After Iznik, we got back on the bus for another 80 kilometers to drive to Bursa, one of Turkey’s most populous cities and an industrial center for the country. After dinner, our group played card games until we were too tired to keep playing.
The next morning, we toured the tombs of several important Ottoman sultans. Bursa was the first major capitol city of the Ottoman Empire after its conquest of the Eastern Roman Empire, and it was a very important administrative center until Istanbul was conquered in 1453. As a result, many sultans wanted to be buried there.
We visited the Ulu Cami, a mosque with really interesting art. Most mosques have verses from the Qur’an written in beautiful calligraphy, but the Ulu Cami featured mirrored Arabic phrases. There were several rooms that branched off from the main space in the mosque, which were used for education and reading.
The views of Bursa were spectacular and prompted many group photos. We would start as a pair or group of three, and gradually the entire group would be in the picture. Here’s a short from early on in the process, as well as a few pictures of Bursa from above. There’s something so overwhelming about the size of Turkey’s major cities. From every direction, it looks as though the city stretches past the nothingness of the horizon, and it’s impossible to imagine how many millions of people call these cities their home.
Bursa is also known for its silk and its Iskender kebap. We spent a few hours walking around the Silk Bazaar, where one man was kind enough to show us how he handmakes silk scarves with marble design on them. Besides admiring the beautiful scarves, we also sat and had tea and lemonade and exchanged riddles for a while.
Lunch was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life. At first, people were afraid of having their own serving of Iskender kebap.. It had been talked up as super filling and covered in grease. While it was literally drenched in buttery grease (a man came by after the meal was served and poured it out of a metal pot onto our plates), everyone ate their meal with a big smile on their face and “oohs” and “ahhs” abounded. There was a layer of pita bread underneath the meat and yogurt, and the tomato sauce on top added such a great flavor to the lamb. This was definitely one of my favorite meals in Turkey so far.