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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Awaiting the End in a Small Turkish Town

Telegraph TV video reports people have gathered in France and Turkey to await the end of days.

ISTANBUL - Despite assurances from leading Islamic and Christian clerics and the global skepticism based on scientific facts, as many as 10,000 people are expected to descend on a small Turkish town in the Aegean region in hopes of being among the few to survive the Dec. 21, 2012, doomsday supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar.

Said to be identified in ancient Mayan hieroglyphs - at least by those who cannot read them, and are not Mayan - as one of only three places on earth that would escape the predicted Apocalypse, Sirince has been flooded by visitors hoping to ride out the disaster.

At first, Sirince residents were pleasantly surprised, but also a bit uncomfortable in case there could be some possible truth to the myths, to learn that their village - along with Mount Rtanj in Serbia and Bugarach, in the Corbières Mountains of southern France - was pinpointed as the safe locations for humanity to survive.

Discussions of the end of times in Mexico and Serbia, on the eve of the expected apocolypse.

In France, as my colleague Ellen Barry reported, “the authorities plan to bar access to Bugarach mountain in the south to keep out a flood of visitors who believe it is a sacred place that will protect a lucky few from the end of the world.”

B ut, like hoteliers in Serbia, the merchants of Sirince have been finding ways to make the best out of the influx. The limited number of hotels in the township, which is normally home to fewer than 1,000 people, have been totally booked at record rates as high as $1,000 for a room, and extra security measures have been taken to maintain order as the predicted end neared.


The ancient Greek town, which is only 12 kilometers from Ephesus, a leading ancient historical site in Turkey and a biblical location where the Virgin Mary is said to have once stayed, offers an authentic Aegean experience with good local wine, fine olive oil and traditional handcrafts.

This month, however, doomsday predictions added a humorous and profitable twist to the tourist trade. Ozon Winery came up with the Doomsday wine that sells for around $11, local shops carry T-shirts reading “Doomsday 2012,” snack shops offer Doomsday Pancakes and clairvoyants offer coffee cup readings advertised as Doomsday Fortunetelling.

The Artemis restaurant prepared a Doomsday Menu for visitors, including Doomsday Soup as a starter, Hell Kebab With Fire Rice as the main dish and Forbidden Apple as the dessert, to be followed with the Final Brew Turkish Tea.

On Facebook, Turkish followers have developed a humorous doomsday itinerary to share online that starts with a breakfast at 10 a.m. on Dec. 21, followed by several events, including viewing the meteor at 8 p.m., a seminar at 11 p.m. to discuss why not everyone has come to Sirince and the actual doomsday at midnight - followed by “Meeting in the Afterlife” and a debate asking, “How Come Sirince Was Not Saved?”

Groups are then scheduled to prepare for divine questioning at 4 a.m. on Dec. 22, take a tour around the pearly gates at 5 a.m. and depart for Heaven and Hell as listed at 6 a.m.

“I haven't met anyone here taking this seriously, and it's all about having a fine weekend,” said Engin Vatan, owner of Mistik Konak, a small guesthouse, which was fully booked from weeks before. Having moved to Sirince three years ago after visiting the village for more than 20 years, Mr. Vatan said that he had never witnessed such frantic preparations for such a large crowd in all these years.

“Only 24 hours left, there are no signs of Apocalypse yet,” said Sevan Nisanyan, one of the best-known residents of Sirince, who introduced the village to international tourism 20 years ago with a 60-room hotel. “Our own doomsday house party took off with friends visiting from Toronto, Istanbul and all other world cities.”

Life sparkled in the village on Thursday, the coldest day of the month in years, when shops remained opened until late hours, young people filled the streets and residents enjoyed the company of people from all over the world, wishing such rumors would find them every year.

“Many religious experts bash people coming here, saying that only God would know the date of the doomsday,” Mr. Vatan said. “So how can they be so sure that it's not Dec. 21 if it's only the God that knows about it?”

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