Guide to SKOPJE


If tears start flowing from your eyes whenever you see a number 16 licence plate, if you only cheer for Bursaspor at Ataturk Stadium, if you feel Osman Gazi at the entrance of the city, if you miss Karagoz and Hacivat Shadow Theatre I am positive that you are a Bursaman! Yes, I am a Bursaman myself too! Why? The answer is revealed in the following reportage on Balkon 3.bursa1Before I set off on my journey I refresh my knowledge of the green city. Bursa is the city of sultans, saints and sufis. It is also the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hundreds of articles, thousands of pages are not sufficient to tell the whole story of this legendary city. Every part of the city has its own history.

After an hour’s flight from Skopje to Istanbul, and another two hours on the bus from Istanbul to Bursa, the 20 journalists from different Macedonian media arrive at Eskihisar port in Gebze. The view of the ferry is perfect. Seagulls fly over the ferry, competing with one another, fighting for a piece of the bagel that passengers offer. The scene reminds us of famous saying – “Seagulls live for the bagel, people for hope.” or the song “If the birds that are flying seagulls, than green, fresh spring has arrived.”

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Our first meeting with Bursa takes place in Atatepe restaurant which is a social institution of the municipality. The beautiful mountain, the sea and charming ambience contribute to the perfection of the lunch. The restaurant offers all kinds of delicious fish. Safet Yilmaz PR Manager with the Municipality of Bursa, shows photos and information about the city, after which we conclude that our visit to this historic city full of stories will be more than interesting. Bursa is a unique place with cultural, historical and natural treasures, a place where any tourist can find a part of himself and part of the history of mankind.


Bursa – a bridge between Macedonia and Turkey

On the second day of our visit, the first destination is the municipality. After a warm welcome from our hosts and enjoying a glass of Turkish tea on the glass terrace, we meet with Mayor Recep Altepe, our host. The Mayor talked about investments in the Bursa region, the situation in the Balkans and relations between Turkey and Macedonia. “Turkey’s relations with the Balkan countries were not at the desired level for many years, there was indifference, but we are working hard to improve this situation. Balkan countries are very important for us because it is the land of our ancestors. In addition, many of the people who live there now have relatives in Bursa.” – said the Mayor initiating an interesting discussion.


“We have a single goal. We want Macedonia and other Balkan countries to become economically stable and improve the economic situation of their citizens. Bursa has taken the responsibility of serving as a bridge in the relations between Turkey and Macedonia. Besides the restoration of historical monuments, Turkey will continue to support social and cultural activities in the region.”

Green Bursa

The schedule says it’s time to visit historical sites which is the most interesting part for me. We stopped at Saltanat Gate for a photo opportunity and continued to Tophane. There we visited the tomb of Osman and Orhan Gazi, the founders of the Ottoman state. We felt the wonderful spiritual atmosphere, read prayers and headed to Tophane where you ahev a bird’s-eye view of Bursa.


It is an ideal place to find inner peace. Besides the excellent opportunity to check the greenery of Bursa, Tophane is a great place for summer evening outings. The atmosphere is brightened up by some warm tea.


A few statistical facts. Records say that Bursa is one of the safest cities in Turkey. I had a first hand experience of that. While photographing the spectacular panorama of Bursa at Tophane I forgot to take my camera bag. I had no intention of going back to look for it as I was sure that someone had taken it. However, at the insistence of our guide Irfan Saban I went back. Irfan is an assistant to the Deputy Mayor of Municipality of Cair in Skopje, Suleiman Baki who is the organizer of our visit. An elderly man who was selling small souvenirs there, had taken the bag and hung it on a tree. “The bag is here!” – he said. This made me believe there is still honesty in this world.

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Bursa is a rather specific city. Ancient and modern buildings stand next to each other in harmony. Emir Cemal Beskardes, a municipal counselor joins us for a walk through the city. Although we were given a strict schedule, Emir says that it is possible to change it and tries to satisfy all our desires, be it food, tea, coffee or a visit to a place of choice. It was impossible to hear the words “It’s impossible.”. After a short while we arrived at the Green Tomb and the Green Mosque which is a symbol of Bursa and its beauty is fascinating.


The Green Mosque is made ​​of marble with very elegant decorations. Inside, the walls are covered with dark green tiles. It is interesting to note that it was not only used as a mosque, but also as a town hall. It is one of the most beautiful mosques in Bursa and Turkey.


The municipality has developed projects “Policy of tree protection” in order to protect the green image of Bursa. Its natural resources, greenery, 833 memorial trees which are between 100 and 600 years old and health spas make this historic city known as “Green Bursa”. bursa12Today, as in the past, many travel writers and historians are intrigued by this amazing city. Every tree that bears witness of history has its own name. The travel writer Poujoulat describes the city using the following expression: “Bursa resembles the surreal tales of 1001 nights”. Bursa has also been an inspiration for a number of songs and poems. Poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar says: “Bursa is a crystal chandelier … Wherever you go you will miss it. You can take its fragrance with you but your eyes will always look for Ulu (Grand) Mosque in the center of town, you will long for the softness of silk, the tea in Tophane, the sharp smell of coffee in the Covered Bazaar, the calmness of Green Mosque and even Karagoz and Hacivat puppet theater.”


Bursa, a dream untold

There is a beautiful saying: “Time passes very quickly in pleasent atmosphere and good company”. Bursa’s time simply flew by so quickly that we didn’t even notice it was time to go. Beauty that extends beyond its borders is not always easy to tell. Therefore it is not possible to tell the whole story of Bursa in one article, but these moments were worth sharing with our readers. Bursa is a city that never sleeps. Citizens cheer for their city club no matter if they win or lose. Their support is unwavering. The streets are clean, pavements are green and white.  According to locals, the Ulu Dag ropeway is the most famous place for winter holidays in Turkey and a place where many romances were born. We were unable to visit the ropeway as it was being renovated and was supposed to be operating again in ten days, so, we will look for lady luck and romantic opportunities the next time we visit Bursa.


Sometimes, when you have a wonderful dream and you try to convey all the feelings and excitement to other people it just doesn’t seem that they can feel the right atmosphere. One can never fully experience the dream that someone else had. You need to dream such a dream yourself. Well, Bursa is one such town – a dream that can not be told. You can always visit Bursa, but are five days enough to see it all? The answer is definitely no. A month maybe? And the answer is the same again. It would be best to move there. If you come from Skopje you will not lose anything. Let’s recall the words of the poet Yahya Kemal who said: “Skopje and Shar Mountain are simply extensions of Bursa.”

Text and photo: Husamettin Gina