- Episode 1-Bursa
Of course this adventure took place almost two weeks ago, but I must still tell you all about it. Ever since we came to Turkey we have had it in our plans to go and visit Bursa. It is definitely not one of the main attractions in your Lonely Planet guide and your average tourist will not go home saying, "Well, we went to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but Bursa was better!" Personally, I think Bursa is better, but hey, I'm not you. The people are really friendly, the mountains are gorgeous, and the city holds a very rich history that is lamentably overshadowed by it's neighboring city, Istanbul.
It took about an hour. It wasn't long before Atticus and Sherms were at eachother's throats. Fortunately, I had purchased some sustenance in the form of corn nuts before our departure. Here's a picture before the unveiling of the sustenance.
Once we got off the ferry our drive from Yalova to Bursa took us a mere 30 minutes. The countryside was beautiful. Getting out of the chaos of Istanbul is always nice. The hills were green. We passed a pretty lake. The road was smooth and big. We weaved through the valleys and in the distance we could see snow capped peaks. I felt like I was in Europe. Anywhere but Turkey. The freeway led us into an open valley and there was Bursa. You could see the heart of the city nestling up onto the mountains. I like to compare it to Spain's Granada. It has all the modern conveniences of Istanbul, but it's smaller, colder, has a snow loving population, and has a very rich history despite it's small size. The air wasn't so great though. Apparently Istanbul got natural gas just in the last 10 years, so I think all the haziness in the air in Bursa is from all the coal burning. Can you believe it? A city dependent on coal for something simple like cooking dinner? (This was one of my American moments, where it donned on me that not everyone lives as I do.)
Here is a river we passed on one of our walks around town. These waters come from the peaks of Uludag, the highest mountain in Bursa. There's a ski resort there and there are a couple of drinks named after it. I don't like the Uludag Gazoz so much. If you come here, go for the Camlica or the Fruko.Here is the inside of the Yesil Cami. Green Mosque. It's a really small mosque but very intricate and green. Lots of tiles and set in a very pretty neighborhood. Be sure to go here because it's near the part of Bursa that everyone should see. You know, the streets with the cute cafe's, the trees that really give a street it's charm, and the candy shops full of candied chestnuts. We bought two boxes since they're famous from Bursa. One plain and one chocolate covered.
Bursa was only the capital of the Ottoman Empire for about 50 years. Once the Ottomans conquered Edirne up in Thrace, it moved to that city instead. So just remember, if you go to Bursa, here are the things you must experience:
- Ulu Cami
- Candied chestnuts
- Yesil Cami
- The awe of being in the founding city of the Ottoman Empire
- Osman's tomb
On our drive back we passed through Bilecik and Iznik. Worth the drive. Here's why:Bilecik is somewhere you never really need to go, but it's a nice stop off the beaten path. We found this old mosque, you can't see it from the picture but it had large grounds around it and it was nestled in this green valley. Very secluded, but right behind the bustling city. It was kind of like a monestary where people would go to study and meditate. I'm no expert in Islam but it really was nice to know that Islam does provide instruction to it's believers. I guess I'm just tired of the people in Istanbul not knowing anything about what they believe (or don't believe.)Behind me are the walls of Iznik. Nicea. You know, the Nicene Creed? Ever since I found out that Nicaea was in Turkey, I've wanted to come here. The First Ecumenical Council in 325 was held in a church that is now in the depths of the lake that you see behind Jonathan in the picture below.
The Second one was held in this church, the Sancta Sophia in 787. Sorry it's not such a great photo. We were driving at the time.
Iznik is somewhere I would have liked to stay longer. It was really cute and quiet. Don't drive in the city. Just park on the outskirts and walk in. It's not big at all. You'll hate yourself if you do drive in there.
And remember! Don't travel to northwestern Turkey in the winter unless you're going to ski.