Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bursa, Turkiye

Tue, 28/1/14, Bursa

Journey today:
Bursa - Akhisar: 250 km (2 hrs 45 mins)
Akhisar - Pamukkale: 201 km (3 hrs)
Total journey: 450km (5 hrs 50 mins)

Bursa - Akhisar - Pamukkale

Waking up early at 5.30am, we got ready for breakfast of salad, cheese and bread at 7am and prepared to check out by 8.15am Again I was quite impressed by the breakfast dish – especially the variety of cheese. 

Being in Bursa in a short while transported us back to the golden era of the Ottoman empire when it was the former capital of the Ottoman Turks before they captured Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. I especially admired the intricate mosaic tiles, calligraphy and interior decoration of the mosques of Bursa. According to Burak, Bursa is now famous for textile and chesnut candy.

It was cold and drizzling that morning. Our first destination was the Ulu Camii or Bursa Grand mosque. From wikipedia: Built in the Seljuk style, it was ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and built between 1396 and 1399. There are 192 monumental wall inscriptions written by the famous Ottoman calligraphers of that period. There is also a fountain (şadırvan) inside the mosque where worshipers can perform ritual ablutions before prayer. 

Ulu Camii

sardivan for ablution

chandeliers of Ulu Camii

Calligraphy art in Ulu Camii

We then proceeded to the Yesil Camii or Green Mosque . From wikipedia: Also known as Mosque of Mehmed I, is a part of the larger complex (a külliye) located on the east side of. It was designed by the architect, Hacı Ivaz Pasha who also designed the Green Mausoleum. The complex consists of a mosque, türbe, madrasah, kitchen and bath. The interior of the mosque is decorated with a mosaic of blue-green tiles on the walls and ceiling of the eyvans, from which it gets its name. The exteriors with its domes, now clad with lead, were once also adorned with blue-green tiles in cuerda seca style. There are also traces of gold embedded in the deep blue hexagonal wainscot tiles

Yesil Camii mimbar

Mosaic tiles of Yesil Camii

Mosaic tiles

Opposite to the Green Mosque was the Yesil Turbe or Green Mausoleum. From wikipedia: It is a mausoleum of the fifth Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed I, It is built on a hexagonal plan and crowned with a hemi-spherical dome. 

Yesil Turbe tomb
Before bidding farewell to Bursa, we stopped by at the Silk Bazaar or Yesil Carsi (it wasn't really a market, but a souvenir shop targetting for unsuspecting tourists). For cheaper souvenirs, it was better to buy from the shops nearby. You will see the shopkeepers calling out for you trying to sell their kilims and fridge magnets. It was too late for me, I had already bought a fridge magnet from the bazaar.

interior of Yesil Carsi
We would be having Ramiz meatball lunch on the way to Pamukkale, at city called Akhisar. From wikipedia: Akhisar was mentioned in the bible and hosted one of the Seven Churches of Revelation (Thyateira, Thyatira). It was a busy trade center due to its strategic location at the intersection of important roads during ancient, medieval and the Ottoman empire reign. It is now famous for its locally produced olive oil. Saffron and grape are also planted here. Some info on the biblical Akhisar can be found here

olive trees along the way

scenic view

sheep farm

As for the special Ramiz meatball, it was founded by the orphaned Kofteci Ramiz, who was originally from Macedonia. According to its website, the meatball was made out of pure calf meat, only with salt and onions. The eater tasted only meat on a type of wholemeal pitta roasted in butter then cut. They created an unforgettable taste when served along with grilled pepperoni and in-butter heated tomatoes. To read more, go here

I could attest to the meatball only made of meat – no internal organs, bones or fat. It tasted really juicy. Although it is called as a meatball, the shape is not of a ball, but rather, a flat piece of meat mix. I had a grouse though – I felt it was too salty for me. 

salad with olive oil dressing, really healthy!

yummy butter rice

Ramiz flat meatball

Ramiz restaurant

We stopped for our solat at the Hilal Camii at Akhisar, not far from Ramiz Park. Ah, I must mention that mosques in Turkiye have a separate section for ablution from the prayer hall, where you have to wear your shoes to the ablution place, then wear back your shoes to go the prayer hall. Compared to mosques in Malaysia, you only leave your shoes at one point before entering the mosque i.e. you don't have to wear it back from the ablution place to the prayer hall. Anyway, I am not complaining as the mosques of Turkiye are simply beautiful, especially the chandeliers. Plus, I came equipped with my trusty selipar Jepun. One thing I hope is that Turkey mosques could supply hot water for ablution. Since it's winter now, it was freezing cold!

Hilal Camii. Ablution place is via the right entrance, prayer hall on the left.
Hilal Camii ablution place

Prayer hall
We continued our journey to Pammukkale for another 3.5 hours to arrive at 6pm, not before stopping by at Varol textile factory, famous for cotton products- towels that could last til 10 years – according to Burak. Total journey from Bursa was 8 hours. It was already dark when we arrived at the 5 star Lycus River hotel. Dinner was served buffet style, we had to queue with hoardes of tourists from possibly Singapore (oriental look) and Westerners (probably German from the accent).

The hotel was beautiful with a chic fireplace and a huge swimming pool (luckily it was winter as I didn't bring my swimsuit – next time I must bring it wherever I go). But it also had a thermal pool- so I wasn't able to enjoy this. The hotel did have complimentary face mask (nothing to shout about – just a face scrub being applied and left on for for about 20 mins, and that was it). We did enquire about the Turkish bath complimentary entrance as advertised by our travel agent – Poto travel – but it wasn't free actually. Turkish bath with scrub and massage costs USD50 for 30 minutes. We declined and just went for bed therapy instead. 

Lycus River hotel

chic fireplace

Lycus room

Indoor thermal pool

Outdoor pool

Dinner buffet style. This is fish with cous cous and meatball


Journey to Istanbul

Since I brought my mom this time, I had to engage a travel agent so my mom could travel comfortably. I didn't do much research, and just decided on Poto Travel. The 9D7N package costs RM 4888/person which includes 7 nights accomodation (5 star Dinler hotel at Cappadocia and Lycus River hotel at Pamukkale), 3 meals a day, bus travel to cities of Istanbul, Bursa, Pamukkale, Konya, Ankara, Cappadocia), entrance into sightseeing places such as Pamukkale/Hierapolis, Mevalana museum, Kaymakli Underground city, Topkapi Palace and Aya Sofya. However, as expected of taking group tours, we had to go to the shops / factories as well – a lot of them – silk, carpets, pottery, jewellery, textile and leather. Insurance coverage was another extra RM72/person.

So OK, here is the story proper.

Mon 27/1/14

KL-Abu Dhabi

KL - Abu Dhabi 7 hr 15mins

Our flight was scheduled at 325am with transit at Abu Dhabi via Etihad airways. We departed a bit late from KLIA at 345am. However, we couldn't land in Abu Dhabi due to heavy fog and had to hover for about 1 hour until we got permission to land at around 7.45am. We could see other planes circling around as well at different elevations, it felt a bit like we were in an aerobatic performance!It was chaos at the airport as many flights were delayed as they could not take off nor land due to the poor visibility.

spinning around

landing in the fog

Abu Dhabi - Istanbul

Abu Dhabi - Istanbul 5hrs 5mins

We were transported by bus to Gate 19 at Terminal 1. It looked smaller than its more modern sister in Dubai. Our departure gate 31 was at Terminal 3, so we quickly walked there it was quite far, but of course we knew our flight would be delayed as well from the backlog of earlier stranded flights.

Our Gate 19 was still filled by passengers to Dublin who were supposed to depart earlier than us. We had to wait for the announcement of our new time of departure. It turned out to be at 11am (delayed from 9.45am). We had to wait for another hour in the plane for the arrival of passengers from other connecting flights. We finally took off at 12.30 noon! Unfortunately, we were not served any drinks or snacks by Etihad during the waiting time (2hrs 45mins).

one of our Etihad menus

We finally arrived at Istanbul at 3.30pm, a delay of 2hrs 40mins from the 12.50pm schedule. We were greeted by our Turkish guide, Burak Tuzel. We performed our solat at the airport surau that was filled to the brim (called mescid by Turks, the bigger version mosque is called Camii -pronounced 'jamek'). Now I know 'c' in Turkish is pronounced as 'j'. We then proceeded to the money exchanger at the airport to change our USD notes to Turkish Lira (1 USD = 2.21 TL)

A bit of history of Turkey or Turkiye (which is how the locals call it) name origin – according to Burak. It was the Chinese who gave the name – soldiers of Gengis Khan were called TuChi which means bold and brave. I found from Wikipedia that In medieval times, it was known as Turchia. I haven't verified Burak's statement- but it sounds believable. But what I can be sure of is that Turks would prefer their country to be known as Turkiye, rather than turkey – the bird. They don't even really like to eat turkey, they prefer chicken!

Istanbul - Bursa

Journey today:
Istanbul - Eshikisar: 65km (stuck in Istanbul jam about 1 hour. Journey proper 1 hour)
Eshikisar - Yalova (via ferry) - 45 mins
Yalova - Bursa: 60km (50 mins)

Istanbul - Eskihisar ferry terminal - Yalova - Bursa

Note: Google Maps doesn't have the option to choose transport by ferry. Google Maps, please take note!

We were whisked to our wifi equipped bus (horay! - there was no free wifi at Istanbul airport) and made our way to Bursa. It was already almost dark at 4.30pm! Dusk at Istanbul was at 5.15pm. It was snowing lightly that night at Istanbul! We saw street peddlers – gypsies said Burak – selling flowers in the cold. 

our comfy, wifi equipped bus

gypsies selling flowers
We were stuck in a massive jam (it was rush hour) and only arrived at the Eshikisar ferry terminal at 7.30pm. It was really cold and windy, temperature dipping to 0c perhaps, so we quickly snapped a few pictures then took refuge in the heated cafeteria. We left our money in the bus, so we didn't buy anything here. Yes, the ferry was also transporting vehicles. We were now crossing the Sea of Marmara towards Yalova. Such a pity that we arrived after dark since we couldn't enjoy the beauty of the Marmara sea.

massive traffic jam of Istanbul
Marmara Sea at night

We were famished by the time we arrived Bursa at 9.40pm. Dinner of grilled chicken and butter rice were served at our place of stay - Burcman hotel. I especially liked the butter rice (I could eat the rice on its own) thought the dish was tasty, perhaps influenced by hunger pangs. It was already more than 24 hours since we departed from KLIA so a hot shower was most welcomed. We slept tight that night, after a long journey. A good night's rest was ample to survive the next 8 long journey days .

Tram outside our hotel

Burcman hotel

grilled chicken with butter rice


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Teaser: Turkiye

It will take some time for the write up
Meanwhile, enjoy the piccas at My Flickr


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