Şirince wineries boast. The winehouses in Şirince are ever-excited to offer their finest wines to their guests. Wine tasting is complimentary in Turkey, so you must not feel obliged to pay for it, however, it is typically followed by selecting the wine you enjoyed the most and ordering yourself a glass of it to enjoy.
I find it worth mentioning that the overall fascinating experience you will (surely) have in Şirince should not be disrupted.The abundance of winehouses in the village results in a competitive atmosphere, so as you might surmise, some shop owners can get a little too inviting towards the visitors. Shop owners that are intensely insisting and badgering sightseers is unfortunately a common trope to be wary of in Turkey, and I agree that this is rather an annoying situation.
After an hour spent wineshop hopping and roaming around the picturesque streets of Şirince, I sat down in Hera Wine House (the best option in Şirince, in my opinion) which I found to be very authentic and pleasant. The staff at this winehouse were very attentive and sophisticated and spoke English well. The staff seemed to be dedicated to caring for customers which made me feel like the place was reserved for me. Umut Bey, the owner of the shop, was quite knowledgeable about wines and was a remarkable personality. He didn’t leave me unattended for a second. He was very excited to get me acquainted with all the 100% naturally produced wines at Hera Winehouse, which were so many that I can’t even recall the number of wines I tasted. I grew fond of Hera Winehouse and decided to sit down and ordered 3 glasses of wine and a cheese and fruit platter, and relaxed as I was glancing over the astounding view of the village from their hilltop balcony.
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Apart from Hera Winehouse, these are some of the other winehouses that visitors might like:
–$$$ Üzüm Café: In comparison to other spots in Şirince, Üzüm Café stands out more so for their classic grape wines. They offer a good variety of main dishes and snacks as well. The presentation of the cheese and fruit platters are stylish.
-$$ Artemis Café: The overall guests rating of Artemis Café is a bit lower in comparison to its alternatives, however, what makes the café unique is its location more than the quality of its food and drinks. Artemis Café is located inside a 114-year-old stone building which had been used as a school in previous decades. A part of the building is set up as a small museum where you can take a trip back in time to 1923 and learn a good deal about the Population Exchange between Turkey and Greece.
–$ Kıvırcık Wine House: Run and owned by a very hospitable couple, Kıvırcık Wine House stands out with its unique family atmosphere, and is one of the most delightful cafés in Şirince. The name kıvırcık (meaning curly in Turkish) comes from the hair style of the gentleman who owns the shop. I highly recommend you to try their homemade, sulphur-free wines, which are promoted with a guarantee of a headache-free day.
4- Pay a visit to the designer of the accessories and jewelries used in Brad Pitt’s movie, “Troy“
The artisan who designed the silvers, accessories and jewelries used in the movie “Troy” is a resident of Şirince, named Sedat Kantaroğlu. This inspirational man owns a small shop named Demetrius of Ephesus Silver and Jewelry in the bazaar of Şirince. Besides his stunningly exclusive contemporary works, Mr. Kantaroğlu also sells the accessories and jewelry that were used in the movie “Troy”. I took a glance at his works and fell in love with them. This hole-in-the-wall shop could be the perfect place to get souvenirs or to spoil yourself with artistic Greek style jewelry.
Mr. Kantaroğlu shared that his works were also used in the movies of Colin Farrell’s “Alexander the Great” and Russell Crowe’s “Gladiator”. Quite an intriguing personality!
5- Wander along the nostalgic alleys of Şirince and pat the pawed residents of the village
We all know that off-the-beaten-path spots can offer the most unexpectedly beautiful settings. After seeing all the places, I decided to put my phone away and set off to get lost in Şirince to see what hidden beauties it holds. I strongly suggest that you explore the southern part of the village, on account of it being far away from the crowds and more authentic in comparison with other areas. As I was passing by houses, I was saluted many times by the warm-hearted locals who desired to exchange some words with me.
Starting from the first spot I visited in Şirince, I couldn’t help but notice lazy, but friendly cats and dogs in every corner of the village. Accustomed to being patted and fed occasionally, the animals living in the area are comfortable with the visitors. So, make sure you don’t leave Şirince without giving them the love and petting our cute friends deserve.
6- Buy herbs and olive oil products from the local grandmas
While I was walking along the cobblestone alleys, I saw many sweet old Turkish ladies on the street corners selling their local, homemade goods, ranging from herbs collected from the mountains, handicrafts and olive-oil soaps. I got very happy seeing that the narrow streets in Şirince also serve as an open market place where the local women get the chance to run their businesses and hone their entrepreneurial skills. I got myself a bouquet of freshly collected mountain thyme which smelled like heaven! I encourage you to stop by these local women and support them by purchasing a couple of their very reasonably priced goods, which will also give you the chance connect with the locals.
7- Grab a cup of Turkish Coffee Brewed in Sand to boost your energy
After a productive tour of Şirince, I wanted to get some rest and regain my strength. Thinking that a cup of Turkish coffee would surely help relieve my fatigue, I sat down at one of the most renowned coffee shops of Şirince, Fındık Café, where they serve sambucus juice alongside coffee, which certainty elevated the flavors. Compared to normal Turkish coffee, sand-brewed coffee is richer in taste due to the fact that it brews slower.
Another spot I would recommend is Müştiyan Coffee Shop, which also serves great coffee. Frankly, once you are in Şirince, the quality of coffee is more or less the same everywhere, so you can opt for any spot. But, make sure it brews in sand.