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Turkish Sweet Tooth: Baklava, Lokum and Dondurma

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After a couple months in Istanbul, I started avoiding my reflection. But one morning, I accidentally caught a glimpse. Yep, a little chubbier than normal. And I was thrilled! Considering the rate at which I had been shoveling Istanbul’s infamous sweets into my honey-smeared mouth, “a little chubbier than normal” was perfectly acceptable.

Turkish Baklava

Baklava is the most famous of Turkey’s desserts: a wonderful, honey-drenched concoction invented by renowned sweet-tooth Lucifer, Lord of Hell. Of course, we’re all familiar with the Biblical parable in which baklava was created by the devil to tempt Jesus from the path of righteousness. Jesus had been able to resist the first three temptations, but one whiff of baklava and he was undone.

(Maybe that’s not exactly how it went. But if the devil had thought to tempt Jesus with baklava, the Bible might have had a very different ending.)

Baklava is the quintessential Turkish treat, invented in the kitchens of the Topkap? Palace for the enjoyment of sultans. Layers of flaky dough separated by melted butter are filled with crushed nuts and baked, then drenched in honey or syrup. But such a spiritless description of this wonder-treat does it no justice. Allow me to try again. Baklava is the Beethoven’s Ninth of sweets; a perfect symphony of pleasure in which every ingredient comes together so harmoniously that upon finishing, you want to immediately experience it again. Baklava is so flawless, so beautiful, that it should be banned.

Cutting Tirkish Delight

Lokum, better known as Turkish Delight, is another popular treat Jürgen and I consumed far too much of. These flavored, powdered, gummy cubes were invented in Constantinople in 1776 (the same year, I’ll proudly note, that America was invented), and immediately became a hit around the Ottoman Empire.

It can be made in a limitless number of flavors, with rosewater the most traditional. The best (and most expensive) lokum use honey as the sweetener, flour and water to create the gel, and then a wide variety of ingredients to finish the taste and give it color. We’ve had creamy walnut lokum, orange and lemon lokum, mint lokum rolled in coconut, hazelnut lokum, swirly chocolate lokum with a pistachio coating. And a lot more.

While eating baklava and lokum, I prefer to be at a table by myself, with one arm arched protectively around my plate. So they don’t provide anywhere near the fun factor as my favorite kind of Istanbul dessert: Turkish Ice Cream, or dondurma.

Dondurma

When you order a cone of the extra-thick, extra-creamy ice cream from a street vendor, prepare yourself for some teasing. The sellers, dressed in Ottoman fashion, are experts in the art of trickery. They’ll give you your cone, swipe it away, replace it with an empty cone, spin their stick to make you grasp at air, bop you on the nose with the ice cream, prick you in the side with the cone’s point, and all you can do is play along. I never tire of watching their antics, and have never seen them fail to coax a laugh out of whomever they’re teasing.

And the ice cream? Delicious. It’s the thickest, heaviest ice cream I’ve ever tasted; the kind you can actually bite into. In fact, it might be best eaten with a fork and knife.

Buy Turkish Delight Here

Strawberry Turkish Delight
Lokum Nar
Rose Turkish Delight
Safran Turkish Delight
Lokum Feast
Lokum
Where To Buy Turkish Delight
White Lokum
Nar Turkish Delight
Pink Turkish Delight
Turkish Delight Istanbul
Pistachio Baklava
Chocolate Baklava
Baklava Istanbul
Istanbul Sweets
Classic Baklava
Baklava Türkei
Baklava in Kadiköy
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Turkish Ice Cream Seller
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June 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm Comments (6)

The Süleymaniye Complex

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The Süleymaniye Mosque might not be as popular as the Blue Mosque, but it’s arguably more impressive. This massive complex near the university was built for Süleyman the Magnificent and includes a library, a soup kitchen, an amazing courtyard, and the tombs of both Süleyman and his famous wife Roxelana.

Süleymaniye Istanbul

The woman who became known as Roxelana (the Russian) was born as Hürrem Haseki in the Ukraine. Exceptionally beautiful, she was kidnapped during her youth and brought to the harem of the Ottoman Court, where she soon captured Süleyman’s eyes. So smitten was the sultan that he had his son Mustafa executed, in order to start a new family with Roxelana. After converting to Islam, the ambitious and wily Roxelana convinced the sultan to free her from slavery and take her as a wife. Quite a break with tradition: Süleyman was the first sultan in 200 years to marry.

Roxelana quickly established herself as a major political force in the Ottoman Empire, and became even more powerful after Süleyman’s death and the ascension of Selim II, their son. As “Valide Sultan”, or mother of the Sultan, she exercised enormous influence over her boy and the court. Selim had fallen far from the tree of his “magnificent” father, and went by a somewhat less awe-inspiring nickname: Selim the Sot. A drunkard primarily interested in orgies, Selim was happy to leave the business of running the empire to his mother.

Süleymaniye Carpet

The Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest in Istanbul, and the crowning achievement of Mimar Sinan, whose tomb is in a lovely garden next door. Set atop a hill in the middle of the old town, the mosque and its four minarets are visible from all over the city. At 53 meters in height and 26 in diameter, the dome is breathtaking and sits atop a huge, empty worshiping area. Despite the mosque’s size, visitors are restricted to a small section towards the front of the mosque, which is a shame.

Around the mosque are a number of buildings which once constituted the külliye, or complex. Four Koran schools, a hospital and a hamam joined a soup kitchen and an inn. Also present are the mausoleums of both Süleyman and Roxelana. Today, the former soup kitchen houses a fancy restaurant, with an atmospheric tea garden in a sunken courtyard next door. From the mosque’s terrace, you can look over the Golden Horn and the rooftops of Eminönü.

It’s incredible that so many tourists line up to visit the Blue Mosque, while so few make it out to the Süleymaniye. Both are worth-seeing, but the Süleymaniye Mosque offers the more enjoyable experience.

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Süleymaniye Minaret
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Süleymaniye Flowers
Süleymaniye Mosque
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Ostrich Egg Lamp Istanbul
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Süleymaniye Secrets
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Touching Doors
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Leaving Istanbul
Süleymaniye Going Through Doors
Best View Istanbul
Süleymaniye Chamber
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June 24, 2013 at 11:01 am Comment (1)

Hidden Corners Behind the Grand Bazaar

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Istanbul is the kind of place which favors bold exploration, as we learned after a day spent in the maze of streets around the Grand Bazaar. The city is filled with quiet, secret spots… if you can muster up the courage to go down that darkened hall, into that empty courtyard, or up those crumbling stairs.

Secret Hans Istanbul

Of course, I’m not recommending that anyone skip off willy-nilly into Istanbul’s abandoned buildings. We ventured into a couple places that I would never go into were I by myself, or were it after dark. But a cautious exploration of the old hans around the Grand Bazaar can be very rewarding.

Our day began in the Subuncu Han, near Eminönü Plaza. This han itself doesn’t have much to recommend it, just a bunch of jewelry stores surrounding a tiny courtyard, but there was a great locals-only spot for lunch on the second floor. Instead of sitting down in one of Eminönü’s döner shops for an overpriced lunch geared toward tourists, we munched on excellent and very cheap lahmaçun (Turkish pizza) with a few guys who work in the han.

We progressed steadily from Eminönü towards the Grand Bazaar, every once in awhile escaping the crowds to duck into another han. We found gold and silver-smiths at work in the Leblebici Han, and watched a couple men train flocks of trick pigeons in the Büyuk Yeni Han. And in the gray, French-influenced Stamboul Yeni Tcharchi Han, we were the only people at all. A young guy witnessed our hesitation about venturing down an long, dark tunnel-like hallway in the Sair Han, and encouraged us to proceed without fear. At the end, we found a nargile workshop. The most well-hidden nargile workshop in the world!

Inside a couple hans, we were able to get onto the roofs for amazing views of the city. The first was at the northwest corner of the Sair Han; before going inside, you can scale a flight of stairs directly to the roof. But the better view was at the massive Büyük Valide Han. Here, we were approached by a key-wielding man who knew exactly what we wanted. “Go on roof, yes?” A small five lira tip later, we were up on top, looking over the city and the Golden Horn.

It was an incredible day out. If you’re interested in doing something similar, check out a great book called Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, by Edda Renker Weissenbacher and Ann Marie Mershon: a comprehensive guide to the Grand Bazaar and the streets which surround it, with four self-guided walking tours.

Locations on our Map: Subuncu Han | Sair Han | Büyük Valide Han

Self-guided Han Tours In Istanbul

Han Tour Istanbul
Han Bird
Han stairs
Han Mosque
Han Sail
Han Arches
Han Bride
Hans Of Istanbul
Inside Han
Grumpy Han Kid
Street Photography Istanbul
Han Curve
Han Door
Han Wood
Han Tower Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blog
Apartment With A View Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Hans Istanbul
Spooky Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Falling Light Into Darkness
Büyük Valide Han
Relaxing In Istanbul
Süleymaniye Camii
Istanbul Seagulls
Büyük Valide Han Secret Tour
Istanbul Han Walking Tour
Tourists In Istanbul
Gay In Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blog
Phone Service In Istanbul
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Chair Istanbul
Hole In The Ground Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han Mosque
Büyük Valide Han Street
Breed Pigeons Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han Street
Go Shopping Han Istanbul
Shopping Blog Istanbul
Looking Out Istanbul
Simit Seller Istanbul
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Knitting Han Istanbul
I Heart Istanbul
Hans Istanbul
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Glass Roof Han Istanbul
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Weird Han Istanbul
Being All Jazzy In Istanbul
Empty Streets Istanbul
Walking In Istanbul
Big Han Istanbul
Bucket In Istanbul
Gül Han
Shedding Light Istanbul
Pigeons Istanbul
Feeding Pigeons Istanbul
Yellow Han Istanbul
Spiral Stairs Istanbul
Big Bears Man Istanbul
Parked Istanbul
Shadwo Walker
Dirty Hands Istanbul
Making Baseball Hats in Istanbul
Washing Hands
Tunnel Life Istanbul
Spndel Istanbul
Packing Nargiles Istanbul
Nargile Fabric
Critical Look In The Mirror
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han Perfect Light
Hat Factory Istanbul
Corte Turkey
Old Machine Istanbul
Carpet Maker
Fixing Carpets Istanbul
Working The Machines Istanbul
Nargile Scrubbing
Sawing In Istanbul
Metal Dervish Dancers
Nargile Spinner
Welding Nargile
Old Boom Box Istanbul
Getting A Chari
Worker In Istanbul
Nargile Han Shop
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June 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm Comments (7)

An Introduction to Turkish Marbling

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Marbling, or ebru, is one of the most popular forms of Turkish art. We decided to introduce ourselves to the technique, and joined a workshop offered by Les Arts Turcs in Sultanahmet. By the end of the entertaining session, we had managed to create a few minor masterpieces.

Ebru has been a part of the Turkish art scene for centuries, and has long been a specialty of Istanbul’s dervish orders. Contributing to the technique’s popularity is the fact that it’s easy to learn; even an absolute beginner can create an impressive piece of art. Basically, you drip paint on top of water, use needles and brushes to make swirling designs, and then transfer the finished work onto paper. The paints are treated with ox gall to lower their surface tension, allowing them to float, and the water’s properties result in fluid, hypnotic patterns.

Les Arts Turcs is a small gallery and artspace near the Topkapi Palace that both sells and displays original pieces, and offers classes in Turkish techniques such as ebru and calligraphy. And they let you get right to the fun stuff: within a couple minutes of entering the workshop, we were bent over trays of water, applying our first dabs of color. Marbling is something which doesn’t require a lot of prior instruction.

My first painting was going wonderfully. Having chosen a background palette of orange, blue and white, I had used a comb to swirl the colors into a mesmerizing pattern. But then I screwed it all up by adding giant flowers. Somehow (and perhaps my inner artist should have realized this) red and pink flowers on a blue-orange background don’t look good. My inner artist is an idiot.

Luckily, my inner bullshitter is always willing to step up. “Exactly what I was going for!” I announced, proudly displaying my ridiculous pink-on-orange monstrosity to everyone in the room, daring them to call my bluff.

Flowers were the preferred motive during our workshop. We learned to make carnations, tulips, roses, violets and chrysanthemums. And then, just to mix it up, we did some trees. Since Islam isn’t big on the artistic representation of the human form, plants and flowers are popular themes in Turkish art. Anyway, the colorful and geometric flower shapes suit the technique of marbling perfectly.

We had a great morning at Les Arts Turcs; marbling makes for a fun cultural experience, far removed from visiting mosques and museums. For €60 per person, you’re provided instruction, and the chance to make a number of paintings, which you can take home. A more personal souvenir is hard to imagine.

Location on our Istanbul Map
Les Arts Turcs – Website, Details about the Marbling Class

Paper Marbling Kit For At Home

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June 20, 2013 at 10:26 am Comments (24)

Muradiye, Çekirge and Random Bursa Pics

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More from Our Trip to Bursa
Introduction | The Green Mosque and Tomb | Gazi Plaza and the Market | Karagöz Puppets

Bursa is stretched out along the base of Mount Uludağ, and so its main sights are laid out on a long, almost straight line. The Yeşil Camii to the east, Gazi Park in the center, and the wonderful neighborhood of Muradiye to the west. Even further east is Çekirge, home to the city’s famous thermal spas.

Bursa Kebap House

Though it’s a few kilometers from the city center, the neighborhood of Çekirge is the nexus of Bursa’s hamam scene, and hosts its most well-known hotels. This is the place to stay for those whose primary interest in Bursa is bathing; an activity which really is the highlight for many. Built for sultans and well-maintained throughout the ages, the Yeni (new) and Eski (old) Baths in Çekirge are both supposed to be excellent. We walked into the Eski Kaplıca, but didn’t have enough time for a scrub. A shame, since it looked incredible and was far cheaper than comparable hamams in Istanbul.

Midway between the town center and Çekrige is charming Muradiye. High on a hill, this neighborhood boasts views over the valley, and centers around the Muradiye Mosque (unfortunately closed for renovation during our visit). Muradiye has not changed much throughout the years, and preserves a number of Ottoman-era houses. One of the best, the Hüsnü Züber House, is usually opened to the public but, like the mosque, was shuttered when we stopped by.

Muradiye was the last neighborhood we saw in Bursa before returning to the ferry back to Istanbul. One and a half days was not nearly enough time, and we often felt frustrated while rushing from one sight to the next, without being able to properly enjoy any of them. Three full days would have been better. Still, we came away with both a good impression of Bursa, and a camera full of photos.

Locations on our Bursa Map: Eski Kaplıca | Muradiye

Great Spa Hotels In Bursa

Bursa Stairs
Bursa Blacksmith
Working Man Bursa
Bursa Metal Street
Bursa Travel Blog
Green Garden Bursa
Bursa Punk Doll
Souvenir Shopping Bursa
Atatürk Bursa
Weird Plants Bursa
Street Photography Bursa
Comical Figures Bursa
Bursa City Wall Gate
Old Hamam Bursa
Atatürk House Bursa
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Blue House Bursa
Old Green Mercedes Bursa
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June 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm Comments (6)

The Karagöz Puppets of Bursa

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More from Our Trip to Bursa
Introduction | The Green Mosque and Tomb | Gazi Plaza and the Market | Muradiye and Around

Karagöz shadow puppetry, one of Turkey’s most distinctive art forms, was born in Bursa. And the city is still the best place in the world to catch a regular performance. It might be the only such place. Every day, the Karagöz Museum puts on shows starring the puppets which have kept Turkey in stitches for hundreds of years.

Karagöz Puppet Museum Bursa

Karagöz puppetry dates back to the 14th century, when Bursa was still the capital of the young Ottoman Empire. The art form’s popularly accepted origin story tells of Karagöz and Hacivat: two men working on the construction of the Orhan Gazi Mosque in the city center. Rather than work, these two spent most of their time bickering and teasing each other in such an entertaining fashion, that they became a major distraction to the other men. And so the sultan, impatient for the completion of his mosque, had them executed. The shenanigans of Karagöz and Hacivat were so missed by the people, that a new form of puppetry was invented to commemorate them and their already-legendary quarreling.

We visited the Karagöz Museum in Bursa which, although presented completely in Turkish, provided a nice overview. The puppets are made from camel skin, dried and dyed in bright colors. An oil lamp is lit behind the semi-transparent skin of the puppets, whose colorful shadows are thrown against a screen.

Most of the plays recount one of Karagöz’s “get rich quick” schemes, which Hacivat, the wiser and more down-to-earth of the duo, predictably rails against and attempts to foil. Each performance includes multiple puppets, and requires up to four puppeteers behind the screen. Karagöz plays feature a wide cast of characters taken from Ottoman life, including Tuzsuz the drunk, Kanbur the opium addict, Denyo the idiot, and Altı Kariş the angry dwarf. Political correctness was not a concern in the early Ottoman Empire.

The Karagöz Museum puts on two puppet shows every day, and we sat down with a group of schoolkids to watch one. Of course, it’d have helped to understand exactly what Karagöz and Hacivat were arguing about, but even in Turkish the meaning came across well enough, and the hysterical laughter of the kids was contagious. I loved it… here was a group of children raised in the Smartphone Generation, completely engrossed and delighted by 700-year-old shadow puppets. Great entertainment, I suppose, never gets old.

Location of the Karagöz Puppet Museum

Hotels In Bursa

Karagöz Puppets
Puppet House Bursa
Puppen Museum Bursa
Camel Skin Puppets
Karagöz and Hacivat
Karagöz and Hacivat Bursa
Indian Shadow Puppets
Schatten Theater Bursa
Shadow Puppets Bursa
Snake Puppet
Twin Puppets
Monster Puppet
Puppet Theater DIY
Bursa Karagöz and Hacivat Theater
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June 17, 2013 at 9:20 am Comments (4)

Gazi Park and Bursa’s Covered Market

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More from Our Trip to Bursa
Introduction | The Green Mosque and Tomb | Karagöz Puppets | Muradiye and Around

Squeezed between two amazing mosques and the covered market, Gazi Park is the heart of Bursa, and was the logical place to begin our exploration of the city.

Bursa Silk Han

The Ottoman Empire is generally thought to have emerged in 1299, beginning with the ascension of Osman Gazi. Osman united a number of Turkish emirates and, just before his death in 1326, was able to capture Bursa (then the Byzantine city of Prousa). It was the first great military victory of the nascent empire, and far from the last.

Bursa enjoyed its golden years during the reign of Osman’s son, Orhan, who promoted it to capital of his young empire. So it was no surprise to find a mosque here named in his honor. The Orhan Gazi Camii was built in 1339, in the center of the city. Unfortunately, due to funerary proceedings, we weren’t able to spend more than a couple seconds inside, and instead walked a few meters over to another ancient mosque.

The Ulu Camii was built in 1399 by Orhan’s grandson Bayezid I, who went by the name of “Yıldırım” (“Thunderbolt“). He earned this nickname for his military acumen, which was especially evident during one of the greatest Ottoman victories of all time. In the 1396 Battle of Nicopolis, Bayezid’s men routed a combined force of Germans, French, Bulgarians, Italians, Romanians and Hungarians: basically the entire Christian army of Europe.

Before the battle, Beyazid had vowed to erect twenty mosques in Bursa should he emerge victorious. Perhaps he didn’t expect to win, because instead of the twenty promised mosques, he ended up building just one. But he gave it twenty domes, apparently hoping nobody would remember his exact wording… or at least dare to question him on it. The resulting Ulu Camii is one of the more architecturally interesting mosques we’ve seen. The twenty small domes are arranged in a 4×5 grid, lending the interior a sense of grandiosity.

Grand Bazaar Bursa

Just outside of the Ulu Camii is the entrance to the Koza Han, or “Cocoon Hall”. Bursa was once the final stop on the Silk Road from China and, throughout the centuries, the fine fabric has been the focus of this market. Hundreds of vendors in the beautiful old han concentrate on silk, with prices that are more than reasonable.

The Koza Han is connected to Bursa’s bewildering covered bazaar, which extends in all directions through halls, into courtyards, down underground, along tiny passages and onto upper floor terraces looking down on tea gardens. In terms of size and confusion, Bursa’s bazaar is nearly the equal of Istanbul’s. The main difference? Things are much cheaper. We picked up a coffee grinder for a third of the price we’d seen in the Grand Bazaar. In retrospect, we should have done all of our souvenir shopping during our stay in Bursa.

Locations on our Bursa Map: Orhan Gazi Camii | Ulu Camii | Koza Han

Hotels In Bursa. BOOK NOW!!!

Bursa Mosque
Bursa Architecture
Bursa Fountain
Bursa Hans
Silk Market Bursa
Cocoons Bursa
Silk Ware Bursa
Hans Of Bursa
Han Tour Bursa
Bursa Han Fountain
Hanging Out In Bursa
Ugly Shopping Street Bursa
Cheeses Of Bursa
Bursa Market Streets
Working in Bursa
Coffee Cups Bursa
Modern Art Photography in Bursa
Bursa Shopping Tour
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Modern Architecture Bursa
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Fountain Inside Mosque Bursa
Washing Feet Inside Mosque
Mosques Turkey Bursa
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June 17, 2013 at 7:20 am Comment (1)

The Green Mosque

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More from Our Trip to Bursa
Introduction | Gazi Plaza and the Market | Karagöz Puppets | Muradiye and Around

The neighborhood of Yeşil (Green), separated from the city center by the Gök Dere river, takes its name from Bursa’s most well-known sights: the Green Mosque and Tomb. Visible from across Bursa, the mausoleum sits atop a hill and is covered in monochrome tiles of a unique light-green color.

Bursa Mosque

Green is definitely the color of Bursa. Its most famous mosque complex is decorated in green tiles. An entire neighborhood is named “Green”. Despite the urban sprawl, there’s a generous amount of parks and trees, and the city is surrounded by a green landscape at the foot of Mount Uludağ. The football squad Bursapor’s color? One guess.

(On our second day in the city, there was a massive green procession from the football stadium to the town center. Thousands of people had taken to the streets, wearing green jerseys and carrying green Bursaspor flags, to mourn the passing of the club’s president. He was a popular figure in the city, having brought Bursa its first and only domestic championship in the 2010/11 season.)

Bursaspor Deatch President

The Yeşil Camii was built in 1421 by Sultan Mehmed I, who had reunited the Ottoman Empire after an eleven-year civil war. His mosque is one of the more unique we’ve seen; far removed from the massive complexes of Istanbul, the Yeşil Mosque stands out for the lovely turquoise color of its tiles. The surrounding courtyard and tea houses, too, are beautiful, and boast views overlooking the valley below.

Just behind the mosque and further up the hill, is the Yeşil Türbe. This octagonal tomb holds the remains of Mehmed I, and is perhaps even more striking than the mosque itself. During our visit, just before the call to worship, it was filled with locals counting beads, reading their Korans and praying.

Location on our Bursa Map

List Of Bursa Hotels

Burso Mosque Entrance
Bursa Travel Blog
Busra Stone Carving
Inside Bursa Mosque
Bursa Mosque Dome
Oriental Design Bursa
Bursa Study
Golden Tiles
Bursa Architecture
Green And Golden Room Bursa Mosque
Bursa Symbols
Burso Fountain
Tomb of Bursa
Tomb of Bursa Entrance
Tomb of Bursa Arabic Design
Tomb of Bursa Oriental Entrance
Tomb of Bursa Wood Carvings
Tomb of Bursa Tiles
Tomb of Bursa Info
Tomb of Bursa Tiles
Tomb of Bursa Tiles And Dome
Design Fine Art Bursa
Tomb of Bursa Praying
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June 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm Comments (3)

An Excursion to Bursa

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More from Our Trip to Bursa
The Green Mosque and Tomb | Gazi Plaza and the Market | Karagöz Puppets | Muradiye and Around

Bursa is Turkey’s fourth-largest city, and was capital of the Ottoman Empire a hundred years before Constantinople had even been conquered. It makes for a great excursion from Istanbul, almost directly across the Sea of Marmara.

Bursa Ferry Istanbul

“Excursion”, I say. “Day Trip”. We planned for about a day and a half in Bursa. This is a city of 1.7 million people. That’s more than the entire state of Idaho, to which we devoted a full 91 days! It was ridiculous to think that we could comfortably see this huge city in such a short amount time, but we put in a good effort. Luckily, most of Bursa’s sights are clustered closely together and, by the end of our trip, we had accomplished more than expected.

Bursa had long been a Byzantine backwater, and only rose to prominence in 1326 after the arrival of the Ottoman Turks. With its strategic (and beautiful) location along Mount Uludağ and within range of the Marmara, Bursa was made capital and grew steadily over the centuries. It was at the western end of the Silk Route, and has long been a major center of trade. Today it’s a sprawling metropolis, and home to Turkey’s auto industry.

It took us about three hours to reach Bursa from Istanbul. We hopped on a speed ferry leaving from Kabataş (2 hrs), and then had to employ both bus (40 mins) and metro (20 mins) to reach the city center. This was the first Turkish city we’ve visited, apart from Istanbul, and we noticed immediately how different it is. Very few tourists. Cheaper. Less English spoken among locals who are far less willing to have their pictures taken. More religious, and with far fewer places to grab a beer.

As you’ll see in our pictures, the weather was not our ally during our short time in Bursa. It was consistently overcast, and the city’s famous mountain views almost completely obscured. But that didn’t detract too much from the experience. Bursa was a lot of fun, and there are plenty of reasons to make the journey to Istanbul’s little sister across the sea.

Location on our Map

Book Your Bursa Hotel Here

Rain In Istanbul
Bursa Travel Blog
Bursa Blog
Bursa Reiseblog
Bursa Building
Bursa bridge
Bursa Info
Bursa Guide
Bursa Travel Info
Bursa 2013
Bursa River
Pink Bursa
Bursa Green Tomb
Bursa Courtyard
Bursa Traffic
Bursa Bridge
Bursa Mosque
Bursa Old Town
Man In Busa
Kebab Bursa
Bursa Phone Lady
Bursa Soccer Fan Dog
Bursa Main Street
Bursa City Wall
Bursa Pyramid
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June 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm Comments (0)

SALT and the Ottoman Bank Museum

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Established in 1856, the Ottoman Bank was a part of a comprehensive effort to modernize the flagging Ottoman Empire. Today, its former headquarters in Galata is home to SALT: a non-profit organization dedicated to art, architecture and urbanism.

Ottoman Bank Istanbul

The ambitious period of reform known as the Tanzimat Era introduced a number of new concepts to the struggling Ottoman Empire, which was trying to reorganize itself along the lines of more successful Western countries. Post offices, a national anthem, civil rights, the abolition of slavery, a census, modern universities, the decriminalization of homosexuality, and many other novelties were force-fed to a bewildered Turkish public between the tumultuous years of 1839 and 1876.

The former headquarters of the Ottoman Bank can be found on Bankalar Sokak, near the entrance to the Karaköy Tünel station. The northern facade, facing the foreigner-dominated neighborhood of Galata, was designed in a European, neoclassical style, while the south-facing side, visible from the old town across the Golden Horn, is neo-orientalist. The bank itself was seen as a bridge between east and west, and its headquarters symbolized this brilliantly in its architecture.

Today, in the basement, you can find the Ottoman Bank Museum. “Bank History” is not a topic I usually get excited for, but the exhibits on display are surprisingly engaging. You can visit the old vaults where gold was kept, and browse folders full of portraits of the bank’s 19th-centuries employees (most of whom, of course, sport fabulous mustaches).

On the first floor of the old bank building, SALT has installed an amazing public library focused on art and architecture. There’s also a cafe, a bookstore and, on the upper floors, spaces for temporary exhibitions and conferences.

SALT has another seat on nearby İstiklal Caddesi, which is one of the coolest galleries we visited in Istanbul. Temporary exhibits rotate through constantly, along with performances and films. We saw a retrospective on the work of subREAL: a Romanian art duo that “undertakes political, social and cultural criticism with a sharp sense of humor while creating a vigorous visual language”. Modern and eclectic, i’s exactly the type of thing you can expect to find at SALT. Considering its cost (free), SALT Beyoğlu is worth visiting regardless of what’s on, but you can check the current exhibitions at their website.

Locations on our Istanbul Map: SALT Galata | Beyoğlu

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June 15, 2013 at 7:17 pm Comment (1)

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