About Şirince

Şirince with its historical unique architecture is a well protected touristic village, 8 km from Selçuk district of İzmir Province in Turkey.

The first settlement of the village now known as Sirince probably occurred after the collapse of Ephesus, when a small group of people left the city and moved to the mountains. Monastery ruins in the area small, relatively unimpressive structures date back to the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.

Old maps show the village's name variously as Kyrkindje, Kirkindsche, Kirkidje, Kirkica, Kirkinca which may date from these monastic settlements, but the village is more well-known name before Sirince was actually Çirkince. The origin of this name is not known for certain, but it is rumored that it was chosen more than 600 years ago to conceal the village's existence and attractiveness from people who lived in the valley below.

During the 15th century, or the Aydinogullari period, a group of freed Greek slaves chose to settle here. When they were asked if their new home was a nice place, their answer was Çirkince, namely ugly place. This name remained unchanged until a 1926 visit by the Governor of Izmir, Kazim Pasa. When he saw the village's beautiful setting, he declared the name would henceforth be Sirince, namely lovely place. Çirkince appears in deed registrations from the 16th century, after the arrival in the area of Turks and the settlement of Ayasuluk. The oldest international travel reports of the village date back to Edmund D. Chishull, who toured Anatolia between September 1698 and February 1702. In his book Turkey Travels and Return to England he writes about leaving Tire on April 30, 1699, bound for Ephesus. In those days, the only nearby place to stay was apparently in the village of Kirkinca (Sirince). Chishull and his companions arrived in the village on horseback, climbing up through the valley. He wrote: "We followed a valley from Ephesus castle upwards. It was a 1.5-hour-long, tiresome but pleasant journey between two hills with a stream running. We were met with trees of various species with their pleasant and inviting dark shade."

Chishull and his party stayed in tents set up by their guides. The following day he toured the village and noted that the entire population was Christian. The earliest demographic information recorded about the village dates from 1919. This first census reveals that 11,100 Muslims, 9,000 Greeks, 79 Armenians, and 145 Jews were living in the area. Most of the Greek portion of the population about 50% lived in what is today known as Sirince, as well as in Güzelçamli and Kusadasi centre. Sirince churches were governed from Aydin. The church district was called Heliopolis, or sun city; it extended from Torbali to Birgi and included Denizli and Fethiye. Confirmation of this can be seen in the carvings at the entrance of the recently refurbished St. Yannis Church, which clearly state that the church reported to Heliopolis.

Settlement Sirince once had 1,800 houses; today only about 200 are standing, mostly on the village's southern and western slopes. If you climb away from the village to the east, then look back over the southern slope, you can recognize where its houses used to stand. But many of the farmhouses, monasteries, and churches in and around Sirince have disappeared. Only the memories and stories of the villagers can pinpoint their locations. To the west of the now-restored stone church, below a plane tree that grows there today was once a fountain and rows of houses. A small stream bed still descends the hill, separating the village into two sections. The part on the west was traditionally called "independence" and the one on the east "salvation". The stream ends in the low part of the village where a street lined with shops and coffee houses runs down to another plane tree. At the far east end of the village there was a laundry building; the village graveyard is beyond it. There were once two olive presses in the village: one at the far east end and another in the far north end, where the elementary school is also situated. The current schoolhouse and the former one, now a restaurant, are landmarks that provide wonderful views of the village and its setting.

Departure On September 9, 1922, during the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish forces defeated the occupying Greek army and entered Izmir. As the Greek troops withdrew, some of the local Greek population traveled to Izmir and left Anatolia for the offshore islands. It is likely that some inhabitants of Sirince left the village at this time.

Following the victory of the Turks, The Exchange of Turkish and Greek Populations Treaty was signed as part of the Treaty of Lausanne. It went into effect on November 30, 1923. Under its terms, all Turkish people living in Greece and Greek people living in Turkey were to be exchanged (with the exception of Greeks in Istanbul and Turks in Western Thrace). The legal rights of transferred peoples were guaranteed; their real estate was handed over to the local commissions to be given to the incoming immigrants. Transferal of goods belonging to churches and mosques was allowed: what could be carried by the departing peoples was free of customs duty at their destination. Cash compensation for properties left behind was also to be given, if needed.

The exchange took place by boat and train, and lasted more than a year. Many precautions were taken, but even so there was, at times, some chaos: people from the same villages boarded separate boats, some people who had owned no property were given land because they made false declarations. Most of the arrivals were workers in need of assistance; some people arrived having lost all they had been able to assemble and carry. In addition, both governments had other difficulties to deal with. Inevitably, situations such as settling tobacco farmers in the mountains, where tobacco cannot be grown, occurred. In the end about 500,000 Turks from Greece were settled in Anatolia. The immigrants from the Thessaloniki area came by ship to Izmir and some were settled in Sirince.Today, Sirince's heritage, architecture, and beautiful location mean tourism plays a major role in the local economy. Even so, Sirince is a working village, too most of the people who live here travel to the surrounding orchards, olive groves, and fields to make their living. Depending on the season, grapes or peaches are brought to the village square and sent to distant markets. In winter months villagers pick olives and take them to nearby olive presses. Frequent sights among the tourist buses include a load of dried figs, a tractor or two, motorcycles with sidecars loaded with firewood, or farmers with donkeys or horses. In many cases, it is this real living Turkish village that entrances the crowds. Sirince, many hopes, will remain like this for a long time, open and welcoming to tourists, but at its heart a healthy agricultural community producing olive oil, grapes, figs, peaches, and wineyards.


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