Mystery locations visited…..

We twelve comfortably-adventurous souls venture to a little known area surprisingly only 21/2 hours from Marmaris.  Before we leave Marmaris, though, we’re all sworn not to tell where Nysa and Sirence are GPS-located.  After all, we 12 are the only foreigners we know who have been here.

However, we will give you one clue:  It’s true that ancient cities chose the highest, safest, most scenic and usually difficult sites to establish residence. 

Nysa is one of these small cities nestling atop a mountain.  It is no secret that the geographical requirements for a successful city included fresh water.  Nysa is fed by such streams.  Its bridges are mostly intact today.
 
The city sprawls with wide forest pathways leading to the agora (shopping district), Roman baths, a stadium, a city council or “parliament” buildings,  and amphitheatre that has evidence of its stage and back-stage buildings.  The theatre had a capacity of 7,000 spectators.   Nysa  is most probably the first small Roman city we’ve seen that was built in an out of the way forest of conifers and fruit trees, with fields of flowers.  It’s an untouched idyllic setting reminiscent of an ancient Roman way of life.

Here’s another clue but don’t tell anyone.  Not even your mother: We learn from our guide that from the first century B.C. onward Nysa was a significant educational center. It was home to the Greek historian Strabo and acclaimed for its sculptors and poets.  In those very early days Nysa was neither Greek nor Turkish.  It embraced both cultures and a few others as well. 

In the third century B.C. Nysa was dedicated to Dionysus-the Greek god of wine.  In second century A.D. Nysa was still the city to go to for education and the gathering of knowledge.  The following ten centuries saw the coming and goings of Christian, Turkish and Muslim settlements.  Tamerlane invaded the area in 1402 which basically caused people to surrender and evacuate the city. And, with all this history, no foreign tourist knows this!

{mosimage}Adjacent and through the forest that hides Nysa from the rest of the world is our hotel.  It just happens to be luxurious with spa and Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, games rooms (including billiards), swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness center, dining rooms, bars and lounges. It’s sheer pleasure to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying these facilities, the gardens and-if we must communicate with the outside word -internet access provided by the hotel.

Our dinner this first night offers us the choice of two restaurants (open buffet or menu service in the Pyramid or rooftop restaurants), five bars, disco, satellite TV or movie theatre.

Just down the hill from the hotel is modern civilization but it’s not so modern that we fail to appreciate a visit to an old olive factory.  Its here many of us buy fresh olive oil made directly from neighbouring orchards by local growers. It’s the best quality olive oil sold at low prices untouched by city supermarkets.

After breakfast the next day we leave Nysa for a short drive to Sirence-an extraordinary example of an Ottoman Greek rural village with more than 200 year-old preserved and/or restored buildings meandering across the mountainside. 

Sirence is no secret to Turks.  They’ve been coming here for centuries. Sirence was first settled by Christians from Ephesus.  (Oops. We’ve just let slip yet another clue.) Legend says that the Virgin Mary was buried here.

Today, Sirence preserves its age-old cobble stone streets and pathways, and it is for this reason that donkeys are still used for transportation.  Villagers maintain their culture and customs passed from generation to generation.

Weddings, the rites of passing into manhood and funerals are revered age-old practices still held in the village square. 
One old custom is the art of making, tasting and enjoying local wine. It’s obvious that we absolutely must conform to this custom and sample the village vintage before, during and after a locally prepared lunch.  

Although it’s time to return to Marmaris, we’re not so eager to leave.  It’s clear we’ve been captured by Sirence’s charm and peaceful, uncomplicated Eden-like nature. We’re relaxed.  We’re happily content.  Sirence is a place where time does not pass quickly and people still live the good life.  We’re anxious to tell friends about our trip but, as you know, it’s a secret!

Article by Gwen Bylund

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