THE MARMARA REGION
A fast highway connects Istanbul with Izmit, capital of the Kocaeli province. An important city in Roman times when it was known as Nicomedeia, it is now a prosperous industrial center. The Saatci Efendi Konak, a restored typical 18 th century Ottoman mansion, now serves as the Ethnological Museum. Pismaniye, the local sweet, consists of thousands of thin layers of stretched sugar.
Hereke, west of Izmit, is a major carpet making center. Renowned throughout the world for their beauty and quality, these carpets fetch the highest prices in Istanbul's bazaars. On the Black Sea coast, north of Izmit, particularly at Kerpe, Kefken and Kovanagzi, sandy beaches and comfortable guest houses attract vacationers.
East of Izmit, Sakarya is the provincial capital of the province of Adapazari, an important agricultural and industrial region. The Sakarya (Sangarlus) River waters this fertile land which abounds with fruit trees and fields of vegetables. In the city of Adapazari itself, the Ataturk and Ethnographical Museum display a number of the personal effects of the founder of the Turkish Republic as well as regional artifacts. The Beskopru Bridge, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 553, stretches for 429 meters across the river. Eight arches connect the two shores.
A few kilometers away at Lake Sapanca, quiet restaurants and hotels line the lakeshore. Istanbulites escape to this retreat in the Saman Mountain basin throughout the year. The Arifiye Forest on the highlands of Lake Sapanca has nice camping and picnic areas and an excellent panoramic view of the lake below.
The Akgol Lake lies just inland from the Black Sea Karasu holiday center. Both places offer scenic surroundings and comfortable accommodation. At Tarakli you can wander though a town that preserves many of its old buildings.
Formerly known as Nicaea, Iznik lies at the eastern tip of Lake Iznik, south of Izmit. Originally an important Roman and Byzantine town, it fell to the Seljuks in 1078 and subsequently to the Ottomans in 1331. Still a small town, it does not seem to have exceeded its original Roman walls. The four gates which allowed access to the city still stand. In the town center the ruins of the St. Sophia Cathedral, the seat of the first Ecumenical Council of 325, evoke images of convening bishops and clergy. In the 16 th and 17 th centuries, Iznik was the center of the production of the exquisite ceramic wares which have made such an important decorative contribution to mosques and palaces throughout Turkey. A museum displays the finds from the nearby excavations. Among the important Islamic buildings in town, be sure to visit the turquoise tiled Yesil Mosque and the Nilufer Hatun Imareti. After exploring the sights, the lakeside fish restaurants provide delicious food and a relaxing atmosphere.
Yenisehir, on the road to Bursa, is filled with many interesting and lovely old Turkish houses. The 18 th century Semaki Konak, now restored as a museum, welcomes visitors.
The province of Bilecik lies south of Iznik in the verdant and fertile Sakarya River valley. In the old quarter of the city stands the mausoleum of Seyh Edebali, an important influence in the founding of the Ottoman Empire. Every September a commemorative ceremony and culture festival is held here in his honor. Near his tomb is the Orhan Gazi Mosque.
Set amid the numerous willows, which give Sogut its name, a detour to this town is well worth the effort. The migrating Kayi Turks first settled here, and the tomb of their leader Ertugrul Gazi stands in the town. In September a commemorative ceremony is held in his honor. Other tourist attractions include the tile-size busts of famous figures from Turkish history and the Ethnographical Museum which traces, through its displays the history of Turkey.
The city of Bursa, southeast of the Sea of Marmara, lies on the lower slopes of Uludag (Mt. Olympos of Mysia, 2443 meters). The city derives its name from its founder Prusias, King of Bithynia. It subsequently came under Roman, then Byzantine rule before falling to Osman Bey in 1326 becoming the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Many important Ottoman buildings remain.
Known as "Green Bursa", the city is filled with gardens and parks and overlooks a verdant plain. It is at the center of an important fruit growing region. Bursa was, and is still, famous for its silk trade, towel manufacture and thermal springs. You must taste locally invented Iskender Kebab, a dish of bread, tomato sauce, strips of grilled meat, melted butter and yoghurt. Candled chestnuts are another regional specialty.
A tour of the city begins in the eastern section at the Yesil Turbe (Green Mausoleum). Set in a garden and distinguished by its paneling of blue tiles, the mausoleum holds the tiled cenotaph of Sultan Mehmet I. Across the street, the Yesil Mosque of 1424 reflects the new Ottoman, as opposed to Seljuk, aesthetic. A medrese nearby completes the complex which is also home to the Ethnographical Museum. Before exploring this area, stop for a glass of tea in one of the traditional tea houses. Uphill, to the east, you pass by the Emir Sultan Mosque in its delightful setting, and after walking through a district of old houses you reach the Yildirim Beyazit (1391).
Now make your way to Cumhuriyet Square (known locally as Heykel) and stroll along Ataturk Avenue to Koza Park where outdoor cafes are set among flowers and fountains. At the back of the park, a long building, the Koza Han (1490), houses the trade in silk cocoons. From here you proceed to the covered bazaar area, with its narrow streets, caravanserais and bedesten. On the other side of Koza Park stands the Orhan Gazi Mosque built in 1413 and one of Bursa's oldest religious buildings. Nearby the large Ulu Mosque was constructed in the Seljuk style. A finely carved walnut mimber and impressive calligraphic panels decorate the mosque. The Sadirvan (ablutions fountain) lies unusually within the mosque itself under the ceiling of twenty domes.
Walking west from the Ulu Mosque you arrive at Hisar, an old and picturesque quarter of Bursa. In the park that overlooks the valley are the mausoleums of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his son Orhan Gazi who commanded the army that conquered Bursa. The cafes of Tophane offer a good place to stop for refreshment. Nearby in Ressamlar Sokak (Artists' Street) local artists work in the open air.
At the Yildiz Park Tea Gardens in the Muradiye quarter, you get a superb view of the Muradiye Complex. The compound, in a tranquil park-like setting, contains the Mosque of Sultan Murat II (1426) built in the style of the Yesil Mosque and the tombs of Murat II, Cem and Sehzade Mustafa. These contain some of the loveliest decoration and tile work. The nearby Ottoman House Museum in a restored 17 th century dwelling provides an interesting glimpse of the lives of wealthy Ottomans.
Other places of interest in Bursa include the Culture Park with the Bursa Archaeological Museum and the Ataturk Museum on the road to Cekirge.
The western suburb of Cekirge has been known since Roman times for its warm, mineral-rich springs. Many modern hotels have thermal bath facilities and you can as well visit the old hamams. Yeni Kaplica (New Spring) was built by Suleyman the Magnificent's Grand Vizier, Rustem Pasa, in 1552. The Eski Kaplica (Old Spring), built on the site of the original Byzantine baths, is the oldest bath. The Karamustafa Pasa baths are reputed to have the best hot mineral waters in Bursa. Buildings of interest in Cekirge include the Mosque and Mausoleum of Murat I and the tomb of Suleyman Celebi, a religious poet. The monument to Karagoz commemorates the character whose humorous antics are immortalized in Turkish shadow puppet theater.
Uludag is the largest winter sports center in Turkey and offers a variety of activities, accommodation and entertainment. Thirty-six kilometers from Bursa, the slopes are easily reached by car or cable car (teleferik). December to May are the best months for skiing, although the area, which is a national park, is well worth a visit at any time of the year for the lovely views and wonderful fresh air.
A seaside resort town 25 km from Bursa, Mudanya's fine fish restaurants and nightclubs are popular with the residents of Bursa. The Armistice Museum is worth a visit. Just 12 km from Mudanya, Zeytinbagi (Tirilye) exemplifies the architecture and layout of a typical Turkish town.
The Gulf of Gemlik, 29 km from Bursa has wide sandy beaches; Armutlu and Kumla are the favorites.
The province of Balikesir borders both the Marmara and Aegean regions. In the capital of Balikesir, nature and interesting historical sites blend in harmony. The mid-14 th century Yildirim Mosque, built by Beyazit I, is the city's oldest mosque. Of Zagnos Pasa Mosque, built in 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror's Grand Vizier Zagnos Pasa, once part of a great complex, only the mosque and bath remain today. The Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower) built in 1827 by Mehmet Pasa imitates the Genoese Galata Tower on a smaller scale. The Karesi Bey Mausoleum of 1336 contains the cenotaphs of Karesi Bey and his five sons.
The beautiful Degirmen Bogazi, an area ten kilometers from Balikesir towards Bursa lies between two hills. Families flock to this scenic spot and its restaurants during weekends and holidays. Photographers will enjoy a break at Karakol village to capture the three picturesque windmills on film. Ancient Penderamus, now called Bandirma, is today an important commercial and industrial harbor second only to Istanbul. You can spend a pleasant afternoon in the town's restaurants and cafes. Belkis (Kyzikos) lies ten kilometers west of Bandirma. In this ancient city on the Kapidag peninsula's isthmus, the Temple of Hadrian, a theater and aqueducts still stand to captivate visitors. The Kuscenneti National Park near Lake Manyas is an ornithological site where 239 different species of birds flourish. Every year over three million birds fly through this preserve. April and May are the best months to enjoy the wildlife. Thirteen kilometers southeast of Bandirma in Karacabey, horse farms breed magnificent specimens of this beloved creature.
Once known-as ancient Erteka, Erdek is just 14 km northwest of Bandirma. One of the Sea of Marmara's oldest and most famous resort areas, it offers pristine beaches and every type of accommodation. Olive groves cover Zeytinli Island, off Erdek Bay, where quaint cafes and tea gardens enchant visitors.
Marmara Island, formerly known as Prokonessos, rose to prominence in the Roman period and retained its importance in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, because of its marble quarries which supplied the luxurious stone for the extravagant imperial building programs. Marble Beach near Saraylar village derives its name from the natural marble that lies just off the water's edge.. In town an open air museum displays artifacts which date back to Roman and Byzantine times.
Turkeli (Avsa) is another holiday island that boasts of spectacular beaches and clear water as well as famous vineyards and wine cellars. In the Manastir district stands the Byzantine Meryem Ana Monastery.
Fifty-five kilometers southwest of Bandirma, Gonen is Turkey's most important thermal resort. The springs were used even in Roman times and a fifth century mosaic remains from what was originally a Roman bath. These waters come from 500 meters below the ground and emerge heated at approximately 82 C. Another 30 km to the northwest Denizkent is a nice vacation spot with lovely beaches.
Sindirgi lies at the base of the Alacam Mountains amid beautiful forests and meadows in a region known for the weaving of superb Turkish carpets. The rugs of Yagcibedir are among the most prized in the country and grow more lovely the older they become.
Around the Gulf of Edremit, also in Balikesir province, are some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country where the clear waters meet sandy beaches encircled by the silvery green of olive groves. Ayvalik, Burhaniye, Oren, Edremit, Akcay and Altinoluk are all holiday towns which attract vacationers interested in a relaxing holiday with beautiful scenery and a wealth of historical and archaeological sites.
On the opposite, northern shore of the Sea of Marmara, Tekirdag is an important commercial harbor. From both sides of this modern city of lovely promenades stretch beautiful sandy beaches. An unlikely mixture of sunflower fields and vineyards cover the surrounding area. The most important architectural monument is the Sinan designed Rustem Pasa Mosque, built by Suleyman the Magnificent's Grand Vizier in 1554. The Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts from the area. The Rakoczy Museum occupies the house where the Hungarian prince, Rakoczy Ferench II (1676-1735), who fought for his people's liberation lived out the last years of his life. The Namik Kemal Memorial (1840-1888) honors the birthplace of the Turkish National Poet. Sixty kilometers west of Tekirdag is the holiday center of Sarkoy. Beautiful vineyards cover the entire area, and the city hosts a wine festival every year.
North of Tekirdag on the border between Greece and Turkey, Edirne was for some years the Ottoman capital, and in the 18 th century one of the seven largest cities in Europe. On a verdant plain of poplar trees near the junction of the Tunca and Meric Rivers, this graceful historical city welcomes visitors as they make their way to Istanbul and other points east. The people of the Edirne area trace their origins beyond the rule of the Macedonians. The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city and renamed it Hadrianople after himself. With the division of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines claimed Edirne and in 1361 Sultan Murat I added it to his empire.
Its position for almost 100 years as capital of the Ottoman Empire accounts for its many historically and architecturally important buildings. With its mosques, religious complexes, bridges, old bazaars, caravanserais and palaces, Edirne is a living museum.
The Selimiye Mosque is the city's focal point. Occupying the top of a hill, Sinan's design reflects the classical Ottoman style. Built on the orders of Sultan Selim II, (1569-1575) it testifies to the technological abilities of the day and the genius of the Ottoman's master architect.
Built between 1403 and 1414 by Mehmet I, the Eski Mosque is the oldest Ottoman structure in Edirne. The white marble of the portal contrasts with the building's cut stone and brick masonry. Calligraphic inscriptions of Koranic verses decorate the interior.
The Uc Serefeli Mosque, built between 1438 and 1447 by Murat I, presages the great period of Ottoman mosque architecture under Sinan and embodies both a new freedom from restraint and advances in engineering. The northwest minaret has three galleries, hence the mosque's name and was the highest minaret until those of the Selimiye Mosque eclipsed it.
Towards the end of the 15 th century, Beyazit II commissioned the architect Hayrettin to build him a complex in Edirne which includes a mosque, Darussifa (hospital), medrese, kitchen and store rooms. The mosque is square in plan and covered with a deep dome; over 100 domes roof the remainder. The most important of the other buildings is the Darussifa which stood out in its time as a modern hospital with a unique and humane architectural design.
Little has changed in the Keleici section of Edirne since the Middle Ages. Narrow streets lined with houses wind through the area. The number of small restaurants and cafes reflect the district's renaissance.
Sinan built several of the famous baths in Edirne including the Sokollu, Tahtakale, Mezit Bey, Beylerbeyi and Gazi Mihal hamams. His work is also seen in the Ahmet Pasa Caravanserai and the Rustem Pasa Caravanserai of 1561. The last has been renovated and serves as a charming hotel. The old bedesten of the early 15 th century still functions as Edirne's main market. As you drive around the area you should notice the many lovely Ottoman bridges which grace the Tunca and Meric Rivers.
Edirne has retained many of its colorful traditions and customs. Every summer where the Tunca River divides an emerald green meadow is created called Sarayici, where the Kirkpinar Greased Wrestling Contests are held. Shiny, slippery bodies grapple to determine who will emerge as champion.
As you walk through the city and peer into the corners of the grocery stores, you see blocks of white feta cheese, a local specialty. Hardaliye, another of the city's delicacies, is a grape drink mixed with mustard and marzipan. Scented soaps, earthenware pots and straw baskets from Edirne make good souvenirs. You will find it difficult to resist the beautiful embroidery work of the local women.
The Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum traces the history of the area from prehistoric to Byzantine times and exhibits clothing from the late Ottoman period. At the Turkish Islamic Art Museum examples of Ottoman architectural details, calligraphy, manuscripts, Korans, weapons, glass and an imperial tent used on military campaigns are displayed.
On the way to the Saroz Gulf in the Aegean Sea, you can stop at Uzunkopru to see an interesting bridge spanning the Ergene River, built by Murat II in 1444. Its 174 arches, the highest of which is 12.28 meters, make up its 1354 meter length. The mild climate and beautiful surroundings on the Saroz Gulf invite holiday makers for a break of relaxation. Whether here or in Edirne, the hotel and guest-house facilities are plentiful and reasonably priced.
The Yildiz (Istranca) Mountains divide the province of Kirklareli. Lush mountainous landscape dotted with quaint houses transports you to an idyllic and tranquil frame of mind. The city of Kirklareli's oldest mosque, the Hizir Bey Mosque, was built in 1388. Nearby stands a hamam also built under Hizir Bay's patronage. The 14 th century Kirklar Memorial with its impressive 18 columns stands on Kirklar Hill honoring the site where 40 soldiers lost their lives when the Ottomans conquered this area under the command of Murat I.
Kirklareli's Black Sea Coast is another place to enjoy beaches and good fish restaurants. Igneada, 98 km east of Kirklareli, lies squeezed between its sandy shores and the Yildiz Mountains. Kiyikoy is another holiday resort town with good accommodation.
The Sokollu Mosque in Luleburgaz, on the Edirne -Istanbul road, is an exquisite work of Sinan's that dates from 1570. The neighboring town of Babaeski also boasts a Sinan building in the Ali Pasa Mosque.
If you are traveling north to Bulgaria, linger for a few hours at the peaceful and green town of Derekoy, the last stop before the border.