We have been living and travelling at different parts of the world, but there is nothing like coming back home… When our car enters our garden, and I open the door, and a slow breeze hits me on a summer day, all my tiredness wears off immediately.
I left home when I was 18, and over the last 12 years, things have changed in bits and pieces, but that slow change adds up when you are back after a long time. So nowadays, during the first days of my visit, my mind is always blurred with the nostalgia and longing for the olden and golden times of my childhood. Still, today, I love standing under the accacia (to be specific Robinia Pseudoacacia Umbraculifera) tree, looking at our garden and house, and remembering those times and enjoying the last days of summer.
My house is about 20 km outside center of the town of Bursa. This is the ideal way of living in my opinion. Living in a small town, in a house where you are independent, where you can turn up the music as high as you like. At the same time, close enough to the city, where I have gone to school, and have spent all my youth, hanging out at the cafes at Heykel and Altıparmak, which is the center of the town.
So, our home town, Bursa deserves the first blog post…
Bursa is the 5th largest city in Turkey. It’s not as huge and chaotic as Istanbul, but still a big town. The Ottomans have settled around this area at their early times, so there are lots of mosques and tombs to visit from that era. Each town in Turkey is famous for the special fruits and vegetables grown there, and Bursa is famous for its juicy big peaches and chestnuts. There is a special chestnut desert, kestane şekeri, that you must taste when you’re here. Let’s go through a few of the highlights of the town together.
Kükürtlü & Çekirge — Both Murat and I have spent part of our childhood in this part of the town. We both went to the same elementary school (Ticaret ve Sanayi Odası İlk Öğretim Okulu). Murat lived in this neighbourhood until he was 12 years old. My father’s hairdresser shop was in walking distance from my school. Murat’s mother has a cafe also very close to my father’s shop. We used to shop from his mother’s place and he was our delivery guy somedays :). I also went to high school nearby, Bursa Anatolian High School. Therefore, we have a lot of memories there and it’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods in town. This region is also well known for its hamams, with natural underground hot water, that is an experience not to miss! Çekirge is also known for being the birthplace of the traditional shadow theatre of Hacıvat and Karagöz, so the new museum dedicated to these two characters is something not to miss you’re into puppets and shadow theatre, an early form of cinema.
Altıparmak, Grand Bazaar, Ulucami — Altiparmak is one of the centers of the town with apartments with small shops at the entrance levels. The Grand Bazaar is the oldest part of the town and you can shop from clothes to gold to spices around this place. Going from the bazaar to Ulucami, which is the biggest mosque of the city, I used to pass through this passage which always smells like coffee. Next to Ulucami is Koza Han, which is the silk market and is another must see of the city. And since your are in that area make sure that you stop by ‘Çiçek Izgara’ to eat ‘İnegöl Köfte’ and ‘Piyaz’.
Heykel — This is the center of the city with Teyyare and Ahmet Vefik Paşa theatres. I have also gone to a secondary university prep school (Tan Dersanesi) here and we used to hang out with my friends around Nalbantoglu street, after the courses were over. A must eat of Bursa is a special type of kebap: İskender Kebap and their first and old restaurant is right here.
Setbaşı — Going towards the mountain from Heykel, one passes by a river, and by the Setbaşı Bridge, one can find nice cafes. There is also the city library there, where we used to go to prepare our high school term papers.
Yeşil — As you keep walking, from Setbaşı, one reaches to Yeşil mosque and mausoleum tomb of early Ottoman sultans. These two buildings are quite particular with its blue tiles hand prepared and designed in a nearby town of İznik. If you would like to see an early Ottoman era architecture, this place is also a must-see.
Uludağ — Bursa is set at the skirts of this mountain. It’s one of the first ski resorts of Turkey, and was very popular as it is so close to İstanbul. For most of us, its national park is the ultimate picnic with barbeque place during the summer and winter. A favourite way to go there is by using the cable car, Teleferik, which goes both to a plateau great for making picnic and going to restaurants nearby, and also to the ski slopes.
Bulvar FSM — This is the area of the town that makes me feel old. When I was a kid, this big new boulevard was a muddy road. Today, I prefer to meet with my friends at one of these cafes or bars on this busy street. Murat and his family has moved from Kükürtlü to this area when he was going to high school.
Mudanya – Guzelyalı (Burgaz) — This is a town outside the Bursa center, which has a coast to Marmara Sea. Indeed our house I mentioned above is situated between the center and this town. Mudanya is beautiful with old Greek houses. One has to eat fish when there. It also has the Mudanya Mütareke Binası, where the peace treaty after the Independence War has been signed. My grandma and aunts had a summer flat in Burgaz (the name has changed later) and I used to spend at least one or two weeks there every summer :) The coast also goes along to Kurşunlu where my other grandparents used to live, and I have spent another one or two weeks of my summer there, too :) Those were the days…
As we are starting our longest trip ever, and this blog, this first posts should give an idea about our hometown, and therefore where we are coming from…
Let’s begin… :)