Bursa once the capital of the Ottoman Empire even before Constantinople was conquered is today Turkey’s fourth largest city. We had been hearing about how lovely it was from day one, as it was the hometown of our tour director Aykut. He said because we were the best group he had ever worked with he had paid the thousands of extra Turkish lira so we could stay in the superb Almira Hotel. Joking aside it was a beautiful hotel and as a group of three, we were given a suite, a lovely double room with an adjoining single room, all very posh.
We immediately noticed how different Bursa was from Ankara and Istanbul. It was quiet there were no tour buses or crowds and virtually no English was spoken by the shop owners. In hindsight the markets were also cheaper than those we would visit in Istanbul, although it is all relative because they too were very cheap when compared to western prices.
Gazi Park is the heart of Bursa and was where we began our exploration.
On one side is the Ulu Camii built in 1399 by Bayezid I, who’s nickname was “Thunderbolt” he earned this from one of his Ottoman victories. The interior of the mosque was striking and I enjoyed looking around for half an hour before wandering through to the nearby bazaar. Lots of people were inside praying, but the place is so large that we didn’t feel we were intruding. There are some beautiful calligraphy panels and it was very bright and airy, in fact the mosque felt quite modern.
Just outside the mosque is the entrance to the Koza Han. Bursa was once a stop on the Silk Road from China and even today this market is filled with shops selling various silk products, mostly scarves, at very reasonable prices.
The Koza Han connects to Bursa’s covered bazaar, which gave us a feel of what was to come in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. It extends in all directions, along tiny passages, and overlooks a courtyard and tea garden. Things are much cheaper here than in Istanbul and after haggling I picked up a leather bag for €25. In retrospect, we should have done all of our shopping in Bursa.