Turkey's Survivalist Mecca

How the apocalypse became central to the economy of one 600-person village

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Sirince on the morning of December 21. (Ceylan Yeginsu)

As the prophesized doomsday hour approached the quaint Aegean town of Sirince on December 21, balloons were launched into the air as if to release months of Internet-fueled hype based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. When the balloons disappeared behind the hills, a local resident stated the obvious with a chuckle: "We're still here."

Sirince, a Turkish village of 600 residents located above the ancient city of Ephesus, was believed by many new-age radicals to survive the so-called apocalypse. Hotel bookings, local hearsay, and media hype suggested that foreign visitors would flock to the village by the thousands. But on the day, foreign tourists were scarce with Turkish tourists, journalists and energy enthusiasts making up the vast majority of visitors.

"The whole doomsday prophecy was a farce, the world was never going to end today; only its energy was going to change," said Oksan Icpinar, a bio-energy enthusiast whose interpretation of doomsday was an energy shift, which he believes took place at 1:11 p.m. in Sirince. Icpinar explained that many tourists had been put off by the mockery and hype of the event and cancelled at the last minute. Many hotel owners agreed.

Sirince has been associated with " positive energy" for years. An international organization called the Blue Energy Group has played a significant role in promoting the village in this capacity, saying it has " mystical energy" due to its apparent proximity to the birthplace of the Virgin Mary.

Omer and Charlotte Samli, owners of the Terrace Houses, have had bio-energy observing tenants, who have stayed at their houses for 6 years. One tenant, Grace, asked to stay in each room to measure the energy before she committed to renting the whole house.

Icpinar, who visited Sirince for the first time on "doomsday," said his personal energy changed as soon as he entered the village. Dangling from the balcony of Kirkinca boutique hotel, he shouted comments at a group of girls he mistook for tourists. "I'm normally so shy and would never act like that," he said sheepishly "But here I can't stop myself, it's the energy," he said.

When asked why Sirince has such an impact on his personal energy over others, he said the question was like asking why god had brought us into this universe. "This is a deep subject, but everyone's energy will change after December 21. Some people will be more aware of it, and some won't."

Icpinar claims that his awareness caused him to run up to the sacred shrine where some Christians believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. "All this happened after clock struck 1:11 today," he noted. Some " doomsday" prophecies claimed that Noah's Ark would ascend onto the same hill to save Sirince residents when "the world ends."

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Ceylan Yeginsu is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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