The Sea of Marmara and the North Aegean: Places to Explore

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Bursa

Bursa is a large city, stretching out along an east–west axis. The town square, at the intersection of Atatürk Caddesi and Inönü Caddesi, is officially called Cumhuriyet Alanı (Republic Square), but is popularly called Heykel (Statue), after its imposing equestrian statue of Atatürk. East of Heykel, is the Yeşil neighborhood, with Yeşil Cami and Yeşil Türbe. Buses from outside the city center converge on Heykel, from where you can reach most sites. The main bus routes run about every 15 minutes during the day and roughly every 30 minutes at night. There are signs and posted schedules at most major stops. Bursa is one of the rare cities that hasn't ceased being important since early Ottoman times. It became the first capital of the nascent Ottoman Empire after the city was captured in 1326 by Orhan Gazi, the empire's first sultan, and the first five sultans of the Ottoman Empire lived here until Mehmet the Conquerer conquered Istanbul and moved the capital. Each of the sultans built his own complex on five different hilltops, and each included a mosque, a medrese (theological school), a hamam, a kitchen house, caravansary, and tombs. It was in Bursa that Ottoman architecture blossomed, and where the foundations were laid for the more elaborate works to be found in the later capitals Edirne and Istanbul. More than 125 mosques here are on the list kept by the Turkish Historical Monuments Commission, and their minarets make for a grand skyline.

Present-day Bursa is one of Turkey's more prosperous cities due to its large automobile and textile industries, and the city is a pleasing mix of bustling modernity, old stone buildings, and wealthy suburbs with vintage wood-frame Ottoman villas. Residents proudly call their city Yeşil Bursa (Green Bursa)—for the green İznik tiles decorating some of its most famous monuments, and also for its parks and gardens and the national forest surrounding nearby Mt. Uludağ, Turkey's most popular ski resort.

The city has history, charming villages, sporting opportunities, good food (two local inventions, İskender kebap and İnegöl köfte, made significant contributions to Turkish cuisine), good hotels, and shopping opportunities. Many travelers only spend a half-day here, on the way from Istanbul to the south and west coasts or Cappadocia, but once you're here, there's a good chance you'll want to stay longer, so plan ahead.

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