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A SANCTUARY IN SIRINCE


Today is Peter’s birthday. His 64th, no less. After 2 full days of driving, an airport transit, and flight from Kayseri to Izmir, we reveled in the slow and peaceful morning at our Sirince hotel. No early morning pickups, no tours, no ruins. 

Located in the remote and rural village of Sirince, Sirince was about an hour and a half’s drive from Izmir airport. Our hotel in Sirince, called Nisanyan House, would be our home for the next 4 nights. 

Calling Nisanyan House a hotel is like calling Elsa Schiaparelli a dressmaker. With that rare and unique quality that makes every guest feel like they’ve stumbled into the pages of a storybook, it has everything from enchanted cottages, magical secret gardens, and its own micro-village atmosphere, with an infinite supply of enjoyable pockets, nooks and crannies begging to be explored. Resident peacocks prance freely about, undisturbed by the hotel cats, while ducks and chickens feed and swim in the aviary all day. The accommodation at Nisanyan House includes several historic houses that have been turned into delightfully quaint cottages and guest rooms. With each reflecting the inspiration of the moment and whimsy of experimentation, no two units are alike. 

Most interesting of all is Nisanyan’s House host, Sevan Nisanyan, a writer of Armenian origin. Known to the Turkish public as a linguist, political commentator, travel writer and human rights activist, he normally lives on the premises of the hotel and runs the show in a hands on fashion. During our stay, however, he wasn’t in town. While we would have loved to have met this extraordinary man, we contented ourselves with overlooking the olive groves and vineyards of the valley, totally removed from the cares of the world in our mountainside sanctuary of Cottage #7. 

The day’s activity involved nothing more strenuous than a private and informal cooking class. Meeting Sonja (the hotel’s guest relations manager) and Ferda (the hotel chef) at the hotel’s delightfully homey kitchen, Peter and I were fitted out with aprons and armed with wicker baskets. Led to the hotel’s bountiful vegetable patch and herb garden, we picked the fresh produce that we were going to cook with. Making our way back to the kitchen, we cooked up the following menu under Ferda’s expert guidance:
  • Cold Mezes (Starters): carrot with yoghurt and garlic, and roasted red peppers with walnut and cheese
  • Warm Mezes: Vegetable triangle pastry with spicy tomato sauce
  • Chicken and vegetable stew seasoned with herbs from hotel’s garden, served with home made Eriste (Turkish pasta)
  • Pine nut semolina halva with home made ice cream
After savoring the fruits of our labour over a bottle of Turkish Red, a short siesta was in order. At about 4 pm, we resurfaced and ventured down to the village of Sirince via a very steep, winding pathway. 

The origins of the village of Sirince are obscure. With traces of an ancient Roman presence, the ruins of a 12th century Byzantine monastery were found about 3 km from the village. However, the settlement itself seems to date from the late 18th century. The 700 inhabitants of Sirince are descendants of Turkish immigrants who left their homeland near Kavala, in Greek Macedonia, in 1923. The physical appearance of many of the villagers, reflect their Balkan origins. 

Despite tourism, Sirince remains at heart a farming village. The main sources of income are products of the land: peaches, grapes and olives. But one of the greatest assets of Sirince is its traditional architecture, which has been remained fairly intact despite difficult times. In 1986, the architecture of Sirince was placed under protective legislation. Since that date, all new construction has to conform to traditional standards. As a result, few ugly cement buildings disturb the harmonious panorama of Sirince. 

Checking out the village bazaar, we remembered being told by a fellow traveler that Sirince was known for its scarves and wraps, which sold at a fraction of the price of merchandise to similar merchandise in Istanbul. After indulging in a bit of light shopping, we made our way back up to the hotel before darkness fell. After all, we had another culinary date with Ferda for dinner at Nisanyan’s restaurant.


Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 28th September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Turkey
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