To visit Bursa’s UNESCO World Heritage sites is to take an adventure into an integral part of its history and culture. Inscribed in 2014, eight sites within Bursa and the nearby Cumalikizik village are now under protection status to preserve them for future generations. Their official status also aids awareness of their existence and reflects their importance.
Sitting in Northern Turkey, the UNESCO status has boosted Bursa’s tourism industry, although it has for many decades been a favourite getaway place for Istanbul locals. But to understand why the UNESCO sites are so important, it is worth looking at the criteria that gained them entrance to the world heritage list.
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation. They say for them to include any site around the world, it must show universal standing and fulfil at least one out of ten criteria. A few examples include representing creative genius, exchange of human values, architectural or technology developments, and representing a unique culture. Bursa does all this and more.
About Bursa: Birthplace of the Ottoman Empire
Bursa’s nickname is the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire, but that is not the case. The ruling Ottoman sultans were conquering places before then, but in 1326, they rode in and captured Bursa from the Byzantine empire. In years to follow, as they invested in Bursa, because of its close distance to Istanbul, the empire thrived in every aspect of life. Architecture came to the forefront as they built grand mosques, kitchens, and schools.
Established as the capital from which they ruled over their lands, it maintained great prominence and fame until Mehmed the Conqueror rode into Constantinople in 1453. During this time, the city also excelled in silk production and was a prominent trading port for people from all around the world. Many of the buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage list date from this period.
Bursa’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Five sites; Orhan Gazi, Hudavendigar, Yildrim, Yesil, and Muradiye are kulliyes. This ancient form of architecture gained popularity during the Ottoman Empire and during their time in Bursa. The concept of a kulliye is a mosque that forms more than one function; hence it also includes schools, kitchens, public baths, and other buildings that served needy members of society. The kulliyes of Bursa are notable examples of this now-defunct architectural style.
Out of them all, the first includes Bursa’s famous Grand mosque with its many domes. On many occasions, the tombs of sultan sit in the kulliye they commissioned but with Orhan Gazi, his tomb is separate hence makes up the sixth UNESCO site. Sitting within Tophane park, they rebuilt the tombs in the 19th century following a devastating earthquake. Likewise, the seventh site, the Hudavendigar Turkish bath sits a short distance away from the main kulliye.
The eighth site, that is Cumalikizik village sits away from the main city centre but in its prime acted as a food source for the palace and central residents. These days, life is much quieter and although tourists often crowd the narrow village streets, they need only look left or right to see prime examples of Old ottoman houses. Many locals also say the traditional Turkish breakfast served up is second to none. Cumalikizik still maintains much of its village culture and is an excellent place for foreign tourists to get an introduction of Turkish values and traditions.
Other Things Bursa is Famous For
If you are planning to see Bursa’s UNESCO sites, extend your trip because the large city and district has a lot more to boast about. Turks nickname the area “green Bursa” because the climate, fertile soil and well thought out urban planning present oodles of green spaces and parks everywhere. To keep in with the theme of Mother Nature and the great outdoors, plan a trip to Uludag mountain.
Many foreigners associate it with skiing because it is one of Turkey’s top established resorts, but all year round the cable car runs up and is an excellent place for hiking, trekking and picnics from spring to Autumn. When hunger pains strike, head to the nearest restaurant for the famous Iskender kebab. Taking its name from the same man who invented it in the 19th century, this dish combines thin grilled lamb slices, spread over pita bread and lathered with tomato sauce, hot butter, and yoghurt.
Also of Interest
Skiing in Uludag: Many people associate Turkey with sun, sea, and sand, yet it has an established skiing industry of which Bursa is a prominent part. In this article, we look at why Uludag mountain stands out, how to get there, and what else to do apart from skiing.
Places in Bursa: Alongside Bursa’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, many other places delight tourists and locals alike. After touring the above sites, visit museums, hot springs, waterfalls, villages and much more to see Bursa in all its glory.