Saturday, March 15, 2014

Aegean Village Face-off

From the Central Aegean coast in Turkey, we bring you another episode of Village Face-Off!  Today's match-up: Şirince vs. Beyazköy.  (Actually, its real name is something else but I think I shall keep the name to myself!)  Two small hill towns within driving short distance of the ruins of Ephesus.

This is Şirince:

Some quick stats:  described in the guidebooks as idyllic, well-preserved old Greek town, and increasingly a weekend get away for wealthy turks.  Reachable via shared vans that leave throughout the day from the closest backpacker town.  Hawkers selling lots of fruit wines at 20 Turkish lira a bottle at both shops where we inquired.  Lots of accommodations and restaurants.  Parking lot cost 5 lira per otomobil.  Locals hanging about but not interested in tourists, while hawkers all speak English.  American pop music audible somewhere. 

Overall score: 6/10.  Mostly for the gorgeous hilly scenery and the convenience factor.

And this is Beyazköy:

Some quick stats: not described or listed in guidebooks. Reachable via private transport or maybe a school bus from somewhere.  No hawkers.  No hotels.  No restaurants.  (Trust us, we asked.)  But as with most Turkish villages, there is a tea house across from the mosque in the central square.  Parking is where you can find it.  Locals are outside tending flocks or soaking up welcome midday warmth and are very interested in tourists, but do not speak English.

Overall score: 9/10.  Why so high, you ask?

First of all, the hilly scenery here is just as gorgeous as Şirince, except that there are fewer houses.  

Second of all, even though there is not a restaurant, we were fed well.  While sipping tea, we darted next door and bought a cheap loaf of bread from the village mart.  Seeing this, the tea house man brought out a Tupperware full of local olives and put it on our table, so we ate some of the olives.  They were not very flavorful, though.  The man came over and made it obvious that, instead of eating them, we were supposed to be dipping our bread into the oil in which the olives were floating.  So we did, and oh my god.  Tastiest, freshest, most fantastic olive oil we have ever had.  And he made it himself, from the olive trees growing all around us.  We easily finished off the entire loaf of bread, and the whole meal (bread, olives, oil, tea) cost 2 lira.  One dollar.

We could have eaten more too, because not five minutes later we were being offered food and drink from a lady sitting on a hillock near some sheep.  She waved at us while we were admiring the hillside and so we approached and sat down by her.  In Turkish, she asked us where we were from, and did we think it was cold here in Beyazköy, and had we eaten, etc.  I got her name:  Nadireçam Gölova Menderes.  She laughed at how short my name was in return.  She also laughed at the sheep dung that was on my pant knee, and offered to clean it.  But we didn't want to abuse Nadireçam's hospitality, and we fondly bade her adieu.

I still marvel at the difference between the guidebook village and the unmarked village.  Beyazköy has not been "found," and the only reason we found it is because we had a rental car, Google maps, and a random Spidey sense.  I wonder how the village would change if more tourists began visiting.  For that reason, I've given it an alternate name, just in case Lonely Planet editors lurk on travel blogs.  Whatever happens, I hope Nadireçam stays there for a long time.


  1. Hammad! Just started reading your blog, so excellent! But I wonder, will more tourists try to find your new friend in her town? do you wonder if talking about the town ends up being an inadvertent advertisement? But I have been to a place similar, as far as not yet opened to tourism and all the better for it. It's such a paradox, to be a tourist and wanting to go to the non-touristy places and then pretty soon those places become touristy. Ah, globalization... fantastic reading, looking forward to hearing more of your adventures.

  2. Anu! Yes, you are so right. I absolutely worried about this when writing the post. At the time, I figured not enough people are reading this blog for it to make any difference. But, it might be a nice symbolic gesture to keep the name of the village to myself. I think I will go back and edit the post. The more I travel, the more I realize the privileges and responsibilities that come along with it. Thank you so much for the comment. I hope you are doing very well!