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Understanding a Culture through Food - A Delicious Bursa Afternoon

TURKEY | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [231] | Scholarship Entry

Bursa. First capital of the Ottoman Empire. Fourth (or fifth, depending on who you ask) largest city in Turkey. And a populated area filled with greenery with its spectacular location at the base of Uludag mountain. On a sunny weekend in April, I made a pilgrimage to this historic city.
As per usual on Turkish buses, on the two hour ride from Balikesir I was served çay (Turkish tea) and cake. Tea is to Turkish society as beer is to Irish or wine is to Georgian, that is the center of social life. There hasn't been a day in Turkey when I haven't been offered at least one or two glasses of tea. Tea houses can be found on every street corner, and wherever you are in Turkey there is probably a place to get tea within a five minute walk. Enjoying a tulip-shaped glass of tea is also a great way to pass the time if you are waiting for a bus to depart, a friend to show up (Turkish time is about 15 minutes later than standard time) or simply awaiting the rain to let up.
In that vein, after arriving in Bursa and catching the city bus downtown, I went to the Koza Han, an old-style inn that has been converted into a silk market, for a glass of çay in the beautiful stone courtyard while waiting to meet my friends. I sat down among tables packed with young couples, noisy families, and old men chatting. Sipping hot tea in the shade of a plane tree and watching the late afternoon sunlight filter through the newly-sprouted leaves, I almost didn't notice my friends arrive on the balcony encircling the courtyard.
We chatted briefly, then separated again as they went off to find some silk scarves and I set off on a walk around Bursa's old town. As I strolled past the crowds going in and out of the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), a massive construction built in Seljuk Turkish style by the Ottomans in 1399, I saw a man with a fez stretching out a large chunk of ice cream. Seeing as it was a warm day, I decided to grab a scoop or two. It turned out Hasan, the ice cream man, was from the southeastern city of Kahramanmaras, the home of traditional Turkish ice cream, which is made with mastic so it sticks together and can be stretched. I bought two liras worth and as the sun was setting, slowly walked up to the Tophane district. I met my friends between the tombs of Osman and Orhan, the founders of the Ottoman Empire, to watch electricity light the old buildings with an orange glow as night descended on the city at the base of the great mountain.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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