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Monday, October 6, 2014

10/3 in Edirne: Where Time Stood Still

Edirne is a town about 230kms from Istanbul and also very close to both Bulgaria and Greece. I’d like to think that Steven and I will someday travel together to Greece as we’ve both been separately, albeit 40 or more years ago! We knew of no other travelers in Bulgarian hotels or hostels who stopped in Edirne on their way to Istanbul but for us it an impressive introduction to Turkey:easy to walk around and not much in the way of hustle and bustle as we knew Istanbul would be. We saw no foreigners and heard no one speaking any language other than Turkish, so it was somewhat of a culture shock in that regard but also a welcome preparation for traveling far away from home.

We had almost the whole day before getting the bus to Istanbul so off we went to see more of Edirne. Since we hadn’t done much walking lately, we hiked out of town a couple of miles to seemingly a world from another time. 
Passed again the Selimiye Mosque on our way north away from the downtown area.

A view from the mosque path down the hill. Saw the horse on the right bring dragged up the grassy hill a bit later.
Muradiye Camii, a dervish convent, is perched on a hill accessible only by a narrow lane and used by horses as often as people, overlooking some very poor areas and the Tunca River. The mosque, unlike the others in Edirne, is T shaped and was built beginning in 1426. It has remarkable tiles with flower patterns, blue hexagons and white borders; their coloring and production were trade secrets when they were included in the Muradiye mosque.
Absolutely loved the blue tiles.

Walking down the path from the mosque accompanied by young boys who had pulled their horses up the steep hill just to the right above. Don't know the name of the mosque in the background here.
Life away from the city: very few cars or people around.
These boys were SO helpful with directions.
Advertising the Oil Wrestling Competition.
Then walked across one of the 9 very narrow bridges spanning the Tunca River, past the huge stadium where Edirne’s famous oil wrestling competition is held every June, past the Tower of Justice to the Balkan War Memorial.
The Kirkpinar Stadium

The 34m Fatih Bridge, whose center arch is bigger than the other two, is thought to have been built in 1452.

This and the next few photos are all from the Balkan War Memorial.

Above and below are photos from the ruins of Edirne's New Imperial Palace; we were the only ones touring the memorial and the ruins. 

Walked past field after field of sunflowers en route to our next stop, Ikinci Beyazit Kulliiyesi, that you can see in the photo below.
In the background is the vast Ikinci Beyazit Kulliyesi, built in 1488. Within a single boundary wall, assembled beneath a hundred domes are a mosque, food storehouse, public soup kitchen, bakery, dervish hostel, a Turkish bath, medical school and insane asylum. The so called ‘madhouse’ was built around an open garden leading to a hexagonal, domed therapy center containing a circular open space. The more ‘intractable’ patients were brought there regularly to listen to music.

The lower part of the door was opened up for us; again we we were the only people in the entire complex except for security staff and a groundskeeper.

The photos above are ALL of  Beyazit complex.
On our way back to town on another bridge across the Tunca River.

Saw a lot of horse drawn carts in the older part of town.
Back in town we wandered through a number of streets in the Kaleci district dating from Byzantine times until we got to Edirne’s pedestrian street, Saraclar Caddessi, which we’d been on the late afternoon before.

The public address system was blaring announcements a good part of the time we were by all the mosques downtown; don’t know if they were in conjunction with the religious holiday or what. There was nobody around us speaking English whom we could ask.
 Saw the fish statue alerting us that there’d be lots of small fish stores just ahead. Felt like I was back in Ottawa 40 years ago and working part time selling fish for Bernie Shulman while going to university; I remember so vividly working a full 8 hour shift at the fish store way out at Bayshore Shopping Center on Wednesdays and then going to my 3 hour American Colonial History class at 6. I’m sure everyone wanted to sit as far away from me as they could because I reeked of fish!

There was a profusion of carts containing all types of fresh fruit for sale throughout the downtown area in Edirne.

The woman welcomed my taking this picture of her and then wanted a photo taken of both her and her husband who was selling items nearby. I gladly obliged.

 Walked far enough down the street to discover a large enclosed market selling everything from bras of every shape, form and description to food, household goods, etc. The market was so filled with customers it reminded of our shopping in Asia where we needed to keep a close eye on each other and our belongings; it was not a place to be for those craving a peaceful shopping experience!

 On our way back, at the bottom of Marif Caddesi, we passed the city’s derelict synagogue now undergoing renovation. When it was built in 1906 to replace 13 others destroyed by fire, the synagogue was the largest in the Balkans, an indication of how large the Jewish community then was. Within a few decades, however, populist pogroms (unusual in Turkey) and official harassment had compelled local Jews to flee to Istanbul, Europe or Israel.

 Decided we’d better head out to the bus station way out of town to wait for our Istanbul bus. What a madhouse there as there were so many extras buses laid on for locals wanting to head to the big city for the big religious holiday. We ended up spending almost 2 hours there and rather than sitting outside since it was chilly, we nursed some Turkish tea sitting in a restaurant. There was a scrum trying to figure which bus was ours was one of about 7 buses all leaving Edirne about 4 for Istanbul!
Ivy: thought of you when I saw this display of Delon Premium Chocolates in the bus station store. No wonder you have such a discerning palate when it comes to eating  chocolate!
Can you imagine a steward rolling a cart and providing free refreshments to all passengers on a BUS? We were just as flabbergasted as I am sure you must be with the service on the Metro Turism buses.

We weren’t quite so thrilled when, because of a mammoth traffic jam, we were let out at a huge transportation hub on the outskirts of Istanbul instead of the main bus station downtown and left to fend for ourselves. We were supposed to have gotten a free Metro Turism shuttle to their office literally next door to our hotel but that didn’t happen. Finally found our way to the small Locus Hotel via the metro and a taxi in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood, located about 25 minutes by foot from the major sights. Our room, home for the next 7 nights, looked all too much like our room in the Cozyness Hostel in Bucharest; more than a tad tight, we thought, with no communal area to escape to although we did have our own bathroom. The cost was only $50 a night including a full breakfast; Ahmed, one of the staff members, spoke decent English and couldn’t have been kinder and more helpful welcoming us to his lovely city.