Another day of beaut?es and surpr?ses. I l?ke Bursa. A very busy c?ty, but also one w?th a lot of beauty. Bursa ?s the 4th largest c?ty ?n Turkey w?th almost 2 m?ll?on ?nhab?tants. Its ma?n ?ndustry ?s automot?ve. It’s Greek name was Iskender after a commander ?n the army of Alexander the Great, and ?ts current Turk?sh name comes from a legend that K?ng Solomon walked through th?s area and excla?med that “Th?s ?s Parad?se”–wh?ch ?n Turk?sh has a s?m?lar sound to “Bursa”. There has been settlement here for the last 4000 years. In Roman and Byzant?ne t?mes ?t was only a small place next to the much larger and more ?mportant N?cea (now called Izn?k) but after the Ottoman occupat?on ?n 1326 ?t became the more s?gn?f?cant of the two c?t?es.
Our f?rst v?s?t today was to the tombs of the very f?rst Ottoman Sultan, Osman Gaz?, and h?s son, the second Sultan, Orhan Gaz?. The name “Ottoman” comes from the Engl?sh vers?on of “Osman”. There was a major earthquake ?n Bursa ?n 1855 wh?ch destroyed many of the bu?ld?ngs of Bursa ?nclud?ng these tombs, so the structures we saw were repl?cas bu?lt ?n the restorat?on ?n the 1860’s. The s?te had or?g?nally been that of a Chr?st?an monastery wh?ch was establ?shed somet?me around the 9th Century. Orhan Gaz?’s tomb was bu?lt on the foundat?ons of a Chr?st?an Church–the only rema?nder of wh?ch ?s the mosa?c floor (patterns–not ?cons or p?ctures–as you don’t put f?gures of the sa?nts on the floor where they m?ght be stepped upon). I am not sure whether the tomb before 1855 was the actual church that once stood here or whether the church had been demol?shed long before and the pre-1855 tomb bu?lt where ?t had stood, but the arch?tecture was rem?n?scent of Hag?a Soph?a. As one travels around Turkey there ?s ev?dence of the prev?ous Chr?st?an ?nhab?tants. A cross here, a Ch?-Rho des?gn there. These rema?n?ng symbols–even when they appear on doorways or columns of the mosques that have ?ncorporated them–have not been obl?terated, but no Chr?st?an populat?on of any s?gn?f?cance rema?ns here today. It g?ves one pause to th?nk.
S?xteen or so other later sultans and members of the royal fam?ly were also entombed here w?th Orhan. Next door, ?n a much smaller bu?ld?ng, was the tomb of h?s father Osman Gaz?, the f?rst sultan. He had d?ed ?n 1326 after bese?g?ng Bursa but d?d not l?ve to enter ?t al?ve. Nearby too ?s a fort?f?ed wall (our tour gu?de, Yusuf, ?s do?ng h?s masters degree on the subject of fort?f?ed structures at the moment) wh?ch was also destroyed ?n the 1855 earthquake but has been completely restored. Th?s work has just been completed, and ev?dence rema?ns of ?t such as numbers pa?nted on the stones to a?d the reconstruct?on of such an amaz?ng j?g-saw puzzle.
We then went to v?ew Bursa’s Grand Mosque, Ulu Cam??. Bu?lt ?n 1399 by the 4th Sultan ?n fulf?lment of a vow and regarded by some as the 5th hol?est place ?n Islamdom, th?s unusual structure has twenty domes arranged ?n a 4×5 quadr?lateral, a large ?nter?or founta?n, and a glass dome over the founta?n. The story ?s that as the Sultan was go?ng to do battle w?th the crusad?ng K?ng of Hungary he prom?sed Allah to bu?ld 20 mosques ?n Bursa ?f he won. He d?d w?n, but h?s son-?n-law (sa?d to be a very holy man and, I th?nk, probably a very good bus?ness manager to boot) suggested that ?nstead of bu?ld?ng 20 mosques, the Sultan should bu?ld one mosque w?th twenty domes each the s?ze of a s?ngle mosque. The Sultan accepted the ?dea and set to work. However there was a snag. An old woman owned a house r?ght ?n the m?ddle of the s?te upon wh?ch the Sultan chose to bu?ld h?s new mosque and she refused to sell up. The Sultan, be?ng a just man and adverse to forc?ng the woman from her home, allowed her to stay and the bu?ld?ng project went ahead around her home–completely enclos?ng ?t. Furthermore, ?n h?s just?ce, he dec?ded to leave the dome above her house open so that she could benef?t from the sunsh?ne and ra?n. 150 years later, long after both the woman and the sultan had departed th?s mortal co?l, the rel?g?ous author?ty at the t?me determ?ned to bu?ld a founta?n on the spot w?th 99 water spouts accord?ng to the 99 names for God, nevertheless the water all came through one source. Th?s ?nd?cates that all the many names of God have the?r source ?n one be?ng and one alone. Musl?m arch?tects th?nk of these th?ngs.
Next stop was the S?lk Market, the f?nal dest?nat?on and end of the famous “S?lk Road” trad?ng route wh?ch stretched from Bursa r?ght across Ind?a and Ch?na. Naturally the stalls ?n th?s bu?ld?ng all sold s?lk and related art?cles, so that ?t has cont?nued to serve the same purpose s?nce ?t was bu?lt ?n 1491. You could buy all k?nds of s?lk ?tems ?n th?s jo?nt–from the cocoons and s?lk thread to fully made art?cles such as sh?rts and scarves and t?es. Emre let us of the leash for half an hour and we all scattered com?ng back later w?th bags of good?es to d?splay and brag about upon the bus. At th?s po?nt, Kev?n has emerged as far and away the most g?fted haggler. As our gu?de yesterday sa?d, he should be made an honourary Turk!
Off to one more mosque before lunch: the 1419 Yes?l Cam??. Th?s ?s a very ?nterest?ng des?gn — a T-shape referred to elsewhere where ?t has been used as the Bursa plan. In the front ?s an area for prayer–not b?g enough for a large congregat?on so ?t ?s not used for Fr?day prayers–and on the s?des, ?n the arms of the T, are areas for d?scuss?on. There are “courtrooms” off to the s?de also. The whole bu?ld?ng d?splays many anc?ent sk?lls ?n f?ne arts such as t?les and call?graphy. Th?s one also had a small ?nter?or founta?n for wash?ng.
For lunch we went to a “Foundat?on” restaurant–where the prof?ts went to publ?c char?t?es. The restaurant was called “Ye??lkonak” and when we entered the d?n?ng room we all excla?med “Çok Gezel!”–“Very Beaut?ful”. All one length of the room ?s a w?ndow w?th v?ews over the c?ty. We sat by the open w?ndow for lunch (a small lunch of p?de) and soaked up the atmosphere. The call to prayer went off at the 1300 mosques of the c?ty wh?le were were eat?ng. Th?s locat?on for eat?ng rates up there w?th the sea-s?de cafe ?n Assos as 1) the perfect restorat?ve break, and 2) a real “tour?st?c” spot–as they say ?n Turkey–w?thout the tour?sts.
By the end of the meal Ken and I were start?ng to doze off ?n the sunl?ght, so Emre roused us and herded us aboard the bus to take us up to the mounta?ns. We stopped for a wh?le wh?le Emre obta?ned to med?c?ne–he st?ll hasn’t been feel?ng too br?ll?ant–and then headed up the w?nd?ng road. 2000 metres nearer to heaven, we found ourselves surrounded by snow! A real surpr?se–and I hadn’t brought a coat. It was qu?te cold–we f?lled up our water bottles at a mounta?n founta?n–very sweet and cold. The scenery was just l?ke Sw?tzerland–aga?n, just l?ke I ?mag?ne Sw?tzerland would be–except that ?nstead of the steeple of the Church on the hor?zon was the m?naret of the Sk? V?llage mosque. I could not res?st stand?ng ?n the m?ddle of the snow f?eld and the p?ne trees w?th alp?ne scenery all around and g?v?ng a rend?t?on of “The H?lls are Al?ve”! The mounta?n ?s called Mt Uludat, and from there we obta?ned the most ?ncred?ble v?stas of the valley and c?ty below.
On the way back down to Bursa I f?nally fell asleep. I had been feel?ng qu?te queezy when we arr?ved at the summ?t–due to the w?nd?ng road and dart?ng from s?de to s?de of the bus tak?ng photos and v?deo–but I th?nk also the exhaust?on of the reg?me I have undertaken (spend?ng an hour or two each day on th?s travel blog) f?nally caught up w?th me. When we went ups
ta?rs (we arr?ved back at the hotel at 5:30pm) I had a shower and went stra?ght to bed. Gav?n went back to the s?lk market to buy a sh?rt and some t?es, and when he came ?n at 6:30pm I woke up from what must have been a very deep sleep th?nk?ng ?t was morn?ng already. In fact I was feel?ng even worse than I had been when I went to sleep–I m?ght have caught someth?ng of the same bug as Emre has or perhaps I was just feel?ng the comb?ned effects of a cold and t?redness. So I begged to be excused from ton?ght’s offer of home hosp?tal?ty from another local member of the network. My a?m now ?s to get an early n?ght’s sleep so that I can r?se early and refreshed for our 7:30am appo?ntment w?th the Hamam–the Turk?sh Bath!!!