December 5, 2021

Sirince: the pretty ugly village in Turkey

Sirince, 8 km up the hill from Selcuk (pronounced Sel-shuk) in Turkey, has the most interesting version of ‘beware of dog’ signboard ever to be invented. Sirince is pronounced Shi-rin-jay and means ‘pretty town’. A village of 700 odd inhabitants, Sirince was hidden well from public view for many many years. Unwilling to open up to the outside world, they got by, calling their village Cirkince which means ‘rather ugly’. In the 1930s the local governor decided to change the name to its present form, and the world discovered it with a vengeance.

Village house

Sunset in the valley

We were staying further up the hill at the Nisanyan inn, with its cozy small rooms, wooden floor, warm restaurant with picture windows overlooking the valley and the interesting Mr.Nisanyan himself for company at dinner. We had flown from Istanbul to Izmir that morning and driven down the smooth highway to Selcuk and then up the narrow hill roads to Sirince. We were there for Ephesus, the site of one of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world, just over six kilometers away.

From Nisanyan Inn

That evening, we walked down the steep stone steps to the village of Sirince, with its single main square. At first glance, Sirince is about touristy kitsch, locals calling out to you to sell this, that and the other, and all at unbelievable bargain prices. I ignored these and walked, camera in hand, peeping into the tiny windows on either side of the road; men playing their own version of Scrabble, a man getting a shave in the Berber shop, the friendly man making fresh orange juice (easily the best I have ever tasted; the orange groves are all the way up to the inn on the hill roads).

A game of their own

A close shave

Fresh orange juice

I walked into one of the empty wine shops and chatted with the friendly owner about the village and the wines as he generously offered sample after sample of the most delicious fruit wine, and walked out happy, if slightly tipsy. Scratch under the surface, and Sirince is a genuinely pretty village with a simple way of life. And I am not saying this just for the wine…

I bought two

Hard to choose

The locals have learnt to live with it, even live off it, given that Sirince is only a pit-stop for most tourists, the real action being in Ephesus, or the seaside town of Kusadasi (which Mr. Nisanyan with his engaging turn of phrase described as an urban disaster!). They stop to taste the local fruit wine and bargain at the shops selling ‘genuine fake watches’ and click pictures of local women knitting sweaters, before heading back to their tour buses and uglier things.

Winter is close

Genuine fakes

*Sigh* some things are best left undiscovered…

6 thoughts on “Sirince: the pretty ugly village in Turkey

  1. Thanks for the great photos! We live in Selcuk and have watched this formerly hidden gem of Sirince become overtaken with tourism, though it still has its charms – the terrace at Nisanyan Evleri being one of them. And some of the wines are wonderful, but you are correct – the orange juice is the best!

  2. Wow, nice title! it captured me and i said: what?? pretty ugly?? hehe. I was there at this time of last year and it was very nice at this season. There are many guesthouses and little hotels to stay there. This town makes this come to my mind; ‘Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd’.

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