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August 11th 2019
Published: August 13th 2019
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We left our beloved Istanbul and took the ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Bursa. In just under two hours we were at the Mudanya port, about 30km from Bursa. We couldn't work out the buses so we took a taxi to our boutique hotel. I had been to Bursa in 2006 with Intrepid on my first trip to Turkey - from what I remember Bursa is a historical city that was on the silk road. Today, Bursa is famous for its silk. Seljuk-style mosques and the famous Iskender Kebap (which many restaurants renamed it the Bursa Iskender). When I planned our trip, I neglected to check the public holidays – Kurban Bayramı (eid-al-adha in the Arabic speaking world) fell on the day we were due to leave Bursa for Çeşme. Usually, there is a plethora of coach buses that leave for various towns around Turkey so pre-booking isn't essential, however given the holiday we decided to book and were thankful our English-speaking hotelier was more than happy to assist us with doing an internet booking rather than us going back out of town to the major bus station. Unfortunately our Australian cards didn't work on the website so we made a mad dash for the bus company ticket office to get the last few remaining seats to our next stop Çeşme.

We then just walked around town, taking photos and finding a place to sit with a cold Efes. Bursa is a more conservative town, and in the 13 years since I had last been here the AKP (the party in power) has cracked down on alcohol consumption in the city centre so its hard to find a bar. We did find Labelle bar, thanks to google, tucked away between shops and you go downstairs to a courtyard type restaurant/bar where we had some cold Efes beers in the company of chain smoking locals who don't appear to agree with the AKP's alcohol ban! Later that evening we went to a local restaurant for the famed Bursa Iskender – it was indeed one of the best Iskender’s we've even had but quite rich as the chef came out to pour hot butter sauce all over it!

The next day we ventured out to do some exploring of the centre old town. We visited the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque). Built in 1399, the mosque is built in Seljuk style with 20 domes, open style planning and a fountain in the middle for ablution (men only). What I like about this mosque is that there were small cordoned off area for prayer and study, and this appeared to be for men and women (as well as a separated women's section). The walls apparently have been recently painted over and this deflects from the original artwork - I'll have to go back through my 2006 photos to remember what it originally looked like! Afterward we went to the Yeşil Cami (green mosque), which was built during the reign of Çelebi Sultan Mehmed and completed in 1422 during the reign of his son Murad II. A stunning example of early Ottoman architecture , the T shaped mosque has two room either end of the main hall, where this is a fountain and there are upper chambers where the sultan used to sit. When we entered we met a local who was kind enough to show us the mosque and the restoration work he had been doing (or so he says) of re-painting the ceiling, tiles and re-laid the carpet which was red now it is green so not to deflect your gaze from the ornate tiles, of which originally came from Iran. Some fun facts: the mosque was originally used not only as a mosque but a meeting place amongst other things during the Ottoman period, the mihrab, measuring 5x12m, is the biggest in the world, the fountain was used during Ottoman times when the sultan, who sat in his chambers, had meetings and the water flowing drowned out the conversations so others could not hear the conversation , there are vertical rounded columns on each corner of the building – this was used as an earthquake warning system – when it rattles it moves and makes a big hollow sound so people are warned to move outside, and final fun fact there are several niches in the wall at ground level which us where in Ottoman times the rich put food and water for the poor so it is completely anonymous to give and receive. Thus was our favourite mosque in fact – very ornate. Nearby was the tomb of Çelebi Sultan Mehmed and his family. Our new local friend found us again and invited us to his shop – no hard sell just to show us his tile work and silks. We then walked through the various bazaars and food markets to take a metro ride out of town to a more hip/secular part of town for a cool afternoon refreshing beer. Later, we found ourselves back at the historical centre and to the silk market where i bought some silk scarves. I don't wear silk scarves but the gorgeous Bursa silk is a fantastic souvenir so I must find a way to wear them. The silk bazaar itself is beautiful, two stories and I'm sure it would have been a caravanserai back in Ottoman times. After a cheap and very local Lahmacun dinner we went to the Karabaş-i veli culture centre which is a Mevlani house (whirling dervishes) where there is a Sema ceremony (whirling dervish) every night. We were told it was to start at 10pm, however when we got there a sermon was already underway so we joined the locals in the courtyard for tea and sweet snacks. The Mevlani house itself was small – women upstairs and men downstairs. It was so busy and we don't really understand the etiquette so we stayed outside. The sermon, which was about Kurban Bayramı we gathered, went for a long long time, and at almost 10.30 it was over but who knew how long the ceremony would take to get underway, and as we had an early start and packing to do we went back to the hotel. Bursa is a pretty, historical Ottoman city which thankfully is not touristy and is a place you can get a feel for the old times of the Ottoman era.

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