Bursa is a large city in northwest Turkey, lying in the foothills of roughly 2,500 m high Mount Uludag near the Sea of Marmara, called the Mysian Olympus by the Romans who lived there before. The city is known for its mosques and historical sites from the early Ottoman Empire. It's nicknamed Yesil Bursa (Green Bursa), owing to its many parks and trees, as well as its dramatic mountain backdrop.
Bursa was the first major and second overall capital of the Ottoman State between 1335 and 1363. The city was referred to as Hudavendigar meaning God's gift during the Ottoman period.
Bursa is made up of 17 districts and the combined population stands at over 2.7 million with an average increase of 50,000 resident’s year on year.
The earliest known settlement at this location was at Ilıpınar Hoyugu BC 5200 but the modern history of Bursa dates back to at least 200 BC. According to legend, it was founded by Prusias, the King of Bithynia, but soon came under the sway of Eumenes II of Pergamum and thereafter under Roman rule.
Bursa first grew to importance in the early centuries of Christianity, when the thermal baths at Cekirge were first developed. However, it was Justinian I (r AD 527–65) who really put Bursa on the map.
With the decline of the Byzantine Empire, Bursa’s location near Constantinople attracted the interest of would-be conquerors, including Arabs and Seljuks. Having seized much of Anatolia by 1075, the Seljuks took Bursa (then Prusa) with ease. But 22 years later the First Crusade arrived, and the city entered a cycle of conquest and re-conquest, changing hands periodically for the next 100 years.
After the Turkish migrations into Anatolia during the 11th and 12th centuries, small principalities arose around individual Turkish warlords. One such warlord was Ertugrul Gazi, who formed a small state near Bursa. In 1317 Bursa was besieged by his son Osman’s forces and was starved into submission on 6 April 1326. Under the rule of Osman Gazi, Bursa became the capital of the nascent empire that took Osman’s name, Osmanli (Ottoman).
As a result, the city witnessed a considerable amount of urban growth throughout the 14th century. After conquering Edirne (Adrianople) in East Thrace, the Ottomans turned it into the new capital city in 1363, but Bursa retained its spiritual and commercial importance in the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman sultan Bayezid I built the theological complex in Bursa between 1390 and 1395 and the Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) between 1396 and 1400.
Bursa remained to be the most important administrative and commercial centre in the empire until Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453.
During the Ottoman period, Bursa continued to be the source of most royal silk products. Aside from the local silk production, the city imported raw silk from Iran, and occasionally from China, and was the main production centre for the kaftans, pillows, embroidery and other silk products for the Ottoman palaces until the 17th century.
Following the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Bursa became one of the industrial centres of the country. The economic development of the city was followed by population growth and Bursa became the 4th most populous city in Turkey.
The city has traditionally been a pole of attraction, and was a major centre for refugees from various ethnic backgrounds who immigrated to Anatolia from the Balkans during the loss of the Ottoman territories in Europe between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Bursa is the centre of the Turkish automotive industry. The textile and food industries are equally strong, with Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola and other beverage brands, as well as fresh and canned food industries being present in the city's organized industrial zones.
Bursa also produces a substantial amount of dairy products and processed food.
Traditionally, Bursa was famous for being the largest centre of silk trade in the Byzantine and later the Ottoman empires, during the period of the lucrative Silk Road. The city is still a major centre for textiles in Turkey and is home to the Bursa International Textiles and Trade Centre.
Bursa is a major centre for tourism. One of the most popular skiing resorts of Turkey is located at Mount Uludag, just next to the city proper. Bursa's thermal baths have been used for therapeutically purposes since Roman times. Apart from the baths that are operated by hotels, Uludag University has a physical therapy centre which also makes use of thermal water.
Bursa enjoys a Mediterranean subtropical climate. The city has hot, humid summers which start in May and end in October with temperatures averaging around 21ºC and during the height of August the temperature can soar as high as 34ºC. The summer months normally see about two days rain through the entire month, therefore ideal climates for those visiting the country to site see and take in the stunning surroundings. The winter months are relatively mild with January the coldest month where temperatures drop to just under -10ºC. The months from November to April can see as much as 12 days of rain per month. This weather is most welcomed by those involved in agriculture and farming. Bursa offers an excellent selection of shops, cafes where those choosing to visit during these more unpredictable months can seek refuge from the weather.
The Main Historical Sites and Sightseeing
Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) is the largest mosque in Bursa and a landmark of early Ottoman architecture, which carried many elements from the Seljuk architecture. Ordered by Sultan Bayezid I, the mosque was designed and built by architect Ali Neccar in 1396–1400. It is a large and rectangular building, with a total of twenty domes that are arranged in four rows of five, and are supported by 12 columns. Supposedly the twenty domes were built instead of the twenty separate mosques which Sultan Bayezid I had promised for winning the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. The mosque has two minarets.
Inside the mosque there are 192 monumental wall inscriptions written by the famous calligraphers of that period. There is also a fountain (sadırvan – pron. shadirvan) where worshipers can perform ritual ablutions before prayer; the dome over the sadırvan is capped by a skylight which creates a soft, serene light below; thus playing an important role in the illumination of the large building. The subdivisions of space formed by multiple domes and pillars create a sense of privacy and even intimacy.
Yesil Camii (Green Mosque) is a part of the larger complex that consists of a mosque, turbe, madrasah, kitchen and bath. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Mehmed I Celebi and built 1419 – 1421 by architect vizier Hacı Ivaz Pasha. It might be shown as the perfect blend between architecture and embellishment, the proof that such works of art were produced in a country where the battles between siblings had come to an end and peace had returned.
The architectural style known as Bursa Style begins with Green Mosque. The mosque is based on a reverse T- plan with a vestibule at the entrance leading to a central hall flanked by eyvans (a rectangular hall or space, usually vaulted, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open) on the east and west and a larger eyvan with mihrab niche (a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Kaaba in Mecca) on the south. Two small eyvans flank the entryway above which the royal box (hunkar mahfili) is located. There are four rooms with fireplaces to the north and south of side eyvans accessed through the vestibule and the central hall respectively. Stairs on both sides of the vestibule lead to the upper floor where the royal lodge and two adjacent rooms for the royal women are located. Here, a passage opens to the balconies on the northern facade where the minaret steps begin. A portico was designed but never built, because, when the sultan died, work on his private mosque would stop.
Tombs of Sultans Osman and Orhan – the resting place of the founders of the Ottoman Empire.
The tombs of the two founders of the Ottoman Empire Osman Gazi and his sun Orhan Gazi are located in the Hisar (fortress), the oldest section of the city, which passed from Roman to Byzantine and finally to Ottoman hands. According to Osman Gazi's wish to be «laid to rest beneath the silver dome of Bursa», his tomb was constructed on the chapel of St. Elie, the Byzantine monastery formerly on the site. The sarcophagus, surrounded by an ornate brass balustrade, is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay. At one time, the building also contained the tomb of Orhan, but after it was partially destroyed by fire and then levelled by the 1855 earthquake, Sultan Abdulaziz had Orhan's tomb rebuilt separately. The Orhan tomb, slightly less ornate than his father's tomb, was constructed on the foundation of an 11th century Byzantine church, from which some mosaics in the floor have survived.
Muradiye Hudavendigar (the Muradiye Mosque Complex) is built in 1424-1426. The mosque is a simplified inverse T- plan with a domed portico in front, constructed of brick and with four major domes. Hexagonal tiles in turquoise and dark blue decorate the interior. There are two minarets, one that is old, and one that is new due to collapse from the 19th century earthquake and was rebuilt in 1904. A fire damaged the mosque in the early 18th century, and so the mihrab was also rebuilt, in the rococo style.
The large complex is composed of the Muradiye Mosque, Muradiye Madrasa, Muradiye Bath, Muradiye Hospice, a fountain, epitaphs, Sultan Murad II's tomb, Sehzade Ahmed's tomb, Cem Sultan's tomb, Sehzade Mahmud's tomb, Sehzade Mustafa's tomb, Mahidevran Sultan's tomb, Gulsah Sultan's tomb, Ebe Hatun’s tomb, Huma Hatun's tomb, Sittisah Hatun's tomb, the Saraylilar's tomb, and Sirin Hatun's tomb.
Sources conflict on the exact date of construction for the tomb of Murat II, either before his death in 1427 or after in 1451 commissioned by his son Mehmed II in accordance with his will.
Bursa Citadel. Located just a few minutes’ walk uphill from the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), and the centre of Bursa is the former citadel known as Hisar (citadel) and this is the oldest part of the city and was once the hub of Bursa built on a promontory and surrounded by great stone walls for ease of defence. Because it is the oldest part of Bursa, it contains many fine old Ottoman-Bursa houses, some of them restored, within the narrow streets and various parts of the mediaeval wall along its perimeter.
The city walls lead to a fortress gate that has been completed restored. Just beyond this are the tombs of the founders of the Ottoman dynasty, Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi. These tombs date from 1868 when they were rebuilt after the earthquake of 1855.
The Citadel fell into Ottoman hands when Orhan’s troops broke through the walls, and later he had a wooden palace built inside these walls and the Byzantine ramparts were restructured. Until this era the walls were around the entire circumference of the ancient city. It was Orhan that encouraged the expansion of Bursa and this is why the commercial heart of Bursa is now further to the east.
Koza Han (Silk Market). Situated between Bursa Grand Mosque and Orhaniye Mosque, Koza Han was built by the great architect Abdul Ula Bin Pulat Sah as a foundation for historical works in Istanbul by the order of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II in 1491.
Once upon a time, it was a place where pod (silkworm cocoon) was sold. The silk fabrics obtained the cocoons played the first role to be a textile centre of Bursa. Approximately, having lived around Bursa for a thousand year and called as ‘’Greengrocers’’, Turks have made the production of pod for centuries. That tradition, sericulture comes from Central Asia.
Silk Market is two-storey han located on the rectangle yard.
There is found a sadirvan with 95 rooms in the middle of that magnificent structure. The stores of Silk Bazaar contain high quality and cheap productions such as silk fabrics, silk scarf, shawls, outfit materials, artistic goods, dowry, home textile products, underwear, silver and the other valuable souvenirs. In the east of the Han, there is placed the second yard named Dıs (Outer) Koza Han. It is opened to Long Bazaar with its portal ornamented the blue charming tiles. At the past, it was named as Cedid-I Evvel, Simseh Hani, Beylik Caravansary, Beylik Han, Cedid-I Amire and New Caravansary.
Bursa Kapali Carsi (Covered Bazaar of Bursa). The Koza Han is connected to Bursa’s bewildering covered bazaar, which extends in all directions through halls, into courtyards, down underground, along tiny passages and onto upper floor terraces looking down on tea gardens. In terms of size and confusion, Bursa’s bazaar is nearly the equal of Istanbul’s.
Bursa Archaeological Museum, shortly Bursa Museum, is a national museum, exhibiting archaeological artefacts found in and around the province.
Located in the beautiful Cultural Park of Bursa, it houses a great collection of findings from prehistoric times until Late Antiquity from the city and its surroundings. The museum has undergone a recent renovation, and its outdoor section of stone monuments is still closed to visitors. The halls inside are spacious and well arranged. There is a pleasant numismatic area, as well as many showcases of grave findings from the Classical and Roman periods. The hall of Hellenistic and Roman marble sculptures is also fascinating. On the ground floor there is an impressive reconstruction of a rich Hellenistic burial: you can see the tomb with the skeleton and several grave goods, including a chariot.
Uludag Mountain & National Park is a mountain with an elevation of 2,543 m, which makes it the highest mountain of the Marmara region. It is a popular centre for winter sports such as skiing, and a national park of rich flora and fauna.
In Turkish, Uludag means Sublime Mountain. In ancient times the range of which it is a part, extending along the southern edge of Bithynia, was known as Olympos in Greek and Olympus in Latin, the western extremity being known as the Mysian Olympus and the eastern as the Bithynian Olympus, and the city of Bursa was known as “Prusa ad Olympum” from its position near the mountain. Throughout the Middle Ages, it contained hermitages and monasteries. The rise of this monastic centre in the 8th century and its prestige up to the 11th are linked to the resistance of numerous monks to the policy of the iconoclast emperors and then to a latent opposition to the urban, Constantinople monasticism of the Studites.. One of the greatest monks of the Christian East, the wonder-working Byzantine monk Saint Joannicius the Great, lived as a hermit on this mountain.
Whether winter or summer, take a cable-car up and see the views and the cool, clear air of Uludag National Park.