Bursa

Green Tomb at a winter night

Bursa, the fourth largest Turkish city, is in the northwestern part of the country, just south of the Sea of Marmara.

The first impression of the city might be that of a large, concrete-ridden modern metropolis that is betraying its largely recognized Turkish epithet of Yeşil Bursa ("Green Bursa"), and its historical prominency as being the cradle of the Ottoman state; however, upon a closer look you will see it really lives up to its name, by proudly displaying its Ottoman heritage in the shape of many mosques, tombs, and lovely quarters of old houses, as well as by harbouring many pleasant parks, which fill the city with fresh air, and provide the weary traveller some shade to rest in—and even if you haven't found the parks sufficient enough to have this city earned the honorific of "green", then the lush woodlands of Mt. Uludağ is just above that steep hill.

In 2014, Bursa and a nearby village of Cumalıkızık were added to the UNESCO world heritage list. The remains at several sites illustrate the creation of an urban and rural system establishing the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century.

Understand

Bursa lies 20 km inland from the coast of the Sea of Marmara, with which it is connected by the River Nilüfer, which meanders its way through the northwestern suburbs of the city. With its 2.5 million residents, it closely follows the "big three" of Turkey—Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir—in population. Much of the population are immigrants, or their descendants, who have been in the city for a couple generations or more, either from Balkan countries fled from their homeland mostly during the years of often oppressive communist regime (mainly ethnic Turks from Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo, as well as some Albanian Muslims), or from the far northeast of the country, including Muslim Georgians, who settled in the city in numbers for economical reasons. The city is also receiving immigration from elsewhere in the country, due to the recent growth of industry.

As one of the western terminuses of Silk Road, Bursa was, and still is, the main centre of Turkish silk industry. Other local products include fruits—especially peaches—grown abundantly in the fertile plain below the city, and chestnuts harvested from semi-wild stands on the hillsides. Relatively recent newcomers include automative industry, and a more diverse array of textiles, which have surpassed the traditional trades lately.

Bursa also strives to be "green" in the other sense: It is the first and so far the only Turkish city to have been measuring the electromagnetic pollution, and has some of the highest recycling rates in the country raked up by its metropolitan municipalities within the last two decades (the program is geared more towards the residential districts, though, so you won't see many separated bins in the centre to put your empty water bottle in). The environmental auspices reach beyond the city limits as well; Bursa has pioneered in signing the power lines in the surrounding countryside with big coloured spheres so as to minimize the danger they pose upon migratory birds (a project now implemented nationwide), and hosts the sanctuary of the bears that were rescued from the cruel tradition of "dancing bears" now outlawed (in which bear cubs were taken away from wilderness and forced to "dance" upon the percussion of their masters, of course, unbeknownst by the spectators, with the threat of physical harm—this was a common theme of the tourist photo shots taken in Istanbul up to the early 90s) in the forests near Karacabey, 70 km west of the city. The sanctuary is still in operation, now serving as a temporary rehabilitation centre for all kinds of wildlife that were illegally taken into captivity.

History

As with many cities of the classical era, ancient Prusa, a corrupted form of which is now the modern name of the city, was named after its founder, Prusias, the king of Bithynia, who set the first stone of the city in 202 BC. About a century and quarter later, Bursa, along with the rest of the Kingdom of Bithynia, was annexed into the Roman Empire. It was the Romans who developed the baths making use of the thermal waters of Çekirge first, and they have been in continual operation ever since. (But the Byzantines were the ones who were really enthusiastic about the baths. The first steps of tourism in Bursa date back to that era, when people from far and wide were arriving in numbers to visit the baths for their therapeutic properties.)

In 1326, after trying for 8 to 10 years (historians haven't come to an agreement on the exact duration yet), then-Byzantine Bursa became the first major city that the Ottomans, who started as a small emirate in the countryside just east of the city, had taken control of. As such, it was here that the Ottoman principality rose to full statehood from being an insignificant, remote, semi-nomad society. Even after the seat was moved to Edirne in European mainland in 1365, as the sultans turned their attention to the continent across the Sea of Marmara, Bursa kept its special place in the Ottoman psyche, and all sultans up to Mehmet the Conqueror, who put an end to the Byzantine Empire by taking its last stronghold, Constantinople, in 1453, were buried here, even those reigning from Edirne. Many dynasty members, even after the throne was moved to Constantinople, followed the suite as well.

The earthquake of 1855 shook the city hard, claiming many landmarks together with it. With this information in mind, you'll have little reason to wonder why what seemingly should be an ancient Ottoman edifice was built in then-contemporary styles of Ottomanized Baroque and Rococo.

Orientation

The steep foothills of Uludağ forced the city to grow in a linear, elongated form in an east-west direction, rather than spread out. Most of the sights and useful locations are on or near the main street, which finds its way through the entire length of the city centre (roughly 6–7 km), called under various names in different parts of the city.

The central square of the city is Heykel ("statue"), named so because of an imposing equestrian statue of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, standing in front of the building of the Province Governorship (the official name of this square is Cumhuriyet Alanı, "Republic Square", but no one uses it).

West of Heykel, the name of the main drag is Atatürk Caddesi. Past Ulucami and the bazaars area (or the "Khans and Bazaars District", as those in the tourism industry in Bursa love to name it), the street becomes Cemal Nadir Caddesi, skirting around the hill of Tophane, the oldest core of the city surrounded by ancient walls. Useful landmarks on this part of the city include the Ottoman clocktower rising on Tophane, and just below it on the street level, the much modern blue glass pyramid standing on the square in front of the Zafer Plaza shopping mall. Heading further west, passing under the overpass at the intersection with another main street (Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar Caddesi), the main street is named Altıparmak Caddesi, one of the main shopping streets of the city, sharing the same name with the district it traverses. The western end of Altıparmak Cd, and the hill on which the Ottoman quarter of Muradiye resides south of/above it, mark the limit of the traditional centre of the city; further west from here lies Çekirge Caddesi, leading to the one-time suburb of Çekirge, through the affluent and leafy neighbourhood of Kükürtlü. Between Altıparmak and Kükürtlü, due north of Muradiye, Stadyum Caddesi lying on the edge of the football stadium and Kültürpark connects the city centre with D200, the main intercity highway skirting the city centre to north.

East of Heykel, just past the Setbaşı Bridge, spanning the fairly deep gorge of Gökdere Stream (the bridge, due to the unexpectedly long drop below it, is infamous as the favourite suicide spot of Bursa), the main street forks into two in a Y-junction, marked by an old plane tree right in the middle: Take left, Yeşil Caddesi, for Yeşil, and Emirsultan further east, or right, Namazgah Caddesi, for the station of cable-cars to Uludağ.

Climate

A great time to visit the city is the late winter/early spring, which is characterized by refreshing rains early in the morning, followed by sunny and comfortably warm noons—a welcome and easily perceived change from cooler Istanbul (located further north) or Eskişehir (located higher, and further away from the sea).

Get in

By plane

The local airport, Yenişehir Airport (IATA: YEI), is located 43 km east of the city, near the town of Yenişehir. A limited number of international and domestic flights connect to the airport (listed below); however, given the inconvenient location of the airport, and the infrequent connections with the city, Istanbul's Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen are frankly easier airports to get to the city, and with a ferry connection, form the most common way of getting to the city. And you will very likely have to transit in one of them to land in Yenişehir, anyway.

Here is a list of international and domestic flights to Bursa:

International

Domestic

Operated by Anadolu Jet and Borajet

Operated by Borajet

By train

Since the decommissioning of BursaMudanya railway in the 1950s, there has been no railway connecting with Bursa.

However, when coming from Ankara, you can take the high-speed train (YHT) to Eskişehir, which is located about the mid-way, and then transfer to the bus heading for Bursa there, which is provided by Turkish State Railways and departs right in front of the station. This combined trip takes around 4 hours (as opposed to 5 and a half hours by bus only), and there are seven fast train departures daily from Ankara.

By car

Highways that are fairly wide and in good condition connect the city to north (D575/E881, from İzmit, Yalova, and Istanbul, the shortest route from last of which involves taking a ferry to Yalova), west (D200/E90 from Balıkesir with a connection to D565 from İzmir in the southwest), and east (D200/E90 from Eskişehir and Ankara, with a connection to D650 from Antalya in the south).

By bus

Buses connect with most, if not all, significant cities in the country, including, but not limited to, Ankara, İzmir, and Antalya. Prices vary between € 10 to € 50, depending on the distance.

A bus ride from Istanbul, which costs about € 10 or 30 TL, involves taking a ferry when crossing the Gulf of İzmit between the ports of Eskihisar east of Istanbul and Topçular east of Yalova, and takes about three to three and a half hours, depending on the stops the bus makes in the towns along the route and the length of the queue for the ferry. Note that the food and drinks in the ferry are overpriced; a small sandwich gulped down with some orange juice can easily cost 12 TL.

All intercity buses arrive at the modern bus station (locally called Terminal), about 10 km north of the city, off the highway to Istanbul, and just inside the newly-built beltway (which the buses heading for east, west, and south take). All buses offload at one side, the ticket kiosks all located inside, and at the other side are the yellow city buses leaving for the downtown and various districts of the city centre. The row of bus stops are equipped with illuminated signs telling the route number and the main stops the bus in the stop in question will go through—#38 goes in a loop between the downtown and the station, while #96 connects with Çekirge, also going through parts of the downtown first, and closing its loop through Kükürtlü and Çekirge before returning to the station. (Upon returning to the station while leaving the city, you should also take your bus in the stops on the same side of the street that you got off, because of the circular fashion of the routes of these buses.) It takes these buses around 45 minutes to complete their route, first along the highway in the edge of the city, then into the narrow alleys of the slum-like district of Çirişhane, and finally into the city centre through Stadyum Caddesi (see the "Orientation" section above). While in the station, buy your ticket (2.50 TL) from the small building next to the bus stops.

There are also very frequent turquoise coloured buses marked HEYKEL which will let you off right in the centre of Bursa opposite Ulucamii.

By boat

The following journey is the fastest option from Istanbul:

It's also possible to transit through Yalova fast ferry jetty, about an hour bus ride (which costs 9 TL pp) north of Bursa.

Until recently, all of the ferries were operated by İDO, once affiliated with the metropolitan municipality of Istanbul, and now a private company. BUDO, owned by the metropolitan municipality of Bursa, is now entering the market as well. Tickets can be booked online.

Get around

The city has a metro line connecting downtown with suburbs in the northwest. There is also an extensive bus and dolmuş network. The dolmuşes in Bursa are more likely to be a normal looking white car with a sign on the roof rather than the yellow minibuses that are common in Istanbul.

The Bursa Metro is called Bursaray - for information in Turkish: Bursaray and a map

See

Mosques

Ulucami (great mosque)
Orhan Gazi Mosque

Tombs

Historical Trees

Historical Buildings

Koza Han (Silk Bazaar)
Castle

Old villages

Do

Turkish Baths

Since Bursa lies on a geologically-active area, the place is rich in mineral waters and accordingly is famous for its traditional baths.

Buy

Eat

Try the İskender kebap, a dish originated from Bursa. İskender consists of roasted, sliced lamb spread atop diced bread pieces, topped with tomato sauce, served with yoghurt. A similar dish, meatballs instead of sliced lamb only, would be Pideli Köfte which is definitely cheaper and perhaps more delicious. Go to Kayhan Carsisi, very close to Heykel, for best options. Candied Chestnut is the best choice for dessert but sadly you cannot get it from a restaurant.


Drink

The cafe at the gardens of Kozahan might be the most authentic place in the city to have a Turkish coffee—which might be what Queen Elizabeth II was thinking, who visited there in 2008.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

The best budget hotel you can stay is "Hotel Gonluferah", around €70 per night, but having rooms with great views of the city as the hotel is located on the way to the Uludag mountain.

Connect

The telephone code of the city is (+90) 224.

Stay safe

Bursa is a safe city. But of course you should always be cautious if you're wandering alone in late night.

Go next

Other sites and places near the city include

Routes through Bursa

Çanakkale Bandirma  W  E  Kestel Ankara


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.