Bursa – A Journey To The Birthplace Of Ottoman Empire

Towards the North Western coast of Marmara Sea, lies a trade destination that linked East to the West once upon a time. Being Turkey’s fourth largest city and the first capital of Ottoman Empire, Bursa bears striking similarities to its’s megalopolis sister, Constantinople. The city has witnessed the rise and fall of states having significance throughout the Byzantine Empire. Today, Bursa is at the core of the automotive industry in Turkey and bustles with a prosperous economy. It’s close proximity to Istanbul and popularity for being known as the silk centre of excellence attracts the curious traveller to this mesmerising city in search of a fascinating sight-seeing adventure.

Bursa is the birthplace of Ottoman empire which was once revered as a hermitage place. Ottoman intellectuals who were tired of the intrigues of palace environment sought an atmosphere of peace in Bursa during the Roman and Byzantium periods. Thus, Bursa has been referred to as the “City of Immigrants” for a long time and became a realm of tolerance and spirituality due to all of these features. Bursa, renowned as “Green Bursa” is abound with natural splendours such as lakes, rivers, mountains, curative thermal springs, picturesque fertile plains and rich flora. Bursa is located in the northern-south of Anatolian peninsula, northern- west of the foots of Uludag mountain, and southern- east of Marmara Sea, making it a geographically stunning landscape that captivates the eye of many travellers.

BMW-belle

 

Ferry ride across the Marmara Sea.

The journey across Marmara sea began from Kabatas, Istanbul. Before reaching the plains of Bursa, the ferry took us to a little seaside port city called Mudanya in less than 2 hours. Established as an Ionian colony in the 7th century B.C, Mudanya is a hinterland filled with mulberry woods, olive groves, vineyards and small, well-preserved historical houses. You can sit at the cafes and watch the Marmara Sea while puffing away on your shisha or nibbling away a spicy potato swirl, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

“Travellers arriving at Mudanya by ship took horses for the last part of the journey to Bursa. Their way passed through orchards and vineyards, and for a long time the delightful view of the Marmara Sea was visible in the distance. Then as the traveller began the gradual descent from the hills the view of the sea disappeared, to be replaced by the sight of a city rising above a plain with many cypress trees.”

Ferry

Patata

 

Zafar Plaza – The heart of Metropolis.

Zafar1

The city centre of Bursa is a great place to get lost in the urban sprawl for a while. Zafar Plaza is the first shopping centre in Bursa. It is located at the intersection of the metro, tram and other mass transport lines. The iconic architectural design of the complex reminded me so much of Musé de Louvre in Paris. Hosting brands that address all income groups, Zafar Plaza remains at the forefront of trends at all times with its prestigious and updated brand mix appealing to the tastes of modern turks.

 

Along the Silk Road to Koza Han.

The strategically important location of Bursa made the city an important terminal on the itinerary of the road to western civilisations – “Historical Silk Road”, a conduit for silk jade and spices. The citadel became one of the main cities of culture, trade, and industry in the 15th century.

 Silk is a word synonymous with splendour. Mankind has always admired silk for its aura of royalty. It is the yarn of life, extruded by a caterpillar in a continuos filament as long as a mile. The economy of Bursa has been fed by mulberry silkworms. In the sixteenth century, rich fabrics woven in opulent Bursa silk, wool and silver and gold thread were used for clothing worn by the Ottoman sultans and princes. Sericulture is the secondary occupation in the country and Bursa silk had now become a highly-desirable luxury throughout Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia that had gained a favourable reputation.

KozaHanFULL

Bursa’s Covered Bazaar District (Kapalı Çarşı) is a labyrinth laced with thousands of shops and restaurants. As I wandered through   this Turkey’s centuries-old city centre, I found my self gravitating towards the HANS, İpek (Silk) Han, the Koza (Cocoon) Han, and the Emir (Lord’s) Han. These are not the names of any sultans or Mongol warriors of Kublai Khan. By the time of the Ottoman conquest, sericulture had become an important industry in the region around Bursa. Between the 14th and 16th centuries, inns and trading posts known as HANS were built for caravanning merchants peddling their wares along Asia’s trade routes.

Koza Han is a charming tea garden (“Cocoon Inn”) and often hailed as the most handsome of Bursa’s hans. Opened in 1491 by Sultan Bayezid II, Koza Han became the center for the city’s then vibrant silk trade. It is prominently situated between Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami) and Orhan Bey Mosque. The cobblestone open courtyard is surrounded by an elevated domed mesjid (prayer chapel),  an ornate marble water fountain centrepiece, silk shops and souvenir stalls. It’s easy to get carried away by the vibrant colours of soft silk fabrics and scarves. A genuine ipek scarf may cost around $60. But there are always affordable alternatives available for customers with small budget and expensive tastes 😉

Today, old citadel buzzes with an indelible Ottoman charm, the aromas of iskendar kebaps moving between its armoured doors and Byzantine fortifications, and the mellifluous cadences of the city’s winter hustle and bustle echoing under its truly exquisite Sultan’s city gate known as Hisar Kapısı.

KOZAHAN

Kapali-Carsi

Ulu Cami

Bursa is a city full of minarets and mausoleums which conveys the architectural and cultural features of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Republican eras to present-day. Many of the city’s historical treasures revolve around early Sultans like Orhan and Osman who aggressively expanded the city beyond the Byzantine walls and into the surrounding plains where the city center lies today.  The city’s monumental landmarks include numerous edifices which carries impressive elements from the Sejuk architecture, such as Ulu Cami, the Great Mosque of Bursa.

ULU-cami

Among the forest of mighty clouds of arches and pillars, you would find the (şadırvan), the fountain where worshipers perform ritual ablutions before prayer. The dome over the şadırvan is capped by a skylight which births a incandescence light illuminating the interior of the mosque. This is definitely the most captivating centrepiece of the space. The dimly lit walls are adorned with intricate arabic inscriptions written by renowned Ottoman calligraphists, creating a contemplative and a peaceful ambiance.

KabaUluCami

Iskender Kebap

Kabab

Kebap is a serious affair for Turks. Bursa has a rich culinary tradition that has evolved over many centuries. Visiting Bursa without trying its worldwide known speciality – Iskender Kebap – would be sacrilege. Legend says that this dish was named after Alexander the Great. But as far as the story goes, Iskender Kebap was found in 1867 as a result of a innovative kitchen experiment by a chef named Iskender Efendi.

The kebaps are made from succulent fresh butter procured from herds of sheep grazing over the emerald-like plains of Uludag..The kebaps give an incredible pleasure to people who savour them. There are 3 main components of Döner Kebap: Meat,pide (pitta bread), butter. These three component should be chosen and balanced very delicately in order to acquire the fine essence of Iskender to suit your palate.

The meat roasted before the fire, is sliced in thin slices and spread over the pide. Then butter, tomato sauce and if demanded yoghurt,are poured onto it. Thus, the world famous Iskender Kebap is ready for your taste.

Facefood – Snack over social networking

 

A Wes Andersonesque ascension to Mount Olympos.

Bursa houses the third important sacred centre of christianity after Vatican and Jerusalem in the boundaries of Iznik and Uludag. Mount Uludag is known as a settlement area in which christian monks were used to seclude themselves. Uludağ was one of the twenty-odd mountains around the eastern half of Mediterranean  that used to be called Olympos in ancient times—more precisely Mysian Olympos. It is the highest peak of North-west Anatolia with its height of 2.543 m. The ski resort towering over the mountain range is where mountaineers and trekkers congregate during winter. Uludag National Park harbors lakes of ice age, endemic plants, and the rare Apollon butterfly, making it a must-visit destination for summer tourists.

Cable-car

The Bursa Uludağ Gondola is locally known as Teleferik . It is an aerial lift line transporter connecting the city of Bursa with the nearby ski resort area and national park at mountain Uludağ. Ascending the summit of Mount Olympos rewarded me with a Wes Andersonesqe views of the city below and a lasting sense of satisfaction. The winter sports season, especially skiing commences in October, with a guaranteed stable snow shower and constant below freezing temperatures between December and March.

Top-of-the-world

GBH

The Turkish Odyssey comes to an end. We set sailed from Constantinople and landed at the summit of Mount Olympos. As I digitise the personal encounters and accounts of my travels, I think of the Spellbound Wanderer – Marco Polo. At the prime of his youth, he embarked on an epic adventure with his father and his troop of merchants, crossing thousands of miles of unforgiving terrain, traversing the trade routes of East and West. I am awestruck by the extraordinary will of this brave Venetian man who managed to establish contacts with great civilizations of China, India and Europe, trade caravans, engage in diplomatic missions and interact with merchants representatives of religious circles, dervishes and mongol warriors.

A day before I turn 25, I quote these lines from Netflix’s Marco Polo which caught a peculiar fascination to my heart.

“My only fear is that I might awaken in my bed, destined to live a common life once again” – Marco

“The blood of an adventurer courses through your veins” -Niccolò Polo

I want to be an inquisitive researcher of unknown grounds and relate my stories to the world. All I need is the guts and gung-ho spirit of Princess Khutlan and a mentor like Sifu to keep my ying and yang perfectly synchronized.

İnşallah 🙂

4 Comments
  1. Sifu is pleased 🙂

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  2. Thumbs up!

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  3. Awesome ⛄️

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    • Thanks 🙂

      Reply
      3

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