Explore The central and southern Aegean
With a spare day, the inland towns and villages of the Küçük Menderes valley, southeast of İzmir, can be visited by public transport, as connections from both İzmir and Selçuk are good. To reach Birgi village, the lake at Gölcük or the conservative town of Tire, you first have to travel via the undistinguished market town of Ödemış – 80km southeast of İzmir.
A sleepy community of half-timbered houses lining both slopes of a narrow valley at the foot of Boz Dağ, BIRGI, 9km east of Ödemış, is an excellent example of what small-town Turkey looked like before the wars and cement mania of the twentieth century.
The main thing to see is the Aydınoğlu Mehmet Bey Camii, also called the Ulu Cami, an engaging fourteenth-century mosque on the site of an earlier church. It’s across the ravine from the Çakırağa Konaği, a little way upstream. A sculpted lion has been incorporated into the exterior walls; inside it’s an understated masterpiece, with the tiled mihrab and a single arch betraying a Selçuk influence. Most impressive, though, are the carved hardwood mimber and shutters, some of them replacements for those carted off to the Selimiye Camii in Edirne. The sloping wooden roof is supported by a forest of Roman columns, the whole effect more like Spanish Andalucia than Turkey.
Birgi’s houses – ensembles of wood and either brick, stone, lath-and-plaster or half-timbered mud – run the gamut from the simple to the sumptuous. Many are dilapidated, but the restored eighteenth-century Çakırağa Konağı mansion operates as a museum and has some explanatory panels in English.