Feeling Bursa and Bursa, Day 0.5

It turned out that Sercan decided to go the U2 concert that night and the lateness of concert combined with the out of the way location meant he crashed at a friends place. This is something one can only do in places like Turkey – a U2 concert! He simply showed up and bribed the guard with 70 lira (35 euro) for two people, which must be significantly cheaper than the actual ticket price. He returned early in the morning and left again around midday for Izmit. His mother would be staying the night and I was to wait for her – a perfect excuse to stay in and rest as my health began to deteriorate more quickly after the stresses and exertion of the previous day. I hardly left the flat over the next forty hours, typing blog posts, sleeping, writing letters, watching anime via Yale VPN.

My last minute couch request to Bursa was accepted so I departed on first day of Ramazan Bayrami (9.9.10), the end of the fast, by ferryboat. I chose the ferry as I thought itd be more interesting. This came to pass in my the form of motion sickness – less mine than the young birthmarked girl sitting a few seats down with her family. While the waves certainly made me rather uncomfortable it was this girl who hurled, covering her mouth my instinct and thereby directing the sick laterally, where a few bits (mostly watery) landed on me. The father felt absolutely horrid as I went to find a bathroom, also. It seems he was the only other one hit. I smiled back at his worried, guilty glance – its not like she could have helped it and I completely understood. On returning to my seat I rummaged a long while for my Dramamine and gave him the vial to inspect and perhaps give to her. He bowed and thanked me and I retired to a seat further back to try and drown out my own discomfort with sleep.

When I awoke the father indicated that he bought me a bottle of water as thanks. Then followed a merry tour of Bursa’s public transit akin to my first day in İstanbul. Perhaps it was the joyous mood of everyone (they can now eat!) as the Bayram was later explained by my host to be as big as Christmas, for nearly every person I asked for help accompanied and directed me. The first, a man on the bus from Güzelyalı, helped me get off at the appropriate stop and walked me to the metro. I’d quite forgotten the directions in my infirmity and got off at the center, accidentally. The metro workers helped me quite keenly and we chattered away merrily in Turkish all the way. One very friendly young metro worker went with me to the appropriate metro stop, asking other metro workers for ideas. They’d get on the car with us, talk for a while and get off after divulging enough pleasantries or information. The last, a thickset woman, joined us. Both of them waited at the bus stop with me until the minibus arrived, giving the driver instructions to take care of me and wavingly happily at me through the window.

After getting acquainted with my incredible hosts, Fatih and Melek, I decided to walk into town. I felt rather healthier, for some reason. Bursa reminded much of Bergen, surrounded by enormous mountains as it is and built all the way up the slopes, with small, winding, mostly traffic-less streets. It lacks a seaside, however, so these roads are quite dusty and give the city a mirage-like vibe. They call it the green city (I though due to the famous Green Mosque and Tomb) but actually for the abundance of greenery – the Ulu Dağ directly behind my hosts place in Teferrüç stretching lushly in all directions and catching the clouds to rain in the valley. For a Gainesvillian, however, the greenery was nothing spectacular.

The architecture, however… Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman empire, the following ones being Edirne and İstanbul. The mosques boast an older style, with T-Plans slightly reminscent of gothic transepts rather than the radially symmetric glory based of the Aya Sofya. The mosques are much smaller in size – the focus being not on the scale and the engineering prowess but rather on the delicacy of intricate ornamentation. A very different appeal but no less astonishing.

The “Green” Tomb. It looks blue or at least turquoise to me.

Detail rather than scale

Leaving Emirsultan Cami.

A pair of young Turks seemed quite keen to help me find Ulu Cami (which I knew was directly ahead…) and rather reminded me of Mormons in their earnestness, dress style and childlike insistence. I escaped them but only remained at the great mosque a few minutes, determined to return and draw it – something like the photos I’ve seen of the Alhambra but with a completely different vibe – less infinite, and grander. I hailed a bus back to Teferrüç but it dropped me in a different location and it was dark. My map was woefully incomplete for the upper reaches of Bursa. I began asking about for directions to Teferrüç Cami, directed first by a man who told me to walk west and then an electrician in a little hut who told me to walk southeast. I continued this way a while before ducking into a store where the man told me to walk back the way I’d came. I never felt worried, for some reason, just rather peaceful – probably due to my only carrying a small tote bag.

Ride back.

There’s something about mountain towns.

I stopped by the electrician’s once again and he helped me very happily, asking others passing by for assistance then ushering me into his aluminum sided squat past snarling Kangals to his phone. He called Fatih and then insisted I stay and wait for him. We spoke long in Turkish, somehow my skills having improved to keep up a fifteen minute conversation.

The wonderful electrician then led me to a worn suede couch under an open cloth pavillion, where we watched Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? with Turkish dubs, sipping Nescafé in wait for Fatih. He joined us with some crackers after some time and we sat very pleasantly together – they understanding the dialogue and me remembering it all from the time I’d watched it with my family. A strange mix of nostalgia and surreality with the crisp coolness of fresh mountain night air, the familiarity of food and entertainment and the warmth of instant friendships.

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