Istanbul: Places to Explore




Eastern Thrace (the area historically bounded by the Danube and Nestos rivers, and the Aegean, Marmara, and Black seas) has a harsh climate—sizzling in summer, bitter in winter—and the landscape is unexceptional, but the region has some worthy sights, particularly Edirne, founded in the 2nd century AD as Hadrianopolis by the Roman emperor Hadrian. Edirne was the last great fortress city before Istanbul and was fought over for centuries by every would-be conqueror, including the Bulgars, crusaders, Turks, Greeks, and Russians. It was the Ottoman capital before it was moved to Istanbul, though the rulers often returned, particularly for hunting in the summer, and the many Sultans adorned the city with many magnificent mosques. With the fall of the empire it became something of a picturesque backwater.

Edirne, while no museum town, is a well-preserved Ottoman city; the overhanging balconies of the traditional Ottoman wooden houses shade Edirne's still-cobbled lanes, and its rich collection of mosques and monuments remains mostly unspoiled by the concrete towers so prevalent in Turkey's boomtowns. The rivers and borders have pushed development to the east, allowing the unique feel of an old town still surrounded by fields and greenery. Tourists tend to ignore Edirne, but those who visit appreciate its several remarkable mosques and its covered bazaars. Every summer, Edirne becomes the focus of attention as host of the Kirkpinar, the national grease-wrestling festival.

On the grounds of the Üç Şerefeli Mosque is the Sokurlu Hamam, built by Sinan in 1568, and one of the country's more elegant baths. It's open to the public from about 7 am until 11 pm for men and from 9:30 am until 6 pm for women and costs $10 for a bath, $16 for a bath with massage.

Edirne at a Glance

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