The first day being a rather wet one in Bursa with all the rain, we were perhaps a little down on our choice to go there. But yesterday the weather was great and we took a walk down from the hotel to see the town. Although many of the buildings are quite ugly, there are some very interesting and historical ones in the city center, and we ended up really enjoying our little side trip here. Bursa is definitely a regional city, and it had a less hectic pace than Istanbul and many fewer tourists. Bursa is also home to one of Turkey’s famous national food dishes, Iskender, and we found a well known local establishment. Although delicious, if people eat this everyday I suspect the stats on heart disease here must be through the roof.
The hotel we are staying in is attached to a really beautiful centuries-old hamam fed by natural hot springs. Along with our hotel booking we had the right to a visit, so we went yesterday evening. What a difference this place was from the last one I went to! This one had several rooms, all large and in beautiful shape. After hanging out in the main one with its hot pool and alternating rinsing, we decided to go for a scrub. These guys obviously take delight in smacking the tourists around a bit, and occasionally make very loud noises that echo through the hamam by loudly slapping their sandpaper like gloves on the patrons as they scrub. My guy in particular seemed to relish digging his elbows into my back and scrubbing furiously to remove the top layer (or two) of my skin. And in the brief pauses between exfoliating me he would throw buckets of boiling water at my face. After the final rinse off, we were dressed up again like the last hamam I was in (but in a more manly fashion) and headed off to the well appointing cooling off room, with its recliners and beautiful domed space. I felt refreshed and relaxed, if slightly beaten up. If you are ever in Bursa, I highly recommend this hamam.
Since we needed to checkout from our hotel in Istanbul today anyway, Olaf and I decided to take a quick trip to a nearby city. My friend Emre suggested we check out Bursa, so we hastily booked a hotel (attached to the historic baths) and a boat trip. This morning the weather was pretty crappy with rain and the seas were a bit rough, with more than a few green faces to go around on the boat. We were supposed to then connect to a bus when we got to the port, but just hopped in a cab and made our expensive way to the hotel here, which is not exactly centrally located, but is rather on a hill about 7km from the town center. Pretty much everything about this place is just slightly off, but in a way that makes me giggle non stop. Even though it was recently renovated, the decor and feel of the place is very retro socialist chic, the kind of place I imagine politburo members would have vacationed to in the early 70s. As it is raining rather heavily, we decided we would wait til tomorrow to see the town, so we took a walk around the rather sad neighborhood we are in, treated ourselves to some kebab and the disbelieving stares of the locals. Later we will go to the historic baths (they are luckily included in the price of of our stay) and perhaps even agree to a vigorous scrubbing by some burly Bursian body worker, stay tuned.