With various Ottoman monuments, historic baths, silk, Iskender Kebabs aplenty, and a cable-car ride away for good skiing and hiking territory. Bursa has much going for it. Yet despite being impressively spilt along the wooded slopes of Uludag (Great Mountain), it’s nickname Green Bursa has become outdated. Today the city is more of an industrial sprawl and is as traffic-choked as anywhere in Turkey.
Seized from the Byzantines in 1326, Bursa was the capital of the Ottoman Empire before Edirne. The founder of the Ottoman dynasty and five of his successors are buried here, and the Ottoman style of building emerged in their monuments. You’ll need two days to do these and other sights justice.
The city center is Koza Park. On its west side, the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), built in 1399, is notable for having a fountain within the mosque. On the north side the Koza Inn, an arcaded 15th century Caravanserai, is the center of Turkey’s silk trade. In June and July dealers haggle over silkworm cocoons; throughout the year silk ties, shirts, waistcoats, dresses and shawls are for sale. Behind lies a bazaar of bewildering proportion and density, on various levels including a Bedesten filled with jewelry. After Istanbul’s bazaars, it’s so refreshingly authentic. Eastwards from here, you’ll hear the smithies at work on the street of the Ironmongers. Bursa’s two most vaunted attractions, built for Mehmet l (1413-21). The Green Mosque has a dizzyingly beautiful interior coated in the very best Iznik tiles, especially on the sultan’s loge and in the side chambers used for his meetings. Mehmet lies in a multicolored sarcophagus in the Green Tomb, itself tiled in turquoise. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in the mosque’s college contains a display on Karagoz puppetry, a Turkish version of Punch and Judy using leather puppets which originated in Bursa.
At the Hisar terrace area, there are very memorable the tombs of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, Osman, and his son Orhan. In the Muradiye district further west, the timbered Ottoman houses with overhanging balconies can be seen behind the park. A 17th century Ottoman House has been restored and opened to the visitors. It’s on the same square as the Muradiye Complex, built in the 1420s for Murat II, father of Mehmet the Conqueror, the last sultan to rule from Bursa. His tomb clusters with nine others in an inappropriately serene garden: most inhabitants are princes killed by family members so they could not compete for the Sultan’s throne. Many of the tombs are spectacular works of art, with Iznik tilework, frescoes and calligraphy.