After a week in Istanbul, it was time for me to move to Bursa, the second destination during my five-week travel across Turkey. When you choose to travel in Turkey the way I did, it is an obvious choice. Whether you go east or south of Istanbul, you have to pass either through or near Bursa.
I travelled by bus across Turkey, it was convenient and comfortable enough. Distances between places that I visited were not big and in many cases the bus was the only option. Bursa is not far from Istanbul and it took approximately 2 hours to arrive. In reality, if you leave Istanbul early in the morning and if you take the last bus back, you can do a day-trip to Bursa. But, I don’t suggest it because there is so much to see in Bursa, one day is not enough. Surely, you can rush through and see a lot, but you would also want to stop for a lunch or in one of many coffee shops to enjoy the moment and the beautiful atmosphere around you.
Well, the main reason why I chose to go to Bursa was because there is so much to see. It was the first major capital of the Ottoman Empire, after the Ottomans conquered in 1326. It remained the capital city until 1363 when the Ottomans conquered Adrianople, modern day Edirne, and moved the capital there. But, Bursa retained its spiritual and commercial importance and that’s reflected by various monumental structures constructed after 1363.
The Ottoman history is all over the city. In fact, the Ottoman heritage is so rich that the historical part of Bursa is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Istanbul, being the Ottoman capital for many centuries, is certainly the key place to explore the Ottoman history, although the earliest Ottoman historical site dates from a period after the conquest in 1453. The history in Bursa goes approximately 120 years further in the past.
HOTEL IN BURSA
I stayed in a small 3-star Kardeş Hotel, in Kent Meydani. I normally use booking.com to book my hotels. The reason why I prefer booking.com rather than Airbnb is because booking.com usually gives you the option to cancel your booking several days before your check-in date. In my opinion, it is an extremely useful function. It is always possible that something may happen that prevents us from travelling or perhaps we may find a better place to stay, cheaper and in a better location. I like to have that element of freedom.
In any case, Kardeş Hotel was an excellent choice. The hotel is comfortable, clean and it offers good breakfast. If I ever go back to Bursa again, I will most likely choose this same hotel.
Obviously, as I was never before in Bursa, I did not know whether the hotel’s location was good or not. It turned out to be the perfect choice. I arrived to Bursa’s main bus station and I took a taxi to the hotel. I could have taken public transport but I was not in the mood to investigate which mini-bus to take from the station to the centre. Anyhow, the road from the bus station to the city centre goes to Kent Meydani and from there you go in different directions. I arrived to the hotel in less than 10 minutes.
In Turkish, meydani means square. Kent Meydani is a large square, surrounded by shops, coffee shops and restaurants. There is also a big shopping centre, with a big supermarket where you can buy alcoholic drinks. I mention this because most restaurants in Turkey do not offer them. Also, alcohol is not very common in Turkey and you have to look for places that sell such drinks, especially in more traditional places like Bursa. In Konya, it was almost impossible to find a single place to buy one beer. But, in Izmir, Kuşadası and Antalya, “tekel” shops were everywhere.
So, if you want to have a drink, the only option is to buy a beer and have it in your hotel room.
FEVZI ÇAKMAK STREET
Kent Meydani is, more or less, at the limit of central Bursa. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes of gentle walk to arrive to the historical area. To get there, every day I walked along rather elegant Fevzi Çakmak Street.
The same as in all other Turkish cities, important and centrally located streets are full of shops and restaurants. Even you don’t intend to buy anything, it’s still very interesting to see the variety of goods on offer. As I mentioned in my previous posts, shopping in Turkey is phenomenal. At the same time, Turkey is relatively cheap, especially if you compare it with expensive western European countries.
At the end of Fevzi Çakmak Street, you arrive to the Osman Gazi Monument. Osman Gazi is probably the most important figure in the Ottoman history. He was the first sultan of the Ottoman Empire and in Turkish, the name of the empire is – Osmanlı İmparatorluğu. Osmanlı comes from Osman’s name. In other words, he was the person that started one of the most powerful and successful empires at the end of the 13th century, that lasted for over 600 years.
That day when I arrived to Bursa, there was a political rally and streets and buildings were decorated with red Turkish flags.
You can see Demokrasi Meydani in a photo below and also the sea of red flags that adorn the square.
I was surprised when I saw the Saraybosna Kardeşlik Fountain in the middle of Demokrasi Square. The fountain is exactly the same as the fountain in Sarajevo and there is the identical copy in Belgrade. In fact, the name of the fountain in English is – Sarajevo Brotherhood Fountain, so there should be no surprise. It is an example of the beautiful classical Ottoman fountain.
Also in the square, there is the Şehreküstü Mosque. I did not visit the mosque as every time when I went there, it was the prayer time, so I could not enter. The historical centre of Bursa starts from Demokrasi Square.
From Demokrasi Square you arrive to the Bazaar Quarter and the historical centre. In my opinion, that part of Bursa is magical. Basically, the whole historical area is preserved and most likely it is the same as it was at the time of construction. Additionally, historical structures line one after the other and just when you think that you’ve seen it all, you discover yet another magnificent edifice. Unfortunately, no words or pictures can transmit the magic of the place and the astonishment that you experience when you see it in its entire context.
In the Bazaar Quarter, shops and restaurants are everywhere. The glass cover is obviously new, while the buildings that you can see in the photos are old.
It is a rather big area, so you can spend a lot of time strolling around and looking for bargains. The choice and the quantity of goods on offer is mesmerising.
The monumental Grand Mosque, or Ulu Camii in Turkish, is certainly Bursa’s most famous historical site. Constructed in 1399 by Sultan Bayezid I, it dominates the historical area. At the same time, it is still a functioning temple despite the fact that it has been 620 years since it first welcomed the worshipers.
When you read the tourist guides about Bursa, they all talk about this mosque. Indeed, the mosque is a magnificent example of the early Ottoman architecture that incorporates many elements of the Seljuk style. Also, when you compare this imperial mosque with imperial mosques constructed in Istanbul much later, they look very different. In fact, the Grand Mosque looks like the Seljuk Empire mosques that I have seen in Konya.
Architecturally and artistically, the Grand Mosque is very impressive. I took some beautiful photos and will show them in a separate posts. The masterful calligraphic inscriptions inside the mosque are superb.
The fountain in a photo below is attached to the mosque. It is an excellent example of the Ottoman tradition to adorn every corner of the city with beautiful constructions.
The fountain in a photo below is in a small park, close to the Grand Mosque. That’s also the way to Orhanbey Square, where you can see some important historical sites.
The fountain is dedicated to Derviş Mehmed Zillî or, as he was better known, Evliya Çelebi. He was the 17th century Ottoman explorer who travelled across the Ottoman Empire and nearby countries for 40 years. He recorded his travels in his book Seyahatnâme. Something similar to what I do on My Forever Travel.
Çelebi was an honorific title in the Ottoman times and it means gentleman.
The Bursa Town Hall was built in 1879 by the governor Ahmet Vefik Pasha, in the imperial architecture style of the time. The city government still uses it for some meetings.
Not far from the town hall there is the Atatürk Monument.
Also in the vicinity, you will see the Heykel Clock Tower.
However, there is one more famous clock tower in Bursa. The Tophane Clock Tower is in Tophane Park and it is also one of Bursa’s landmarks.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE MARKET
Of many places that I visited in Turkey, the most impressive fruit and vegetable market was in Bursa. The variety and abundance of products on offer was mind blowing. Even in Istanbul the market was not that big, at least not the market that I’ve seen.
It is probably needless to say that I wanted to buy and eat everything. But, that was not possible. It is only so much that we can eat every day.
Also, it was all very affordable and you can see prices in a photo below, from July 2019. It would be interesting to go back there in the future, to see if prices are still the same. But, I believe they will be higher as currently Turkey has a lot of economic problems, including the weak currency and high inflation. It is an unfortunate situation for the Turkish people, but at the same time, Turkey was excellent value for money when I was there and I believe it will remain affordable for a long time.
FOOD IN BURSA
The same as in other Turkish cities, Bursa is full of restaurants and other places where you can eat. Good food is available everywhere. I mentioned in my previous posts that I exclusively eat in places where the locals eat and that I avoid touristic restaurants at any cost. You can see below three restaurants where I had dinner in my three evenings in Bursa. All of them were very good and cheap. Eating food in Turkey is not a problem, the food is good and if you go where the locals go, it’s guaranteed that you will eat well.
Well, finding places where to eat in Bursa wasn’t really a problem. First of all, in nearly 3 days that I spent there, I was the only foreign tourist around. Actually, the third day I saw several foreign tourists, but not more. That was good and bad at the same time. I certainly tremendously enjoyed having Bursa “for myself”. Of course, there were local people everywhere, but very few of them were doing the sight seeing and taking photos, like I did.
It’s bad because I think that Bursa deserves much more attention. Considering its wealth of historical sites, I expected masses of foreign tourists everywhere. But, that wasn’t the case. I know, just because I haven’t seen foreigners when I was there, it doesn’t mean that foreign tourist don’t visit Bursa, far from that. But three days that I spent there, in what should be the high tourist season, could say something about Bursa’s popularity.
I hope that this and the following posts that I will write about Bursa will inspire you to go there. It really is a miraculous place and easy to get to. The Ottoman history is everywhere, represented by beautiful constructions, endlessly lined one after the other.
The birthplace of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa’s unique magic is a reflection of its superb 600-700 years old history. Truly amazing!