Bursa

An important center since early Ottoman times, Bursa is today one of Turkey's more prosperous cities (due to its large automobile and textile industries) and is also a pleasing mix of bustling modernity, old stone buildings, mosques, thermal spas, 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 Uludağ, Turkey's most popular ski mountain.

Bursa became the first capital of the nascent Ottoman Empire after the city was captured in 1326 by Orhan Gazi. Although it was moved to Edirne in the 1360s and then to Istanbul in 1453, the city retained its spiritual importance for the Ottomans. Each of the first five sultans after Orhan Gazi built his own complex on five different hilltops, and each included a mosque, a medrese (theological school), a hammam, a soup kitchen, kervansaray (old-fashioned inn), and tombs. It was in Bursa that Ottoman architecture blossomed and the foundations laid for the more elaborate works in the later capitals. More than 125 mosques here are on the list of historical sites kept by the Turkish Historical Monuments Commission, and their minarets make for a grand skyline.

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