BURSA

 Known as "Green Bursa", the city is filled with gardens and parks and overlooks a verdant plain. It is at the centre of an important fruit growing region. Bursa was, and is still, famous for its silk trade, towel manufacture and thermal springs. You must taste locally invented Iskender Kebab, a dish of bread, tomato sauce, strips of grilled meat, melted butter and yogurt. Candied chestnuts are another regional specialty.

Yesil Türbe (Green Mausoleum)A tour of the city begins in the eastern section at the Yesil Türbe (Green Mausoleum). Set in a garden and distinguished by its paneling of blue tiles, the mausoleum holds the tiled cenotaph of Sultan Mehmet I. Across the street, the Yeşil Mosque of 1424 reflects the new Ottoman, as opposed to the Seljuk, aesthetic. A medrese nearby completes the complex, which is also home to the Ethnography Museum. Before exploring this area, stop for a glass of tea in one of the traditional tea houses. Uphill, to the east, you pass by the Emir Sultan Mosque in its delightful setting, and after walking through a district of old houses you reach the Yıldırım Beyazıt Mosque (1391).

Now make your way to Cumhuriyet Square (known locally as Heykel) and stroll along Atatürk Avenue to Koza Park where outdoor cafes are set among flowers and fountains. At the back of the park, a long building, the Koza Han (1490), houses the trade in silk cocoons. From here you proceed to the covered bazaar area, with its narrow streets, caravanserais and bedesten. On the other side of Koza Park stands the Orhan Gazi Mosque, built in 1413, and one of Bursa's oldest religious buildings. Nearby, the large Ulu Mosque was constructed in the Seljuk style. A finely carved walnut mimber and impressive calligraphic panels decorate the mosque. The şadırvan (ablutions fountain) lies amazingly within the mosque itself under the ceiling of twenty domes.

Walking west from Ulu Mosque you arrive at Hisar, an old and picturesque quarter of Bursa. In the park that overlooks the valley are the mausoleums of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his son Orhan Gazi, who commanded the army that conquered Bursa. The cafes of Tophane offer a good place to stop for refreshment. In nearby Ressamlar Sokak (Painters' Street), local artists work in the open air. At the Yıldız Park, Tea Gardens in the Muradiye quarter, you get a superb view of the Muradiye Complex. The compound, in a tranquil park-like setting, contains the Mosque of Sultan Murat II (1426) built in the style of the Yeşil Mosque and the tombs of Murat II, Cem and Şehzade Mustafa. These contain some of the loveliest decoration and tile work. The nearby Ottoman House Museum in a restored l7th century dwelling provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of wealthy Ottomans.

A tour of the city begins in the eastern section at the Yeşil Türbe (Green Mausoleum). Set in a garden and distinguished by its paneling of blue tiles, the mausoleum holds the tiled cenotaph of Sultan Mehmet I. Across the street, the Yeşil Mosque of 1424 reflects the new Ottoman, as opposed to the Seljuk, aesthetic. A medrese nearby completes the complex, which is also home to the Ethnography Museum. Before exploring this area, stop for a glass of tea in one of the traditional tea houses. Uphill, to the east, you pass by the Emir Sultan Mosque in its delightful setting, and after walking through a district of old houses you reach the Yıldırım Beyazıt (1391). Other places of interest in Bursa include the Culture Park with the Bursa Archaeological Museum, and the Atatürk Museum on the road to Çekirge.

The western suburb of Çekirge has been known since Roman times for its warm, mineral rich springs. Many modem hotels have thermal bath facilities and you can also visit the old hamams. Yeni Kaplıca (New Spring) was built by Süleyman the Magnificent Grand Vizier, Rüstem Paşa, in 1552. The Eski Kaplıca (Old Spring), built on the site of the original Byzantine baths, is the oldest bath. The Karamustafa Paşa baths are reputed to have the best hot mineral water in Bursa. Buildings of interest in Çekirge include the Mosque and Mausoleum of Murat I and the tomb of Süleyman Çelebi, a religious poet. The monument to Karagöz commemorates the character whose humorous antics are immortalized in Turkish shadow puppet theater.

Uludağ Ski centerUludağ is the largest winter sports center in Turkey and offers a variety of activities, accommodations and entertainment. Thirty-six kilometers from Bursa, the slopes are easily reached by car or cable car (skylift). December to May is the best time for skiing, although the area, which is a national park, is well worth a visit at any time of the year, for the lovely views and wonderful fresh air.

A seaside resort town 25 km from Bursa, Mudanya's fine fish restaurants and nightclubs are popular with the residents of Bursa. The Armistice Museum is worth a visit. Just 12 km from Mudanya, Zeytinbagi (Tirilye) exemplifies the architecture and layout of a typical Turkish town. The Gulf of Gemlik, 29 km from Bursa has wide sandy beaches; Armutlu and Kumla are the favorites. The province of Balıkesir borders both the Marmara and Aegean regions. In the capital of Balıkesir, nature and interesting historical sites blend in harmony. The mid-l4th century Yıldırim Mosque, built by Beyazıt I, is the city's oldest mosque. Of Zagnos Paşa Mosque, built in 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror's Grand Vizier Zagnos Paşa, and once part of a great complex, only the mosque and bath remain today. The Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower) built in 1827 by Mehmet Paşa imitates the Genoese Galata Tower on a smaller scale. The Karesi Bey Mausoleum of 1336 contains the cenotaphs of Karesi Bey and his five sons.

Once known as ancient Erteka, Erdek is just 14 km northwest of Bandırma. One of the Sea of Marmara's oldest and most famous resort areas, it offers pristine beaches and every type of accommodation.

Marmara Island, formerly known as Prokonessos, rose to prominence in the Roman period and retained its importance in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, because of its marble quarries, which supplied the luxurious stone for the extravagant imperial building programs. Near Saraylar village, Marble Beach derives its name from the natural marble that lies just off the water's edge. In town, an open-air museum displays artifacts which date back to Roman and Byzantine times, and the marble quarry, where tourists can see every step of the quarrying process.

Türkeli (Avsa) is another holiday island that boasts of spectacular beaches and clear water as well as famous vineyards and wine cellars. In the Manastır district stands the Byzantine Meryem Ana Monastery.

Fifty-five kilometers southwest of Bandırma, Gönen is Turkey's most important thermal resort. The springs were used even in Roman times and a fifth century mosaic remains from what was originally a Roman bath. These waters come from 500 meters below the ground and emerge heated at approximately 82oC. Another 30 km to the northwest, Denizkent is a nice vacation spot with lovely beaches.

Sindirgi lies at the base of the Alaçam Mountains amid beautiful forests and meadows in a region known for the weaving of superb Turkish carpets. The rugs of Yağcıbedir are among the most prized in the country and grow more lovely the older they become.