EDIRNE

North of Tekirdag on the border between Greece and Turkey, Edirne was for some years the Ottoman capital, and in the l8th century one of the seven largest cities in Europe. On a verdant plain of poplar trees near the junction of the Tunca and Meriç Rivers, this graceful historical city welcomes visitors as they make their way to Istanbul and other points east. The people of the Edirne area trace their origins beyond the rule of the Macedonians. The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city and renamed it Hadrianople after himself. With the division of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines claimed Edirne and in 1361, Sultan Murat I added it to his empire.

Its position for almost 100 years as capital of the Ottoman Empire accounts for its many historically and architecturally important buildings. With its mosques, religious complexes, bridges, old bazaars, caravanserais and palaces, Edirne is a living museum.

Edirne Selimiye MosquiThe Sinan Mosque is the city's focal point. Occupying the top of a hill, Sinan's design reflects the classical Ottoman style. Built on the orders of Sultan Selim II, (1569-1575) it attests to the technological abilities of the day and the genius of the Ottoman's master architect.

Built between 1403 and 1414 by Mehmet I, the Eski Mosque is · the oldest Ottoman structure in Edirne. The white marble of its portal contrasts with the building's cut stone and brick masonry. Calligraphic inscriptions of Koranic verses decorate the interior.

The Üç Şerefeli Mosque, built between 1438 and 1447 by Murat I, presages the great period of Ottoman mosque architecture under Sinan and embodies both a new freedom from restraint and advances in engineering. The northwest minaret has three galleries, hence the mosque's name, and was the highest minaret until those of the Selimiye Mosque eclipsed it.

Towards the end of the l5th century, Beyazıt II commissioned the architect Hayrettin to build him a complex in Edirne which includes a mosque, Darüşşifa (hospital), medrese, kitchen and store rooms. The mosque is square in plan and covered with a deep dome; over 100 domes roof the remainder. The most important of the other buildings is the Darüşşifa which stood out in its time as a modern hospital with a unique and humane architectural design.

Little has changed in the Kaleici section of Edirne since the Middle Ages. Narrow streets lined with houses wind through the area. The number of small restaurants arid cafes reflect the district's renaissance.

Sinan built several of the famous baths in Edirne including the Sokollu, Tahtakale, Mezit Bey, Beylerbeyi and Gazi Mihal hamams. His work is also seen in the Ahmet Paşa Caravanserai and the Rüstem Paşa Caravanserai of 1561. The latter has been renovated and serves as a charming hotel. The old bedesten of the early l5th century still functions as Edirne's main market. As you drive around the area you will notice many lovely Ottoman bridges gracing the Tunca and Meriç Rivers.

Edirne KırkpınarEdirne has retained many of its colorful traditions and customs. Every summer, where the Tunca River divides, an emerald green meadow is created, called Sarayici, where the Kırkpınar Greased Wrestling Contests are held. Shiny, slippery bodies grapple to determine who will emerge as champion.

As you walk through the city and peer into the corners of the grocery stores, you see blocks of white feta cheese, a local specialty. Hardaliye, another of the city's delicacies, is a grape drink mixed with mustard and marzipan. Scented soaps, earthenware pots and straw baskets from Edirne make good souvenirs. You will find it difficult to resist the beautiful embroidery work of the local women.

The Archaeology and Ethnography Museum traces the history of the area from prehistoric to Byzantine times and exhibits clothing from the late Ottoman period. At the Turkish Islamic Art Museum examples of Ottoman architectural details, calligraphy, manuscripts, Korans, weapons, glass and an imperial tent used on military campaigns are displayed.

On the way to the Saroz Gulf in the Aegean Sea, you can stop at Uzunkõprü to see an interesting bridge spanning the Ergene River, built by Murat II in 1444. Its 174 arches, the highest of which is 12.28 meters, make up its 1,354 meter length. The mild climate and beautiful surroundings on the Saroz Gulf invite holiday makers for a break of relaxation. On the northern point of the gulf are the lovely Ibrice and Erikli beaches. Here the hotel and guest-house facilities are plentiful and reasonably priced.

Enez (Ainos) was an important port in ancient times, today it lies 3.5 km. inland. Its origins can be traced to the l2th century B.C. and was an important settlement during the Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Currently, it remains an open-air museum and was built by the Kyle people and was known as a colony of western Anatolian civilisation. Enez Castle has been restored several times throughout history and is well worth a visit. There is also a church dating from the 6th century B.C., some carved tombs and a beach with clear water. The people here are quite hospitable and Enez makes an interesting stopover.

The Yıldız (Istranca) Mountains divide the province of Kırklareli. Lush mountainous landscape dotted with quaint houses transport you to an idyllic and tranquil frame of mind. The city of Kırklareli's oldest mosque, the Hızırbey Mosque, was built in 1383. The mosque complex includes a bazaar. Nearby stands a hamam also built under Hızır Bey's patronage. The l4th century Kırklar Memorial with its impressive 18 columns stands on Kırklar Hill honoring the site where 40 soldiers lost their lives when the Ottomans conquered this area neighboring town of Babaeski also boasts a Sinan building in the Cedi Ali Paşa Mosque.

Vize (Byzia), an important Byzantine center, houses the Küçük Ayasofya church and a castle, both dating from the Byzantine period. under the command of Murat I. The Archaeological Museum exhibits finds from local excavations.

Kırklareli's Black Sea Coast is another place to enjoy beaches and good fish restaurants. Iğneada, 98 km east of Kırklareli, lies squeezed between its sandy shores and the Yıldız Mountains. Kıyıköy (Midye) is another holiday resort town with good accommodations and picturesque dwellings from the Middle Ages; the town and its land walls date from the Byzantine period.

The Sokollu Mosque in Luleburgaz, on the Edirne-Istanbul road, is an exquisite work of Sinan's that dates from 1570. The If you are travelling north to Bulgaria, linger for a few hours in the peaceful and green town of Derekoy, the last stop before the border.