On Monday I took a day trip from Istanbul to Bursa. Bursa is a large bustling city in Turkey’s Anatolia Region along the Sea of Marmara coast on the lower slopes of Mt. Uludağ (Olympus). Bursa’s population is around 3+ million and the city is known as “Green Bursa” because of its fruit-growing region, gardens, and parks.
There were 13 in our group plus a driver and guide, including 6 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 all over the US, including stints in Los Angeles and NYC. There was also 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. Tomato sauce and boiling butter are sometimes poured over the dish, at the table. 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 Ulu Cami’i, Grand Mosque – 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 bath facilities. The Eski Kaplica (Old Spring) of Çekirge District is the oldest in the province. The popular 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 was undergoing repairs and not in service – big disappointment for me as I don’t like long bus rides. 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 the 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 and they all left their mark.
It was a long but satisfying day exploring Turkey!