Mount Olympus, as the ancient Greeks named it, shadows a settlement turned capital city east of the Sea of Marmara, not far from Istanbul.
Bursa is the name of the city today, an ever important stop of trade and goods. In fact, Bursa was, uniquely for Anatolia, a major exporter of silk beginning during the Byzantium Empire and lasting this day. Unsurprisingly, it has been on the radar for travelers for a long time. Bursa is situated on quiet slopes of rolling mountains, a peaceful setting and a strategic location. So much so that the Ottoman Empire established Bursa as their capitol city until 1402. Hundreds of mosques have been built here in the ensuing years, warranting a local proverb - “a walk for every day in the year, and a mosque for every walk.”
Most of the famous Ottoman rulers are buried here, ranging from the founder of the empire, Osman, to lesser known rulers. It is of no surprise that the highlight of visiting modern Bursa is quietly walking among these elaborate tombs, taking turns to gaze closely at each tile then occasionally stepping back to observe hundreds of Turks pay respect to these rulers of bygone days. The tree lined streets of Bursa hide numerous bazaars selling various trinkets and oddities - a particularly odd one is the Koza Han bazaar selling silkworm cocoons. Bursa is naturally a more authentic viewpoint into Ottoman Turkey than Istanbul, the other capitol of the empire. Less foreigners mingle with the locals here, creating sometimes awkward glances but also memorable interactions and authentic conversations.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here:
Bursa is a beautiful Ottoman city on the Sea of Marmara. We took a ferry across the sea into the busy harbors of Istanbul, taking around 3 hours.
The Green Tomb of the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet I. The blue tiling inside and out, and the intricate calligraphy adorning the tomb is truly a work of art.
We stayed with a couple strangers that offered us to stay through Couchsurfing, and they soon became friends. I cherish the talks we shared and hearing their perspective on the world.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Bursa was a delight wandering the bazaars and tree-lined streets, but China stills lies ever distant.
It is time to continue the journey, but a decision looms. Do you head east into Ankara, an ancient city in Anatolia that lies on the main route, or do you take the coastal route along the Aegean and Mediterranean to the port of Antalya?