The First Capital City of the Ottoman Empire

The First Capital City of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman province of Hüdavendigar

When the conquest of Anatolia by the Seljuks began in 1071, the Turkish tribes coming from Central Asia settled down on their new lands. Then the Seljuk Empire started to weaken and furthermore fell apart in the thirteenth century. Many small Turkish principalities sprang up, one of which was the Ottoman Beylik in the northwest of Anatolia. Ottomans expanded quickly as they conquered additional lands from the Byzantine Empire.

Osman Bey, the founder of the Ottoman Beylik, who was born in the town of Söğüt in Bithynia in 1258, conquered Bilecik, Yenikent, İnegöl and İznik in 1299 which is the year considered being the founding of the Ottoman Empire, which was to survive for over six hundred years. As Osman Gazi gained in strength, the Byzantine governor of Bursa, Atranos, sought assistance from the governors of Kestel and Kite. Their united army joined the battle against Ottomans at Koyunhisar in 1301. Ottomans were victorious.

Osman Bey resolved to take Bursa, and began preparations to besiege the city in 1317. First he had to cut off the city’s access to the sea, he then built a fort near Kaplıca and appointed his nephew Ak Timur as its commander. His slave, Balabancık, was given the command of a second fort in the mountains behind Bursa, to prevent them from reaching the city from both sides. Turks demolished the fort of Atranos Beyce and made their encampment at Pınarbaşı. Leaving the army’s control in the hands of his son Orhan Bey, Osman Gazi returned to Yenikent.

The siege lasted eight years, and meanwhile Osman Gazi who fell seriously ill could no longer fight. He ordered his son Orhan Gazi to take Bursa, and following Orhan began by taking first the Evrenos Fortress. The fortress’ governor fled into the mountains. Orhan Gazi sent Mihal Bey to the governor of Bursa demanding his surrender. The governor sent expensive clothes and forty thousand gold sovereigns as a gift to show his submission, and after consulting his father, Orhan Gazi allowed the governor to leave the city with his family and entourage. They made their way to Gemlik on the north coast of Bursa and sailed for Istanbul. In 1326, the Turkish army entered Bursa.

This news reached Osman Gazi on his deathbed, and he died knowing his greatest goal had been achieved. The taking of Bursa marked a turning point in the Ottoman History. Orhan bin Osman, who was born in 1281, the year of his grandfather Ertuğrul Gazi’s death, became the second Ottoman sultan. His elder brother gave him the following advice: The first advice was to coin money with his name on it, the second one was to wear clothes which would distinguish him from his subjects and the third and last one was to form an army composed of infantry soldiers who would be paid out of the treasury. Previously coins were minted in the name of the Seljuk sultans, but in 1328, following his brother's advice; Orhan Gazi became the first Ottoman sultan to mint his own coins. He also introduced white uniforms for his soldiers, replacing their former red and black uniform.

In 1335, Bursa became the first Ottoman capital. Orhan Gazi ruled for nearly 35 years until his death in 1360. He was succeeded by his son Murad, who was born in 1326. Sultan Murad Han bin Orhan bin Osman Gazi was the third Ottoman sultan, and became known by the cognomen Hüdavendigar.

In 1362 Murad took the city of Edirne (Adrianople). During one nightş Murad Hüdavendigar dreamed about a white bearded man with a radiant face who told him to build a palace in Edirne. A grandiose palace was immediately built and in 1363 the Ottoman capital moved from Bursa to Edirne, although Bursa conserved its economic and spiritual importance.

In 1399, Bayezid Yıldırım (the Thunderbolt) founded a hospital in Bursa where the hot mineral springs of the city had great healing features in the treatment of patients. When Timur's army took Bursa in 1402, they destroyed and burnt many of the medreses (colleges), mosques and other monuments in the city. In 1429, another disaster struck the city in the form of plague which decimated the population. In 1482, when Cem Sultan was fighting for the throne against his brother Bayezid, he ruled in Bursa for only eighteen days, but still had the time to mint coins in his name. Cem's forces were defeated during the battle against his brother therefore he had to flee the city.


The style of Bursa

The Ottoman architecture of Bursa has a distinctive style with close similarities to the Byzantine style. Following the conquest of the Byzantine lands of the region, many local masons, carvers and other artisans continued to work for Ottomans. The Byzantine influence which they brought to the new buildings of the Ottoman principality distinguished them from the structures of other Turkish principalities of Anatolia. Bursa’s style lived on after the conquest of Edirne and Istanbul in 1362 and 1453 respectively, showing itself in the architecture of the early monuments constructed in both cities. The T plan which was developed in the fourteenth century can be seen in almost all the royal mosques of Bursa. The Bursa arch is another distinctive feature. This broad flattened arch does not have great carrying strength, and is decorative rather than being functional.

Ulu Mosque

Bursa Ulu Mosque belongs to the early Islamic style of mosque architecture, with a multi-domed roof supported by numerous piers and columns and a covered court. The mosque was built by the architect Ali Neccar for Yıldırım Bayezid in 1399. It has two large minarets and twenty domes of more or less equal size resting on twelve square pillars, the central dome being glazed. Inside are 192 inscriptions written by famous calligraphers on the walls and panels.

Yeşil Mosque

The earliest example of Bursa’s style is the Yeşil (Green) Mosque, which was built in 1419 by the architect Vezir Hacı İvaz Paşa for Çelebi Sultan Mehmed. The tiles which lend their name to the mosque are the work of Mecnun Mehmed. The marble carving on the façade, window frames, door, stone inscriptions and ceiling above the door is exquisite. The early mosques of Bursa and İznik are characterized by plain lines emphasizing spatial form, and a controlled use of decoration. Gradually the Ottoman decorative arts acquired their own style, and new masters emerged. The first Ottoman nakkaş -a decorator who painted and stenciled designs on plaster- was Ali bin İlyas Ali, who did all the painted decoration for the Yeşil Mosque.

Muradiye Mosque

Muradiye Mosque was built between 1426 and 1428 for Murad II and exhibits all the typical characteristics of Bursa style, including a reversed T plan. The domes and both minarets of this mosque collapsed in the earthquake of 1855 and were not rebuilt until 1902, the date on which the mihrab (niche facing Mecca) and minber (pulpit) were renovated with the rococo decoration which was in vogue at the time.

Emir Sultan Mosque

The Emir Sultan Mosque was built in the fifteenth century following the order of Yıldırım Bayezid’s daughter Hundi Fatma Hatun who wanted it to be constructed for her husband Emir Sultan. The steps in the west side lead up to a gateway situated between two columns over which a verse from the Koran is engraved. We are then leaded toward a large courtyard surrounded by a wooden colonnade, with a şadırvan – a fountain built for the ritual ablutions- in the center. In the south stands the mosque, whose mihrab is covered by İznik tiles. In the north of the mosque stands the tomb of Emir Sultan. Most of the rectangular window frames are carved in mukarnas (stalactite work), and above these, the pediments are decorated with rumî scrollwork motifs.

Vernacular architecture

Traditional houses built in the developed style of Bursa during centuries of Ottoman rule feature distinctive decoration. Most have fireplaces, unlike the houses of Istanbul. Above the main windows are smaller windows placed high in the walls with stucco tracery and colored glazing. Walls, ceilings, and the doors of the fitted cupboards are all richly decorated. A considerable number of traditional houses still remain in Bursa today, and although most are from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they provide a remarkable demonstration of the vernacular architecture of the city.



Bursa is one of Turkey's cities that have experienced a high influx of migrants over the centuries, and the different migrant communities have each added their own color to the city. In the sixteenth century a wave of Turks arrived there from Central Asia, doubling the city's number of population between 1530 and 1575.

Around the city were villages populated by Greeks who had been there since the middle ages, and during the reign of Mehmed II (1451-1481). Greek migrants from the Morea were settled in Bursa.

Armenians from Kütahya first arrived in Bursa during Orhan Bey’s reign in the fourteenth century. When the Armenian Patriarchate was founded in Istanbul by Mehmed II in 1461, Ovakim was elected Bursa’s Bishop. From the early nineteenth century onwards, Armenians from eastern Turkey came to Bursa in large numbers, and most of them settled in the neighborhood of Setbaşı. Bursa's first newspaper, the semi-official Hüdavendigar, published by the city governor Hacı İzzet Paşa, introduced a section in Armenian from issue 82 onwards.

Although it was said that there has been a Jewish colony in Bursa as early as 79 BC, Jews first reached a significant presence in the city after it became the Ottoman capital, when Sultan Orhan allowed Jews to build a synagogue and their own quarter. Trade, money-lending, tailoring and goldsmithing were the occupations in which most of the Jews were engaged. When the Russians occupied Rumelia (the Ottoman provinces of Eastern Europe) and Caucasia during the 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War, large numbers of Muslims from these regions migrated to Bursa. Thirty thousand people came from Ruse in Bulgaria alone. But the majority of the newcomers were Georgians and Tatars. Those from Caucasia settled in the district of Yıldırım, those from Kazan in Mollaarap, and those from the Crimea in Alacahırka.

There had also been Copts in Bursa since very early times, and on the spring festival of Hıdırellez they would go to the area around the Lime Kilns in the foothills of Uludağ and spend the day in celebrations, in the course of which they also elected their chief, known as the çeribaşı. They lived in the neighborhoods of Kanberler and Demirkapı.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, German, British, Austro-Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, French, Belgian, Greek and Iranian consulates were present in Bursa, and according to the population census carried out at this time 9.84% of the population were Greeks, 6.66% Armenian, 18% others, and the remaining 65.5% were Muslim Turks. In 1903 the provincial assembly's members included Müftü Ali Rıza Efendi, the Greek bishop, the Armenian Archbishop Natalyan Efendi, the Armenian Catholic representative Arşoni Efendi, Archbishop Artin Efendi, and Chief Rabbi Moşe Hayim Efendi. Out of the 19 qualified physicians working in the city, five were Turkish, and out of the 17 pharmacists four were Turkish.

The week of the hyacinth festival was one of Bursa's most colorful annual events. People would go out to picnic in the hyacinth meadows surrounding the city. Women and men went separately, women on the first three days of the week and men on the last four days. On one spring day in 1869 when women of Bursa were singing and amusing themselves in the hyacinth fields, two men joined them. The scandal was investigated by the judicial authorities and the two men were interrogated. They said in their defense that they were strangers to the town and did not know that it was forbidden for men to go into the flower meadows on that day. They were acquitted, but the incident was recorded in Bursa's court records.

Bursa has a rich culinary tradition that has evolved over many centuries, but it is most of all famous for its kebab. The German general Helmut von Moltke, who visited Bursa in 1836, wrote the following sentences in his memoirs about the delicious flavor and cheap price of this kebab: "We ate lunch in typical Turkish style, in a kebab house. After washing our hands we did not eat around the table but seated upon it [this "table" would have been a large cloth spread on the floor]. I did not know where to put my legs. Then a wooden tray arrived, on which was placed the kebab, that is, small pieces of mutton cooked on skewers and wrapped in bread. This is a very delicious dish. After that came a plate of excellent salted olives, helva, which is a sweet dish much loved by the Turks, and a bowl of sherbet (raisins stewed in water with a lump of ice tossed in). For two hungry diners this meal cost altogether 120 para, or five shillings."

City of Exiles

By the nineteenth century Bursa, with its beautiful old buildings and luxuriant greenery, had left its days as a capital city behind. Instead it had become a city of exiles.

After long years of opposition to the Ottoman government abroad, Mevlânazade Rıfat came back to Istanbul and surrendered himself to the police. The martial law court sentenced him to exile in Bursa on the basis of a judgement reached in his absence at an earlier date. His exile was only repealed after the deposition of Sultan Abdülhamid II on the 27th of April 1909. When Mehmed V Reşad succeeded him as the thirty-fifth Ottoman sultan, the dissidents of the previous regime were pardoned and Mevlânazade Rıfat returned to Istanbul.

Mehmed Tevfik Bey, who was the governor of Bursa between 1906 and 1909, recalls some of the exiles in his memoirs. His kindness toward three sisters of his acquaintance was one of the main reasons of his friendship with Fehime Sultan, one of the daughters of Sultan Murad V (1876). Mehmed Tevfik Bey explains that when the three sisters, one from the house- hold of Sultan Abdülhamid, the other from the household of Sultan Mehmed V, and their elder sister were exiled to Bursa, he invited them to stay at his house until they found a permanent home of their own.

The story of how Gazi Osman Paşa's second son Kemaleddin Bey was sent into exile is a tragic one. Kemaleddin Bey was married to Naime Sultan, one of the daughters of Abdülhamid II. Naime Sultan fell ill at one point, and Dr. Hakkı Şinasi Paşa administered an injection of cacodilate. This gave rise to a rumor that Kemaleddin Bey was in love with Sultan Murad's eldest daughter Hatice Sultan, who lived in the palace next door, and had instructed the doctor to inject his wife with poison in order to marry Hatice. When this rumor reached Abdülhamid II’s ears, he believed it and arranged a divorce for his daughter. Kemaleddin Bey was exiled to Bursa and Dr. Hakkı Şinasi Paşa to elsewhere. Kemaleddin Bey rented a house in Bursa, where he was kept under house arrest, guarded by one of the imperial aides Major-General Mustafa Paşa and several other officers from the sultan's riflemen. The illustrious prisoner was allowed no visitors, even the governor being unable to call without first obtaining the sultan's permission.

After the death of Sultan Murad V in 1904, one of his favorite woman together with a large number of women from her household were allocated pensions of 10 lira each and exiled to Bursa. It was commanded that a house would be purchased for each, and that they would be married off to those who ask for their hands. Since purchasing so many houses and settling each woman down would be a long process, two mansions were rented where they all lived together in the meantime.

Necmeddin Molla's elder brother Ali Ata was crossing the Bosporus on a steam ferry one day where he lit his cigarette from the stranger’s cigarette who was seated beside him. The stranger turned out to be from the household of the heir Reşad Efendi, and when this political gaff was reported to Sultan Abdülhamid II, Ali Ata joined the ranks of exiles in Bursa.

Fehim Paşa was another famous exile to Bursa at this time, and there were many others in and around the city. Bursa's provincial clerk and director of education were both exiles.



The külliye-mosque complex- built by Orhan Gazi after the conquest of Bursa included the city's first bedesten or exchange building, Emir Han, where textile merchants stored and sold their wares. When the bedesten moved to a new building constructed by Sultan Yıldırım Bayezid (1389-1402), the other tradesmen moved into the old bedesten and other bazaars (çarşı or Pazar) spread in the area around it. Hacı İvaz Paşa Çarşısı housed the felt makers, Sipahi Çarşısı the quilt makers, Gelincik Çarşısı the cotton carders and tailors, Atpazarı the horse and livestock traders, Kapan Çarşısı the fruit traders, and Tahıl Pazarı the dried fruit and nut traders. The famous Bursa cutlers had their workshops around the Tahıl Pazarı.

In addition to these, there was Uzunçarşı, Bitpazarı  (the  flea  market), Tahtakale, Tavukpazarı (poultry market), Bakırcılar Çarşısı (coppersmiths market), Pirinç Han (rice market), Tuz Han (salt market), İpek Han (silk market), and Koza Han (cocoon market). As these indicate, trade and manufacturing were vigorous and varied in Bursa.


Bursa's tradesmen and artisans belonged to guilds which exerted strict control over trading practices. Only those trained in a trade and qualified as masters were permitted to open their own shops, and the copying of items made by master craftsmen was prohibited.

After completing a long period of apprenticeship, followed by years as a journeyman, the artisan was finally qualified as a master. The completion of each phase was marked by a ceremony. When an apprentice was judged ready to become a journeyman, his master would inform the steward and other officials of his own guild. All the members of the guild would then be invited to a feast at one of the excursion places outside the town, where they would be entertained by wrestling matches and other amusements. Then, to the recital of prayers, the guild official known as the yiğitbaşı would ceremonially gird the apprentice in the peştemal (cloth wrap or apron) which marked his new status as journeyman.

Making the next step up to master craftsman did not only depend on long years of work and acquiring outstanding skill. Since a specific number of master craftsmen were permitted for each trade, the journeyman had to wait until one of the masters died or retired. Then the senior journeyman of the guild would be ceremoniously granted the rank of master.

The first silk mill was opened in Bursa by Konstanz Bey in 1833, and a second by Boduryan Efendi in 1843. Gradually the traditional small craftsmen made way for industrial scale manufacturing.


Bursa's economic prosperity was mainly due to the agriculture - vine growing, fruit growing, dairy products, and to the olive production of Gemlik and Mudanya. The large quantity of mulberry trees also made Bursa an ideal center for silk production.

Producing the raw silk for the textile mills was an intensive process of labor. Beginning with  the eggs production, through to hatching the worms and the cocoon stage, all involved considerable risks. One of the worst disasters was pebrine, a disease affecting silkworms which broke out in France and spread to Bursa in the 1860s. As a result the output plunged, and many producers went out of business and began to uproot the mulberry orchards. Then the news arrived that a cure for the disease had been discovered in France, and unaffected eggs were imported. Production went smoothly only for a while, before the disease broke out again.

As the need for technical knowledge in the silk production sector became evident, it was decided to open a school for this purpose. Known as the Silk School, the Harir Darülttalimi opened on the 2nd of April 1888 in a house rented from Kazaz Ahmet Muhtar Efendi in the neighborhood of Şehreküstü in Bursa. The first students graduated in 1889. Soon afterwards the school moved to a larger building in Setbaşı, a house belonging to Burdurizade Osman Efendi. In 1894, when it moved into a building constructed near Maksem, the school was renamed the Institute of Sericulture. Torkumyan Efendi was appointed as the principal of the institute, and he also trained a large number of silk technicians and he introduced the Pasteur technique of egg production which gave a valuable boost to Bursa's silk industry.

Silk weaving

Bursa was the main textile manufacturing center of the Ottoman Empire. In the early 1850, Bursa had fourteen textile mills equipped with steam driven machinery like their counterparts in Europe, and there were two in Mudanya. In Bursa there were around 150 to 200 looms weaving tulle, and pure and mixed silk fabrics.

The traditional looms used in Bursa were extremely simple, consisting of a rectangular wooden frame on which the weft threads were stretched, and two cylinders for rolling up the fabric as it came off the loom. Lead weights kept the threads balanced and in tension as the alternate threads were pulled forward by a foot pedal for the shuttle to cross between them. Apart from the weights every part of the looms was made of wood.

Bursa fabrics were renowned far beyond the borders of the Ottoman Empire. They were exported as far afield as China, and filled the markets of Hungary, Poland, Italy and the Balkan countries. In the sixteenth century rich fabrics woven in Bursa from silk, wool and silver and gold thread were used for clothes worn by the Ottoman sultans and princes. Bursa fabrics included velvets, the velvet brocade known as çatma-which was also woven in Bilecik and Üsküdar, diba- a brocade incorporating gold thread, and a fine taffeta known as canfes.

The weavers of Bursa had their own guild which inspected the bales of cloth before they could be sold, and stamped those which were up to standard. Those which did not pass inspection were confiscated. Each weaving shop specialized in one particular fabric type. Cotton yarn imported from abroad was subjected to similar close inspection before being put up for sale each Saturday in the market held in the courtyard of Ulu Mosque. Silk cocoons were sold at Koza Han.

When foreign competition began in the eighteenth century, the Bursa weavers were forced to produce cheaper fabrics, and their quality gradually declined.


In October 1834 American Protestant missionaries began establishing schools in Turkey. They first opened a secondary school for boys in Pera in Istanbul, followed over the next five years by schools in İzmir, Bursa and Trabzon. Their curricula followed those of American schools, and they quickly won popularity. The American Girls School in Bursa had seventy pupils in four different grades. In 1893 the lessons taught were in Greek or Armenian and English, arithmetic and geography being taught in Greek or Armenian, and geometry, botany, physics, astronomy and history in English.

Işıklar Military High School

This school was established in 1845 under the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid in today’s Heykel Meydanı square. It subsequently moved to a new building whose lower floor was made of stone and the upper floor made of wood in the district of Işıklar. The new building was inaugurated by city governor Münir Paşa on the 10th of June 1892. A second building was added in 1894, and the number of pupils increased to five hundred. In 1911 a school hospital was added. During the Greek occupation following the World War I the building was used as stables by the Greek forces. The school reopened on the 11th of December 1922. Işıklar Hill from which the district took its name, was originally known as Âşıklar or Lovers Hill.

Hamidiye Technical School

This technical school first opened on the 10th of April 1869 in a mansion called Türkmenoğlu Konağı in the neighborhood of Filibos. Two years later it moved to a new building in Tophane. At first the pupils were only taught weaving, and they made fabric for police officers’ uniforms. Subsequently shoemaking was added to the curriculum, and tools and teachers were sent from Istanbul. In the early twentieth century French and music lessons were added and a school band formed. In 1906 a shop was opened on Hükümet Caddesi to sell shoes and fabrics made by the pupils. The school became the pride of the city, and local people raised funds for improvements. A lottery was held, and a livestock sale at Atıcılar was organized, at which a percentage of each purchase was donated to the school. Again in 1906 Necip Efendi of Bursa and Mirat Efendi of Istanbul obtained a license to sell European made cigarette papers under the name Hamidiye Technical School Cigarette Paper, on which the profits also went to the school.

Mülkiye İdadi School

In 1885 a boys' secondary school known as Mülkiye İdadisi was founded, and in July 1888 its fırst five graduates matriculated. Three more grades were added to the original four in 1891, and between 1901 and 1904 a chemistry laboratory, dormitory, refectory, and recreation room were added. In 1909 it became known as the Mektebi Sultani.

Agricultural College

This agricultural college was opened in March 1891 by city governor Mahmut Celaleddin Paşa to give boys practical training in agricultural technology. Known as Hüdavendigar Model Farm Agricultural College; it was built on the land belonging to Topal Mehmed Ağa in the village of Hamitler. It accepted twenty pupils the first year, and for many years fifteen boys graduated annually.

In  1904  Mülkiye  İdadisi  had  325  pupils,  Hamidiye Technical  School  150  and  the Agricultural College 78. In 1905 a teacher training school known as the Hamidiye Medresesi Muallimini opened, and it was later renamed Darülmuallimin.


From Roma to the Byzantines  A letter written by Plinius, the first Roman governor of Bursa appointed by the Emperor Trajan early in the second century AD, tells us that there were no baths in Bursa prior to that time. During the reign of the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I (527-565) when a major building program was carried out in Bursa, baths were built at Pythia (today Çekirge) so that the public could take advantage of the hot springs there. More baths were added over the centuries and Bursa became one of the most important spas of the Byzantine period.

Spas under the Ottomans

The seventeenth century Turkish writer and traveler Evliya Çelebi declared, justly, that Bursa consisted of water. The two-domed baths at the spa built by Justinian were enlarged by Sultan Murad Hüdavendigar (1360-1389) who had another two domed section added. Over the centuries people came from far and wide to bathe in the hot mineral water here. They included members of the imperial family and household, notables and diplomats from Istanbul, foreign princes travelling in the region, and foreign scholars, writers and statesmen. Over the four years that Mehmet Tevfik Bey was governor of Bursa, for instance, he had hosted the Duke of Holstein, the brother-in-law of Wilhelm II of Germany, and his wife on the 6th May 1906, the Prince Victor Napoleon of the Bonaparte family on the 7th of June 1908, and the Duke Carl Edward Saxe-Coburg and his wife on 4 July 1908.

Bursa hamams consist of an entrance hall, a tepidarium, and the washing hall itself known as the halvet. The Ottoman poet Arif wrote abolut these baths,

Those who enter remain

Bathing in the life giving water

Cures the ills of many

At Bursa's spa.

In a letter to his father written during his sojourn in Turkey in the 1830s, Helmut von Moltke wrote: "I have already told you of the pleasures of the Turkish hamams. In Bursa the water is not artificially heated, but is by nature so hot that at first one cannot believe that one will live to survive immersion in the large, clear pool without being scalded. There was a wonderful view from the terrace of the hamam which we entered and it was so comfortable that we were reluctant to leave."


The Marmara coast

In the nineteenth century Bursa was the capital of the province of Hüdavendigar, which consisted of the districts of Balıkesir, Karahisar-ı Sahip and Kütahya, and the sub-provinces of  Gemlik, Pazarköy, Mudanya, Yalova, Karamürsel, Tirilye, Bilecik, Lefke, Gölpazan, Söğüd, Mihaliç, Kirmasti, İnegöl, Yarhisar, Yenikent, İznik and Pazarcık.

The province had three main ports on the Marmara coast: Gemlik, Yalova and Mudanya. Gemlik stood at the end of the gulf between the mainland and Bozbunın headland, which was the tail-end of the Samanlı Mountains. This port had been famous for its shipyards for centuries. Gemlik Harbour was sheltered from the northwesterly wind and so provided shelter to ships caught in storms. The port of Yalova further to the north had the disadvantage of poor road connections. The busiest port of the three, with convenient access to Bursa Plain, was Mudanya, with a hinterland filled with mulberry woods, olive groves and vineyards. According to Evliya Çelebi Mudanya was named after the daughter of Constantine the Great.

In the 1850s the journey by sea from Istanbul to Mudanya took eight hours in calm weather. When the northwest wind was blowing a gale, high waves off Bozburun forced small ships to shelter in the mouth of the gulf until morning, so they did not arrive at Mudanya until the following day.


Travelers arriving at Mudanya by ship took horses for the last part of the journey to Bursa. Their way passed through orchards and vineyards, and for a long time the delightful view of the Marmara Sea was visible in the distance. Then as the traveler began the gradual descent from the hills the view of the sea disappeared, to be replaced by the sight of a city rising above a plain with many cypress trees. The city climbing the steep forested lower slopes of Mount Olympos had more than one hundred white minarets and domes. Nearing Bursa the traveler came to a bridge over the Nilüfer river, which wound its way between gigantic walnut trees with their dark leaves, pale green planes, verdant meadows and mulberry groves. Each step nearer to the city brought fresh scenic delights.

The Railway

In the second half of the nineteenth century the Ottoman government realized the crucial importance of constructing a railway across the country, and in 1871 an edict was promulgated for a main line from Istanbul to Baghdad. The Asian Ottoman Railway Company was founded, and a German engineer named Wilhelm von Pressel appointed its director. Pressel planned to begin the line at Haydarpaşa in the southern mouth of the Strait of Istanbul. An independent line between Bursa and its port Mudanya was also envisaged, and the tracks for this local line began from Mudanya and reached Bursa in 1874. The tracks alone cost 185,000 Ottoman lira (4,200,000 French francs) and there was no money left to complete the work. Not until 17 years later, in 1892, was the project completed and the line was put into operation by the Ottoman Railway Company owned by Monsieur Nagelmakers who purchased operating rights.

It took just two hours for the train to reach Bursa’s Acemler station from Mudanya. Since the railway was run by a foreign company, the timetable was designed according to Western time, which led to confusion (Turkish time divided day and night into twelve equal hours, which varied according to the length of daylight). The railway company hung up a notice on the 5th of September 1892 warning passengers that the timetable was based on Western time, but eventually gave into popular demand and adjusted the timetable to Turkish time.