As the village of Sirince waited for what some say is an apocalypse from which the tiny Turkish hamlet will be spared, its streets were teeming not with doomsayers but a hoard of disappointed journalists.
Hundreds of reporters were wandering aimlessly around the beautiful town of 570 inhabitants Thursday, hoping to grab a New Age spiritualist taking refuge there to dodge the apocalypse.
Doomsayers have reportedly identified Sirince — reputed to be the site from which the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven — as a safe haven that will be spared destruction thanks to the positive energy flowing through it.
But if the world ends Friday — as prophesied by those who say the end of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar can mean only that — and Sirince survives, there will be fewer illuminati than journalists on hand to rebuild after the apocalypse.
And they will have cellar-loads of wine to help with the task.
Shop owners who have been preparing for a mass influx of thousands blame the media for the miscalculation one merchant said had led to an “utter stocking failure”.
“We have no clue why people thought we would have thousands pouring into Sirince,” says Ali Gulumser, a 38-year-old shop owner whose family spans five generations in Sirince, which made a name for itself with its fruit-flavoured wines and rich olive oil.
“To me it sounds like a hoax invented by the media. People have been stocking on wine, just in case, so I guess it will be one huge party tomorrow to finish it up.”
Except for the media frenzy and the 500 gendarmes cautiously dispatched from the nearby city of Izmir, it was just another day in Sirince as the end of days loomed.
But some still insist the village square, now occupied by stray animals chasing camera cables, will be overrun with people on December 21.
“These rumours make people feel uneasy and they are too scared to come even if they want to,” said Ibrahim Denktas, a 60-year-old Sirince local who owns a makeshift dollar store located at the top of the patio that leads into the near-empty square.
“But I think we will have the real show-up on Friday, it is the proper day for whatever will happen anyways,” he laughed.
Surrounded by rich green hills — home to the berries that make Sirince wine a speciality — the village has always been a drop-by for tourists staying in seaside resorts in neighbouring Kusadasi, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) away.
“I heard from a Turkish car driver that Tom Cruise was here,” said Ina Teichert, a 47-year-old German tourist who could not resist passing on the rumours she had heard back in Kusadasi.
“The world will continue tomorrow and after tomorrow. But we thought maybe we could come here and meet Cruise.”