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marianne Edirne - A travel report by Marianne
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Edirne,  Turkey - flag Turkey -  Edirne
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marianne's travel reports

City of Mosques

  18 votes
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Edirne is full of Ottoman Monuments. The city is in the European part of Turkey and is often overlooked because travellers head straight for Istanbul.

Selimiyi Mosque
Selimiyi Mosque
Edirne, or Adrianopolis, was the Ottoman capital. These days, it is the capital of Thrace. The city is like an open-air museum; some 20 mosques, covered bazaars, hamams, and beautifully restored wooden houses. But there is also a synagogue, a Greek church, a Christian cemetery, and many Greek-looking buildings. Most hotels are right in the centre and within walking distance of all the monuments.

Thrace is the area west of Istanbul and the only Turkish province in Europe. The region is geographically in Europe and less “Turkish” and less exotic than Asian Turkey. In many ways Thrace reminded me of Balkan countries.

When Atatürk established the Turkish Republic in 1923, a grand-scale population exchange between Greeks and Turks followed. This population transfer was used to resolve the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). It was agreed that the Turkish inhabitants of Greece moved to Turkey and the Greek inhabitants of Turkey to Greece. This may be one of the reasons why Thrace feels less Turkish.

Edirne is 250 km from Istanbul via the Turkish stretch of the Via Egnatia. These days a toll road but in ancient times the Roman military highway that connected Rome with Constantinople, Istanbul's ancient name. Rivers had to be spanned, and some Roman and Byzantine arched bridges are still in use today.

The Greek border is only 20km away, crossing it is a hassle, because there is no public transport from Edirne to the border. A taxi to the border is no option because it is not allowed to cross on foot, also because most taxis don't have a licence to cross into Greece. It is important to know that the border crossing, Pazarkule, is NOT a village, just a crossing. Hitching a lift could take long because all cars were filled to capacity, when we were there.

That's why we charted a minibus (€ 50) with a license to cross the border and drop-off at Orestiáda.

We rented a minibus from:
ECE (the name of the bus company)
Kervansaray Dükkanlari No 23

Favourite spots:
Beautifully restored wooden houses
Beautifully restored wooden houses
We started our day with a visit to Selimiyi Mosque in Dilaver parki. This park is easy to find, as it is right in the centre. Besides the mosque's four slender, 70m-tall minarets are beacons from wherever you are in the city.

At the entrance of the park, we saw the statue of Mimar Sinan. He was the court architect to three sultans, and the Selimiyi Mosque, built in the 16th century, was his masterpiece. He wanted to build a dome higher and wider than the dome of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. With a diameter of 31.5m, the Selimiyi dome is just a few centimetres wider, one of the mosque's wardens told me proudly.

We strolled through the park until we got to the entrance of Selimiye Arastasi, a covered market full of clothing and household goods (closed on Sundays). It is one long arched corridor with some 60 shops on both sides and a prayer dome in the middle. Its historical name is Kavaflar Çarsisi meaning bargain bazaar.

What's really great:
The pattern resembles individual prayer mats
The pattern resembles individual prayer mats
Here shopkeepers say their prayers and promise they will trade honestly. I did not see them pray, but I bought a few things at a fair price.

In the middle of the bazaar a flight of stone steps leads to the mosque's courtyard, surrounded by with red-and-white colonnaded arches, and to the entrance of Selimiyi Mosque.
Its interior is sober and sumptuous at the same time.

Sober because there is no furniture apart from the pulpit made of finely carved marble resembling delicate lace. Sober because the interior is a vast expanse covered by a wall-to-wall carpet, patterned in such a way that it resembles individual prayer mats.

Sumptuous because of millions of ceramic wall tiles, 12 mother-of-pearl decorated pillars, and calligraphy proclaiming the glory of Allah (but difficult to check for non-Arab readers)

I liked this mosque far better than the Blue Mosque in Istanbul with thousands of tourists each day. The Selimiyi Mosque is more a place of worship and less a museum.

Byzantine arched bridge
Byzantine arched bridge

The best place to sit down for lunch is opposite the Kervansaray Hotel in Antik Park. It is one of the few places where we could sit amidst plants and flowers, but the best recommendation is that the exhaust fumes are hardly noticeable. Most of the waiters speak English.

music therapy as shown in the museum
music therapy as shown in the museum
After our meal we were energetic enough to walk the 1km to the Sultan II Bayezid Complex. On the way we passed two of the many arched Ottoman bridges spanning the river Tunca.

Just past the stone Beyazit II bridge we saw the multiple domed building of the complex, which is very beautiful and a very good photo opportunity.

The Bayezid complex includes a mosque in the process of being renovated, a medical school, and the asylum. The insane were treated in domed cells. In the old days, psychiatrists used therapy treatments similar to those we have these days: the sound of water, occupational therapy, music, and sweet smelling of flowers.

Sultan II Bayezid Complex
Sultan II Bayezid Complex
The asylum is now the Health Museum, a beautifully restored building. There are six rooms and a music hall. Water runs from a fountain in the middle. Wax dolls in the rooms represent doctors and patients, so we got a good impression of what the hospital/asylum must have looked like.

We then walked back to the centre and drank tea from small, tulip-shaped glasses in Antik Park. There are other places, but this is by far the best place to sit.

It was now time to do some shopping, and we went to Alipasha Kapali Çarsisi the covered bazaar. It is an old building built by Mimar Sinan. There are six gates and over 100 shops. Don't forget to look up at the vaulted ceiling.

We then walked to Kaleçi. This is west of the covered market and bordered by Londra Aspfalti Road and Saraçlar Street. We wandered at leisure through the small streets and alleys and looked out for the timber framed houses. They are characterised by broad eaves and bay windows.

Anil Hotel
Anil Hotel
Anil Hotel, Ortakapi Caddesi (street), off Saraclar Caddesi, is an old traditional house with huge ceilings, huge doors, and creaking floorboards. It looked definitely special and we decided to stay here.

Our room had seen better days, with flaking paint but fresh-smelling linen, and a cupboard full of blankets (winters are cold in Thrace). There was no en-suite bathroom, but the communal one was next to our room and very clean, with hot water for the shower. In fact, it was too hot, as the cold tap did not work.

The downstairs is like a big family living room. There was a large table with chairs and old family friends sitting around it. We were invited to join them, but unfortunately our Turkish was not good enough, nor was the proprietor's French. We had no other conversation than Edirne güzel. Edirne is beautiful. But we could watch television together, as not much conversation is needed in this case, apart from some approving or disapproving sounds.

Edirne travelogue picture
There were two more mosques to visit. First, Üç Serefeli Mosque (three balcony mosque) is easy to spot, because it has four different minarets: one is fluted, one with red-and-white squares, one with red-and-white diamond-shaped stones, and one with a corkscrew pattern. The prayer hall is only 24m in diameter.

The courtyard is rectangular, and the four minarets are placed at its four corners. When built, this was a new feature, and many other mosques were built in this style.

Visiting three mosques may be enough for one day, but we are mosque buffs. That's why we continued on to Eski Camii, or the Old Mosque, just opposite Selimiyi Mosque. It is the oldest Ottoman monument in Edirne and dates back to early the 15th century. It is multi-domed and has a marble gate and many decorative inscriptions inside.

Other recommendations:
Kavaflar Çarsisi meaning bargain bazaar.
Kavaflar Çarsisi meaning bargain bazaar.
We walked back to the Rüstempasha Kervansaray Hotel. This was another building designed by Mimar Sinan. This karavansaray was used by merchants travelling along the silk route. It provided a safe place for them to trade and stay the night. Travellers could stay for up to 3 days, and they were catered for and their animals looked after and fed. Karavansarays were built at distance of 40km from each other, 8 or 10 hours on foot.

The rooms in the Rüstempasha Kervansaray hotel are built around the central courtyards. Each room has its own porch and fireplace. The windows and door frames are beautifully decorated with stone carvings. But we did not stay here.

We just went to the restaurant of the hotel which is a good place for a meal. Arnavut cigeri and imam bayıldı, spiced liver and stuffed eggplant, they were my favourites. We finished our meal with kazandibi. The translation said: a milk pudding slightly burnt on the bottom. It was delicious!

Published on Thursday February 1th, 2007

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Sun, Feb 11 2007 - 08:00 AM rating by szidonia

Perfectly done, Marianne. Been there also, ages ago. Have you ever heard about Rumi? Just came into my mind, during reading your report. Congrats!

Thu, Feb 08 2007 - 12:14 AM rating by downundergal

Another of your outstanding reports - I enjoyed the personal experiences and your food descriptions, always an important part of travelling.

Wed, Feb 07 2007 - 02:00 PM rating by magsalex

Another outstanding report Marianne

Sat, Feb 03 2007 - 12:32 PM rating by frenchfrog

Marianne, once again, it is a perfect report, you have included so much info, and lots of tips! It was a pleasure to read!

Fri, Feb 02 2007 - 07:26 PM rating by jorgesanchez

This reports sounds as RoM for February!

Fri, Feb 02 2007 - 02:11 PM rating by madness

I like your translations for our meals and dessert:) nice report and wonderful pictures, thank you

Fri, Feb 02 2007 - 10:20 AM rating by picu

Very detailed and interesting report!

Fri, Feb 02 2007 - 07:01 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent report and interesting to read about Turkey other than Istanbul and the Mediterreanean coast! [4.6]

Thu, Feb 01 2007 - 12:19 PM rating by eirekay

Marianne, I am fascinated by the exchange between Greece and Turkey - my kids have danced folk dances from Thrace. The mosques sound just beautiful. This is a wonderful report, written in your usual flawless style!

Thu, Feb 01 2007 - 11:27 AM rating by mrscanada

Marrianne thanks for giving me so much information on Edirne

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