A Weekend Escape to Edirne
We decided to have a weekend visit to Edirne, the capital of the Ottoman Empire before Istanbul. Edirne is situated in the northwest of Turkey and has borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Although it is a small border town Edirne is a living museum with its mosques, bridges, and caravanserais.
Edirne is 235 km away from Istanbul and you can reach there with a two-hour comfortable drive via TEM highway. Arzum Pansiyon, which we found through the internet and where we chose to stay, is located just behind Selimiye Mosque. It is a small but clean and comfortable lodge. The rooms are equipped with air conditioning, TV and wireless. They do not serve breakfast which we were glad about, since we did not have any intention on having breakfast at the hotel. The banks of the Meriç river offer several delicious breakfast places.
Selimiye Mosque is the symbol of Edirne. Carrying the name of the then reigning Sultan Selim II, the Mosque was built by famous architect Sinan. Architect Sinan finished the construction in 1575, when he was 85 and considered Selimiye Mosque to be his “master piece”. Its huge dome is even higher than that of Hagia Sophia. Selimiye Mosque is the crown of Edirne with its simple but glorious existence. UNESCO added Selimiye Mosque and its social complex to its World Heritage List on June 27, 2011.
It is not only the mosques that come to mind when we mention Edirne but the Meriç River running through the city and its branches Tunca and Arda. Restaurants and cafes lining the banks of Meriç became our indispensible venues for breakfast, as well as for lunch and dinner.
Fried liver ( tava ciğer) is a definite must-try when you are in Edirne. Aydın Tava Çiğercisi is located in the city center and immediately attracts attention with the queue in front of it. The portion was gigantic and our lunch was turned into a feast with cotton-soft liver served with hot dried and crunchy pepper. If you don’t like liver because of its smell, you can be sure you won’t event sense it in Edirne Liver.
Karaağaç, the only Turkish territory on the west of the Meriç and Pazarkule border crossing are two places worth paying a visit. Two Ottoman bridges connect Karaağaç to downtown. The old Main Train Station of Edirne, built by famous architect Mimar Kemalletin, is now serving as the Rectorate of Trakya University. It is placed in a pleasant garden and is open to the public. Karaağaç is a cozy town with its houses, some charming mansions, cafes and nature.
Traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling is among the most important activities in Edirne and will celebrate its 650th anniversary on July 4-10, 2011. A green meadow called Sarayiçi, where old Edirne Palace was located, is the site of the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Contests. This is the most prestigious wrestling tournament in Turkey and the winner is titled “baş pehlivan” (chief of all wrestlers) of the year. Performances of the Janissary Band, local and foreign folk-dance groups, concerts, turn Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling into a festival.
The ruins of the Old Ottoman Palace and Adalet Kulesi (Justice Tower) the only complete remnant of the palace are also located in Sarayiçi. The hunting lodge of Mehmet the IV, is on the forest path near Sarayiçi and has been converted into a country coffee house. We enjoyed sipping coffee under the shade of the tall trees.
Traditional Edirne souvenirs include fruit-shaped soaps, Badem Ezmesi - Marzipan (a soft cookie-like dessert made of bitter almond), straw baskets and brooms with mirrors. It may sound a bit strange to buy brooms; however, Edirne has a long tradition of broom making and miniature brooms decorated with mirrors and embroidery (traditionally given to young girls as a dowry) can be found at gift stores around the city.
Unfortunately we could not find any Edirnekari in souvenir shops. Edirnekari is a decorative art of wood painting peculiar to Edirne. However we had the opportunity to see the best examples in Selimiye Mosque.
If you want to spend a pleasant weekend .... I recommend that you visit Edirne.
Some Useful Addresses:
Arzum Pansiyon (behind Selimiye Mosque car parking lot)
0284 213 1334
Bizim Bahçe Breakfast:
0284 223 8090 (en route to Karaağaç)
Edirne Öğretmenevi Yazlık Bahçesi
0284 212 0168 (Meriç bank)
Aydın Tava Ciğercisi Tahmis Çarşısı No:12
Lalezar Restaurant 0284 223 0600 (en route to Karaağaç)
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Alexandre Vallaury - Architect Alexandre Vallaury was born into a Levantine family in İstanbul in 1850. Apart from the years he spent on architecture education in Paris, he lived in İstanbul for the rest of his life. more...
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