Şirince: A village where you can feel at home

ARDA SAYINER @ardasayiner
Published 26.08.2016 23:28
Updated 27.08.2016 00:30
Şirince: A village where you can feel at home

A real-life paradise in the southwestern city of İzmir, Şirince is a small village that has much to offer to those who want to have a vacation decorated with unique flavors and a well-preserved environment

One of the oldest villages in the Turkish province of İzmir, Şirince is now preparing to offer the beauty of Fall to its visitors. With its white stone houses, wooden alcoves and cobblestone streets, this is a place where you will definitely feel at home. Roughly 100 of the 5,000 original houses in Şirince are still there, formed by Balkan refugee families. Now, the village has a population of around 800. Since the village was featured in the 2012 Mayan calendar, increasing its popularity, many domestic and foreign tourists are flocking to Şirince.

There are many hotels in the village, but one of the best boutique hotels is the Nişanyan Hotel. Opened by Sevan Nişanyan and his wife Müjde Tönbekici, the hotel is definitely the result of hard work. The couple bought the land 35 years ago and began working on it, building new vineyard houses on the land, which had previously only been comprised of a single building, and adding greener landscaping to its surrounding area. Then, they planted dozens of trees and hundreds of plants, also bringing water from kilometers away, which was not an easy task. They even shared the water they found with villagers. The couple also fixed the roads that lead to this area at the outskirts of Şirince, and even paved part of it with stones. In short, they put an extreme effort into both the Nişanyan Hotel and the legendary village of Şirince. Müjde Tönbekici, who put forth this effort with "Sevan Nişanyan," is a perfect example of an Istanbul lady. A chemical engineer, in the early 1980s she fell in love with Şirince as an engineering student, studying books written by Sebahattin Ali. Finally, she came and bought land in Şirince. On the other hand, the opening of the Nişanyan Hotel became a reality in 2001, the year legendary singer Elton John visited Izmir.

A pool of white lilies awaits guests in the lobby of Nişanyan Hotel. I still can't understand how this pool was brought to the tops of these hills, which is lit with candles that float in the pool at night. There is a breakfast and restaurant area in the pavilion where the hotel's reception is located, where you can enjoy a historical view of Şirince. The hotel rooms feature murals drawn on the walls and ceilings. The furniture, on the other hand, is purely antique. I especially love the suite that has a French bathtub. The breakfast hall, on the other hand, is the type that will make you feel as if you are in a pure mountainous environment. Summers here are shady and cool. There are Ottoman style couches, embroidered pillows, dried corn and tomatoes hung from the ceilings of the breakfast hall, and very authentic cuisine displayed on wooden columns. You will see books everywhere at this hotel, which looks somewhat like a museum. Don't forget to try the homemade jams Müjde made herself and the local fried dough called "pişi" at breakfast. The fig jam and cream are wonderful. In addition, you can also have cow and goat's milk that comes from the local farm. For dinner, on the other hand, I recommend "mantı" and lamb shank. In addition, you should also try the homemade mustard and pesto sauce Müjde makes herself. By the way, I should also mention that you're going to love the old oil-lamps put on your table during dinner.

There is a terrace area with a great view where you can have your dinners, a prairie cafe where you can sip your afternoon coffee and a Turkish bath, which you can enjoy in the pavilion section of the hotel. Make sure to go in and try the hamam built in traditional Seljuk architecture. When you go up the outskirts of Nişanyan Hotel, you'll come across a 12-meter tower. Just like the towers in Toscana, you can go up the tower and watch the sunset on couches full of pillows or relax by reading a book. If you make a reservation in advance you can even have a romantic dinner at the top of the tower. The view is purely magnificent! You will find another section of accommodations by passing through the area where the tower is. There are a total of six vineyard houses and a mansion with five rooms. The two-storey mansion is very cute with its antique appearance.

There are living rooms full of couches and fireplaces in the suites in the mansion and all the bedspreads and pillows have Anatolian patterns on them. The flooring at the room entrances, on the other hand, is uniquely decorated in works of art including flowers, black and white checks and oriental motifs. The ceilings, on the other hand, are covered with old-type stones and antiqued wood. At the top floor of the mansion, there is a relaxing area full of sofas. This section, with a faucet of water flowing, is ideal for reading and having coffee. There is also a shared kitchen area in this mansion. Guest are able to make tea and coffee or cook for themselves in this section where all kitchen utensils are available. Cooking workshops are also organized in this kitchen, furnished with tables and sofas of the 1980s. We visited this kitchen with Müjde and cooked a casserole. It was wonderful! Müjde is an expert in cooking -- especially in Roman cuisines -- and knows the cooking culture of the ancient civilizations very well. If you come to Nişanyan Hotel, don't forget to ask her for her Roman yeast bread. Now, it is time to swim! Nişanyan Hotel is the only hotel with a pool in Şirince. This pool area is like a secret paradise. The marble pool within the forest has a canyon view and its water is chlorine-free with ice-cold, natural spring water. The bottom of the pool is covered with black-and-white tiles just like a chess set. It's an enjoyable area with lounge chairs all around. I recommend that you visit this hotel as soon as you get the chance. It is an important investment for Turkish tourism that is sure to take you back to your roots.

In the meantime, while you're in Şirince, make sure to also visit the Math Village, where students take math classes every day. The campus was founded by the Nesin Foundation and is just like the universities in Cambridge. The library area is breathtaking and the Math Village is open to students of every age who are interested in math. Student can stay in on-campus dormitories and venture into the depths of the math world with well-known Turkish and foreign professors. By the way, they also opened the Philosophy Village in the same place, where art and philosophy classes are being taught. Since professors are volunteer-based and the Nesin Foundation receives lots of donations, classes are quite affordable. While you are there you should also visit Medrese, which is an artistic school where students take different types of acting classes. The campus building is built in Italian style and every corner is full of art. Like the Math Village, you can stay on campus, which is super affordable. Both institutions are like an oasis in the middle of Şirince. If you finish your tour of those two different campuses, go ahead and mingle with the locals of Şirince. Have your photo taken in front of the old houses, or buy a few village products and try a taste of the local food. After your meal, try the blackberry ice cream or drink some fresh blackberry juice. As an alternative, try the Turkish coffee brewed in sand and heated over a coal fire. You can find this special coffee, known as "Coffee in the Sand" at authentic coffee shops. Although Şirince's fruit wine is famous, I didn't like it much. Don't go without trying the natural flavors in Şirince, and enjoy the wellbeing and peace of this incredible village!

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