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.
“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.