Ice-trees, sank places, and the Ottoman Empire

27 February 2011

The scenery was beautiful, a painting made of green and grey. The cold morning in February was driving us to a city that one day was the centre of the Ottoman Empire. The city wasn’t only a historic centre but also a place where nature is prominent. It was understandable why Bursa was called Green Bursa. While listening to Trance and looking to the landscape passing by my window, I thought what I knew about the Ottoman Empire. 

Ottoman Empire or Osmanli Devlet Yuce or Osmanli İmparatorluğu initiated in 1299 and had his climax in 1923. It’s lost in legends and heroes who did not fear to conquer and rule. At school, I learned nothing about them, and no book had crossed my path telling me their history.

The stay in Bursa will be spread in three days. The first one, when we arrived in the city, was only time to see a museum, have hot chocolate and drop on the bed. I was tired, physically exhausted and need some time to recollect all I had seen and, most important, contact my son in Brazil. I was really missing him.


The next day our first stop wasn’t in the Bursa city, but in a place where a tomb and a legend wait for people like me. The tomb of Şeyh Edebalı, who was born in 1206, the place where he was born is cause for speculation. He is supposed to be taken in Karaman, an essential city of the Seljuk Empire or in Khorasan, a town in Central Asia, today’s Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. After finishing his studies of Islamic law in Karaman, Edebali went to Damascus where he studied with renowned scholars of religion and Islamic law. He returned to Anatolia and settled in a village near Eskişehir. There he founded several religious schools, fed the poor and taught the Turks of Anatolia with the principles of Islam. Therefore he is considered the spiritual founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Edebali was called by Ertuğrul Gazi to become the mentor of his son,  Osman Gazi. The legend says one day Osman dreamed that a moon was getting off the Eebali’s chest to get into his own chest. After that, the tree grew on Osman’s chest. Osman awoke self-absorbed with the dream. Running to find Edebali and tell him all about it. When Osman found Edebali said about the vision, the wise man said the moon in the dream represented his daughter, Malhun Hatun. She was destinated to become Osman wife and tighter they will build a dynasty and an empire.  In fact, Osman married  Malhun Hatun. One of their offspring, Orhan Gazi, became the second leader of the Ottoman Empire, putting its foundation deep in Anatolia. An Empire that lasts 600 years and controlled much of South-eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. 

The tomb was located in Bilecik, standing in a hill where you can have a beautiful view of the mountainous neighbourhood. The place is full of reference to Edebali teachings and achievements. Nearby, a mosque and one of the most essential advice Edebali made to Osman Ghazi is preserved in marble. It says:

O, my son!

Now you are king!
From now on, wrath is for us;
For you, calmness!
For us to be offended;
For you to please!
For us to accuse;
For you to endure!
For us, helplessness and error;
For you, tolerance!
For us, quarrel;
For you, justice!
For us, envy, rumour, slander;
For you, forgiveness!

O, my son!

From now on, it is for us to divide;
For you to unite!
For us, sloth;
For you, warning and encouragement!

O, my son!

Be patient, a flower does not bloom before its time.
Never forget: Let man flourish, and the state will also flourish!

O my son!

Your burden is heavy, your task hard, your power hangs on a hair!
May God be your helper!

After visiting the tombs itself, we stopped in an open Caffe nearby to have a çay. It was a picturesque place full of colour, warm and curious. 

The next visit would be to a cemetery in Söğüt where the tomb of the father of Osman, Ertuğrul Gazi was inside a small construction in the middle of a park. The tomb was impressive not by its luxury but the historical meaning; it is simple with elements present in all tombs of rules of the empire. Full of symbols, for example, you have all flags from the realm, and around the tomb, you could find soil from each territory the Ottomans conquered. 

A woman who was responsible for receiving the visitor asked me to sign a visit book and gave some material about Ertuğrul and the empire. 

The guide told me his intention to went to another famous Ottoman city. We began to go up in the mountains, and suddenly a dense mist covered the way. Drive became a bit more dangerous what made us decided to stop when in the top to see impressive natural sculpture made from trees and ice. After the short pit stop, we continue to find a place where we could buy sandwiches. Firat was famished, so I was driving while he was eating. It ca challenge face an unknown one-way road, covered by misty with nobody near us for me to tail. In the end, we reached Cumalıkızık, a village in Yıldırım District at the foot of Mount Uludag.  The village history went back to the Ottoman Empire foundation and still preserving much of the atmosphere and construction form that time. However, when we arrived, Firat gives up visiting the place, he said we would turn the village attraction, and he was not prone to that. We drove around a little and left passing by the central plaza. There all eyes turned to our car, what proved Firat impression about be the centre of attention right.


It was 7:30 when we entered the hotel breakfast room. There wasn’t time for the usual ritual, the breakfast that day should be fast and straightforward. Leaving the hotel to the next destination was stressful, mainly because of the morning traffic. I had many places to see yet before leaving Burs, and I couldn’t see Iznik. So, there we were on the road to Iznik.

The name of the city, Iznik, did not ring any bell. Only when we left the main road and passed by a lake the place fit on my historical knowledge.  Iznik or Nicaea was an important Byzantine city. It was in Nicaea that two councils of Christianity happened: the first and the seventh. The place where the first council happened is under lake Iznik. It was in this council that many of the rituals, appearance and other relevant issues about Christianity were settle. Things like what colour Maria’s mantle should be, the position in the paintings, and the physical characteristics form Jesus and all the other essential characters in the Christian religion.

The region was settled by a Macedonian tribe and then destroyed by barbarians. Antigonas, one of Alexander, the Great generals, rebuilt the city and named it Antigonela. With the fall of Antigonas, the region was given to Lysimakhos general who gave him a new name: Nicaea, in honour of his wife. 

Our first visit was the Hagia Sophia church, built by Justinian I, was a famous pilgrimage centre in Byzantine times. Here came the seventh canon of Christianity. An earthquake in 1065,  destroyed the original church, a new church was rebuilt on its place, it was this new church that has reached our days. When the Ottomans conquered the region, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. Destroyed by fire in the 15th century, and sacked by the Mongols, the church was renewed by Mimar Sinan, by orders of Süleyman I Sinan made some changes on its structure.

Iznik still growing and healthy, became a famous centre for excellence in ceramics, particularly ceramic tiles. When the city fell into decay, Hagia Sophia was abandoned. Only in the period of the Republic is that it was turned into a museum and was restored.

Next stop: Lefke Gate, one of the city entrances gates. From there, we went to the Green Mosque or Yesil Cami built by the vizier Hayreddin Pasa and completed by his son Ali. There, we could see the most beautiful tiles I’ve seen, especially in the minaret. When you look at a certain angle gives you the distinct impression that they are three-dimensional.

We left the Mosque and follow to Iznik Museum. Parts of the ancient ceramic produced there,  and how it was manufactured of were exposed. Despite being a city famous for its ceramics, Fırat did not give me any time to buy any exemplar of those beautiful ceramics.


We left Iznik toward Bursa. What was waiting for me were more tombs and mosques, but also a ‘lovely’ argument in the middle of a fair in the centre of Bursa. As I said, Fırat obtained his driver license one week before starting our trip, he was driving just over a month – and already managed to have two penalties – his anxiety and nervousness too hindered, and that day, the rush completed the issue. We arrived in Bursa and headed to the place where there was an important mosque – over there was the tomb of Murad II, the side street was full of cars parked – especially in forbidden places – because there was a ‘pazar’ – kind of fair. Besides all, it was lunchtime, and Fırat wanted to go to a particular restaurant. I had no idea what was happening, told him it was impossible to pass with the car the place he wanted, I heard a ‘shut up’ and then immediately the car being scratched. I sighed. He decided that I was guilty of this and started yelling at me, lost his temper. I got off the vehicle, absolutely stressed and told him I will find another way to continue the journey, then I began to walk away on and the opposite direction he wanted. All this, in the middle of people buying tomatoes, fruits and other products.

I continued following in the opposite direction until I heard he was calling me – he was very close – an apology was said, and finally I decided to follow him to the restaurant, of course in absolute silence. The restaurant was beautifully decorated and was in the old Mosque complex cuisine, exactly the Mosque we will visit. He ordered his favourite dish – Hunker beğendi or Sultan Delights – and we ate in complete silence. I felt sorry for his behaviour and worried about the damage to the car that  I would have to pay. Finally, the flavour of the dish calmed me down, as the çay served at the end.

Now it was time to visit the Muradiye Cami or Mosque of Murad II, it is a complex compound of the Mosque itself, madrassa, baths, hospital, fountain and the tombs of Sultan Murat II, Sehzade Ahmed, Sultan Cem, Sehzade Mahmud, Sehzade Mustafa, Sultan Gülşah of Ebe Hatun, Huna Hatun, of Mukrime Hatun, of Saraylilar, Sultan Gülrah and Sirin Hatun. The Mosque was completed in 1426. Its design is a flat “T” simple, by the way, it seems that simplicity was what drove Murad.

The Mosque impacts transmitting certain warmth, especially when we look at the mihrab, richly working with arabesques painting. It is impossible not to be charmed by it. This Mosque is different as if he had some kind of unique energy. Fırat says he appreciates simple mosques, the simpler, the better. This may not be as simple as some we’ve seen, but it certainly was not over decorated. Tiles blue tones covering the walls, and some intricated arabesques left space to rest your eyes and admire the silence inside the tomb.

What draws the visitor’s attention on the complex is the Murad II tomb. It’s not known if it was built while Murad was alive, or his son Mehmet, under the restricted indications, gave for Murad himself to how to do it,  but again, this is where you can appreciate the kind of man he was. The tomb is square, built of stone and bricks, extremely simple. The Murad’s grave is in the centre of the construction. There is a skiff marking the place, just a marble indicates where it is buried, Murad. The dome under which is the tomb is partially open. Fırat told me it was  Murad’s desire received the rain and the sun in his grave. It was one of the places where thrilled me, and of course, I cried in Bursa. Impossible not to try to see the man who preferred simplicity in death.

While we were at the tomb of Murad II, Fırat told me that not only Osman and Orhan have tombs in Bursa. Mehmet I had his grave there as well.

Mehmet I, father of Murat II, built a complex in Bursa, one of the last before the capital was moved to İstanbul. Its construction ended in 1420. The complex consists of a mosque, madrassa, bathroom, kitchen – serving soup to the poor – and the tomb of Mehmet I.

The tomb, known as Yeşil troubled, or Green Tomb was built in a hexagonal plan. The dome is a hemispherical shape. Its name comes from outer coat made in blue-green tiles of İznik. However, most of them were replaced after the 1855 earthquake with tiles made in Kütahya.

The tomb interior is magnificent, the place where  Mehmet is buried is on an elevation beautifully decorated with İznik tiles. The entire tomb is actually a real work of art tiles, carvings and paintings.

In the complex, we visited the Yeşil Cami or Green Mosque, also known as the Mosque of Mehmet I. At the entrance, we have two banks with places to put our shoes. Banks are an indication of the type of material that predominates in this Mosque: marble. Marble and İznik tiles. The interior decor has an octagonal pool where, in the middle, rests a fountain. All decoration is intricate, consisting of arabesques and painted flowers on the tiles that cover much of the interior of the Mosque. We could see a hall, finely furnished, which have no particular use, the architecture showed clearly Seljuk features. The Green Mosque in Bursa is the beginning of Ottoman architecture, there we began to see the mixture between Seljuk styles and innovations proposed by Ottoman architects.

It was during the visit to the Green Mosque that my patience with Fırat behaviour found its limit. I  waited when he entered the Mosque for shooting, and I walked away, aimlessly,  through the city of Bursa. In some moments of life, we need to be alone to decide what action to take. Fırat called me a few times, wondering where I was, I had no idea, so I told him that after I calm down, I would come back to the hotel.

I walked alone for nearly three hours, watching people, stores, cars and pedestrians, I  walked so much, that I reached the city outskirts, it was that time,  I decided I needed to go back to the hotel, I found a taxi driver – who spoke no English, but he understood me completely – and I returned to the hotel to find Firat waiting in the lobby. “I was concerned you would be lost forever.” I gave him a cold smile and just went to my room.

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