Beyond Istanbul: Roadtrip to Bursa

THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PUBLISHED ON MARCH 23 BUT I FORGOT TO HIT “PUBLISH”:

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I’m going to make this short and sweet, but I wanted to add a quick note about my trip to Bursa this past weekend:

I finished my certification class on Friday and as a celebration for becoming an English teacher, my friend Jon invited me to join him for a weekend in his hometown of Bursa, Turkey. Bursa is located 2.5 hours south of Istanbul at the base of a large mountain where people from all over the world come to ski and snowboarding during the winter. I’ve heard people refer to it as a “village,” so I was expecting to step foot into a quaint mountain town, but on the contrary, it’s a city of two million. Apparently because Istanbul has a population of about 14 million, Bursa is considered a “village.” Oh, if only they could see Butte Falls.

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Jon and I packed our bags and hopped in his car for the drive south. As I mentioned before, I have yet to travel outside of Istanbul. My initial idea of Turkey was that it’s a modern and fast-paced country, but I was so wrong. Instead, as soon as we moved passed the city limits, it was like going back in time. Small villages dotted the interstate and Edinburgh-like hills rolled off into the distance as far as we could see. The best comparison I can make of the towns is Mexico villages that have half-built buildings with rebar roofs signifying unfinished work. Aside from the interstate, most the roads were dirt or gravel. Despite how it may sound, the 2.5 drive was beautiful none the less.

We arrived too late in the day to explore Bursa that evening, so we headed to Jon’s parent’s apartment in a newly developed area of the city. I was surprised when I stepped foot into perhaps the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever seen. White floors, white walls, white furniture, a crystal chandelier in the sitting room and a jacuzzi-style tub in one of the bathrooms that’s the size of my living room. I had no idea apartments could be so beautiful.

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The next morning, I woke up to a table lined with traditional Turkish breakfast items: pastries, tomatoes, hardboiled eggs, cheese, olives, ham, cucumbers, bread, honey, cream and jams. Neither of his parents speak a lick of English, so Jon had to translate the entire conversation about how I’m loving Turkey and all the wonderful things I’ve seen.

Post breakfast, we headed out for a mini tour of the city. Jon drove me through the “New Town” before taking me up the hill, toward the mountain, into “Old Town,” which mostly consisted of parks, museums and small cafes. We stopped at one of the cafes looking over the city where we sipped Turkish coffee while comparing and contrasting Istanbul and Bursa. Apparently Bursa is much more slow-paced and laid back than Istanbul, which is a city that never sleeps.

Later, we made our way back down the hill and passed the house where Turkey’s first president, Ataturk, resided in the early 20th century during his visits to Bursa. We spent the rest of the day driving around different areas of town and meeting with old family friends of Jon’s family. In the evening, his parents took us out for a wonderful seafood dinner near the bay. My plate was filled with octopus, sea bass, shrimp, muscles, eggplant and salad. We sipped on white wine and rakı, which is a popular Turkish alcohol with a flavor similar to absinthe.

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The following morning, we woke up early for a run through the beautiful Japanese garden outside his apartment complex. Apparently houses aren’t popular in the cities and it’s much more common for people to live in apartments for most of their lives, which is much different than the states. It’s these small differences that remind me just how different of a life I’ve lived compared to the people in Turkey.

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Needless to say, the trip was wonderful and it was refreshing to breath fresh mountain air. Now I’m back in Istanbul where the energy is cranked to high and the stars disappear against the lights of the city. Oh, Istanbul.

 

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