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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

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June 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm Comments (6)

Dolmabahçe Palace on Labor Day

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The irony wasn’t completely lost on us. Visiting Dolmabahçe Palace, a symbol of preposterous wealth and privilege, while just outside workers were marching in Istanbul’s infamous Labor Day protests. “What’s that smell?” I whispered to Jürgen, while admiring a carpet with more square footage than any apartment I’ve ever lived in. “Tear gas”, he said, his eyes starting to well up. “Amazing carpet, though.”

Dolmabahçe Palace

Labor Day is a big deal in Istanbul, with a history marred by violence. The march in 1977, for example, became known as the Taksim Square Massacre, when 40 people killed by overzealous policing and a panicked stampede. This year, the government refused to let protesters even reach Taksim Square. They were taking no chances — traffic in Beyoğlu was prohibited, public transportation was shut down, and even the Galata Bridge was closed.

And at the exact same moment Turkish protesters were being denied their right to congregate, Jürgen and I were ogling the outrageous luxury of Dolmabahçe Palace: perhaps Istanbul’s most perfect symbol of class inequality.

Despite being completely contrary to Labor Day’s socialist spirit, it was the perfect time to visit the palace. Dolmabahçe is normally one of the most popular tourist sights in Istanbul… but not when people can’t reach it! And with public transportation down, only those lucky enough to live within walking distance (like us) could make it.

Built in 1856 by Sultan Abdülmecid I, for whom the long-serving Topkapı Palace was no longer modern enough, the new palace on the Bosphorus was a testament to growing European influence on the Ottoman court. Neoclassic, baroque and massive to the point of stupidity, the palace is over 11 acres in size, with 285 rooms, 68 toilets, and 6 hamams. Oh, and a harem. Because no home is complete without an enclosure for your female sex slaves.

Despite its grandeur, visiting the palace is unfortunately a bit of a let-down. You’re forced to join a tour, with a guide whose main purpose is corralling you through as swiftly as possible, and you’re not allowed to linger in any of the rooms. A real shame, since there’s so much to linger over. The decorations, the artwork, the gold, the chandeliers, the carpets, the stairs… let alone the views of the Bosphorus from the magnificent windows.

The wealth of an empire was poured into this royal home for the benefit of a very few people, and the palace provided a stark reminder of how unfair life can be. So it was easy to find sympathy for the Labor Day protests going on right outside. Dolmabahçe, although beautiful, is sickening! The palace interesting to visit, but I’m mostly just glad that the days of sultans, lords and kings, and their massive homes, are behind us.

Location on our Istanbul Map

Flat Rentals Istanbul

Dolmabahçe Clock Tower
Dolmabahçe Gate
Dolmabahçe Entrance Fee
Dolmabahçe Fountain
Dolmabahçe Pond
Dolmabahçe Lion
Dolmabahçe Bosphorus
Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Palast
Dolmabahçe Plants
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Dolmabahçe Peacock
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Dolmabahçe Gate
Dolmabahçe Tor
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Dolmabahçe Pond
Dolmabahçe Inside
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June 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm Comments (0)

Üsküdar’s Çınılı Camii & Hamam

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After hiking up Istanbul’s biggest hill, the Büyük Çamlıca, our tired bones had earned a reward. So we made our way to the gorgeous Çınılı Camii, Üsküdar’s Tiled Mosque, and ended the day in a hamam.

Çınılı Camii

Built in 1640, the Çınılı Camii is a miniature work of art, reminiscent of Tathakale’s Rüstem Paşa Camii: perhaps our favorite of Istanbul’s mosques. The doors were locked tight when we arrived, but it wasn’t difficult to find a caretaker who was happy to open up. The Çınılı Camii’s nickname, the Tiled Mosque, is certainly deserved. The interior is covered in wonderful Iznik tiles, colored blue, red, white and green, making this one of the more richly decorated mosques we’ve seen.

Just around the corner, we found the Çınılı Hamam. I’ve come to learn that there are two types of hamam experiences a person can have in Istanbul. One is the tourist-oriented luxury of the larger, downtown hamams, which charge spa-like prices and provide spa-like services. The other is an experience like that offered by the Çınılı Hamam: local, cheap and authentic.

The Çınılı was exactly what I had expected from a Turkish hamam: an ancient bath house full of locals washing themselves, an invigorating massage on the marble slab under the star-shaped skylights, a ridiculously hot sauna, and a no-nonsense scrubbing by the sinks.

There was a musty smell in the hamam, and my massage toed the precarious line between vigorous and vicious: while there were bits of brutality that I perversely enjoyed (such as an unexpected punch to the middle of my back), there were others I didn’t. Still, I’m happy that we found the courage to try the hamam out; there were a surprising number of locals getting the same treatment as us, and no other tourists. The whole program, including sauna, scrubbing and massage, was just 35 lira per person.

Whether or not you’re in the mood for a bath, this little-visited area of Üsküdar merits a visit. It’s uphill and difficult to reach by walking, but a taxi ride is inexpensive. And the downhill walk back down to the ferry terminal is very pleasant, particularly after your body has been twisted, pounded, rubbed and scrubbed.

Location on our Istanbul Map

An other Hamam we visited: The Kılıç Ali Paşa

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May 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm Comment (1)

Our First Hamam: The Kılıç Ali Paşa

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It’s hard to imagine that we could have found a better place for our first Turkish bath than the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. This historic hamam in Tophane is one of Istanbul’s most beautiful, reopened in 2012 after years of restoration. We were invited to visit on a Sunday afternoon.

Hamam%20Istanbul

Contemporary Turkish hamams find themselves in a difficult position. For centuries, these public bath houses were an integral part of Ottoman life. Islam places great significance on cleanliness, and hamams were the only place to go for a hot, soapy bath. They were buildings of such importance to society, that the empire’s greatest architects were often employed to design them. But then came the advent of indoor baths with hot water, and the primary function of the hamam vanished. Sure, they were still pleasant communal areas to meet friends and catch up on gossip, but for day-to-day life, taking a hot shower at home was a lot more convenient.

What to do? These are buildings of great architectural beauty, and you can’t just let them sit around empty. Luckily, hamams generate a lot of interest from visitors. For many, a trip to Istanbul would be incomplete without experiencing the famous Turkish bath. So in order to survive, many of Istanbul’s hamams have reoriented themselves to serve tourists.

Marble-Stone-Hamam-Istanbul

Built in 1583 by the master architect Mimar Sinan, the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı is incredible, all domes, white marble and water. After decades of neglect, it was purchased privately and beautifully restored by its new owner, who was intent on returning it to its original purpose. The interior bathing room is stunning, with a large marble stone in the center, bathed in rays of light. Looking at it, I could hardly wait to get my clothes off.

And I soon did. While I was heating my body on the stone, hypnotized by the star-shaped holes in the ceiling, an assistant came to fetch me. He sat me down at a sink, grabbed my wrist, lifted my arm into the air, and began to scrub me with a rough sponge-glove. After scrubbing the dead skin off every inch of my body, he soaped me up with something called a “loofah”: basically a cloth sack that’s pulled tight to produce an unbelievable amount of foam. He remained silent throughout the procedure, and was extremely thorough. Hamams are not for the modest. Or ticklish.

Eventually, he finished, and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more clean. I was helped into a big, comfy robe and then led into the lounge area to relax with sherbet and tea, before my massage. For 25 blissful minutes, my back and legs were worked by strong, professional hands. At the end of the session, after being cleaned, rubbed, scrubbed, and massaged, I was amazed to find myself hovering in the air. I floated out of the hamam, up the hill to our apartment and settled slowly onto our couch, like a leaf falling onto a patch of soft grass.

The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam – Website

Location of the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı on Our Map

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May 7, 2013 at 9:00 am Comments (3)
Muradiye, ekirge and Random Bursa Pics 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.
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