On Monday, I took a day trip from Istanbul to Bursa. Bursa is a bustling city in the Anatolia Region along the Sea of Marmara coast on the lower slopes of Mt. Uludağ (Olympus). Bursa population is around 3+ million and the city is known as “Green Bursa” because of its fruit-growing region, gardens, and parks.
There were thirteen in our group plus a driver and guide, including six Pakistanis – a family of four and a young couple now living in Dallas. I had a long chat with the couple, both educated in the US. They were interesting and had lived in various cities throughout the US, including Los Angeles and NYC. There was a British couple from London and another shy young couple – not sure where they were from – maybe Syria or Egypt – but they didn’t speak much English, kept to themselves, and seemed a bit traumatized.
The Bursa region is the center of Turkey’s silk trade and towel manufacturing industries. The first silk cocoons were brought to Bursa with the caravans of the Silk Road. Many Turkish families move to Bursa for employment.
Bursa is the homeland of the Iskender Kebap, a well-known dish of Turkish Cuisine. It’s a kebab prepared from thinly cut grilled lamb basted with hot tomato sauce over pieces of pita bread and slathered with melted sheep butter and yogurt. Sometimes tomato sauce and boiling butter are poured over the dish. I’m not a big meat-eater, so it’s not on my list of favorites, but many think it’s delicious.
We visited the Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami’i in Turkish) – the largest mosque in Bursa – which has two minarets and twenty domes. Later we toured the historic Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) which has one of the best carved marble doorways in Anatolia and the Yesil Türbe (Green Tomb) set in a lush garden with an exterior decorated in turquoise tiles.
Bursa is popular for its mineral-rich springs and most of the hotels have thermal baths. The Eski Kaplica (Old Spring) of Çekirge District is the oldest in the province. The Karamustafa Pasa Baths are famous for their hot mineral waters.
After lunch we drove to Mt. Uludağ (Great Mountain in Turkish) which is the largest and most celebrated winter-sports and skiing center in Turkey. It’s about 22 miles from Bursa and accessible by car or cable-car. The area is also a national park and is visited year round. Unfortunately the cable car wasn’t in service because of undergoing repairs. It was a disappointment for me as I don’t like long bus rides and I’m sure the cable car ride is spectacular! There was still lots of snow in the mountains and many were enjoying spring skiing on Mt. Uludağ’s slopes.
There are several small seaside and lakeside towns near Bursa, including Mudanya, Zeytinbagi, and Iznik. Iznik is at the eastern tip of Lake Iznik and important to Christians because of Ecumenical Councils that met there. “Iznik is described by the Christian world as the third holy city after Jerusalem and the Vatican.” Iznik witnessed many civilizations that all left their mark.
It was a long but satisfying day exploring Turkey!