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A WORLD APART BURSA'S HISTORIC HEART
2002 / MARCH

The historic heart of the city of Bursa is like a time capsule where the past coexists with the present. Historic mosques, commercial exchanges or hans, and a covered bazaar, are linked by alleys and narrow streets enclosed by great stone walls which echo with memories of the past. They conceal the story of an old city reluctantly carried on the current of time towards the future. Tracking down this story, partly by knowledge and partly by instinct, I followed clues hidden in this area of the city. The old downtown area where shops still sell Bursa's traditional tiles, silks, knives, and Karagöz and Hacývat shadow puppets lies close to the square known as Heykel Meydan and right behind Ulu Mosque. Visitors and locals not only come here to shop, but also for the pure pleasure of strolling through the streets, soaking in the atmosphere. Bursa was capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1326 until 1365, and remained one of the most important centres of the empirsan international trade, and this part of the city best reflects this thriving trade.

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A WORLD APART BURSA'S HISTORIC HEART
2002 / MARCH

But lovers of art, architecture and above all literature are also drawn here, and can be found deep in conversation in small rooms in the hans, or seated in one of the peaceful courtyards shaded by chestnut trees. 'What moments, O what moments / Dust moments, summit moments / From Prusa to Bursa / Hidden times: Hans.' So writes Turkish poet, writer and translator Ramis Dara who has been living in Bursa for many years now. He will tell you that it was sitting in the tranquil courtyards of the hans that his love of the city deepened. How can he forget the places where he experienced loves, separations, and new loves, where he photographed blossom bedecked branches of Spanish lilac, and pocketed horse chestnuts that had fallen on the table when the writer Hulki Aktunç told him they brought good luck? Can he forget the delicious sharp flavour of Ali Efendi's sour grape juice? Or the tiny shop with its window filled with notices of literary events owned by Bedriye Haným, a poetess and subscriber to every amateur literature magazine published in Turkey?

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A WORLD APART BURSA'S HISTORIC HEART
2002 / MARCH
Bursa Literature Festival is held nearby in Tayyare Cultural Centre, and after the discussions and talks Ramis Dara invites his friends for glasses of strong tea in the courtyard. All these have bound him in deep affection to Koza Han and its environs.
Koza Han is still a thriving shopping centre, as it has been for centuries. It was built in 1491 by the architect Abdul-ulâ bin Pulad Þah for Sultan Bayezid II, as an endowment providing income for the mosque and medreses the sultan had founded in Istanbul. The han has a total of 95 rooms, most of them occupied by shops selling silk goods, which is appropriate since in past centuries Koza Han, or Chrysalis Exchange, was the centre of the city's silk trade. Merchants came to Bursa from all over the world, particularly from Florence, whose merchants spearheaded the rapidly expanding trade with the East and whose artists shaped the Renaissance. From the late 15th century onwards the Florentine merchants stepped up their activities, as proven by the account books they kept in Bursa.Koza Han is renowned for its miniature pavilion mosque
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A WORLD APART BURSA'S HISTORIC HEART
2002 / MARCH

raised upon pillars above the fountain in the courtyard. This picturesque octagonal structure with its leaded dome, which appears in almost every photograph of the building, is still open to worship today. Entering the building from the north you are struck first by the great stone portal with its carved decoration in relief. Another of Bursa's hans and the oldest in the city is Emirhan, built by Sultan Orhan (1324-1362), where the ground floor is occupied mainly by goldsmiths. Although it seems to be part of the Ulu Mosque complex, in fact this exchange belongs to the complex of Orhan Mosque 200 metres away. Just down the hill from Ulu Mosque is another exchange built for silk merchants, Ipek Han, which also provided them with accommodation. The courtyard is shaded by four planes and a linden tree. Fidan Han, the Sapling Exchange, was founded by Grand Vezir Mahmut Paþa for the trade in young trees, and appropriately boasts the most greenery as well as being the best preserved of the old exchanges.

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A WORLD APART BURSA'S HISTORIC HEART
2002 / MARCH

Times have changed, and Bursa's fortune is no longer made by silk and fruit trees. The silk merchants of yesteryear - Hacý Sabri, Derviþyan, Koyuncuyan and Morukyan - are names that mean nothing to younger generations. Perhaps the only memorial to the once celebrated Bursa cutlers is a poem by Niyazi Akýncýoðlu: 'The first time I read your name / Was on the dagger of that scoundrel Rasim / When I was a child. / On the hilt made from antler horn / I first heard of Bursa. / Remzi, Cutler, it wrote.' Like the old crafts the Karagöz shadow play, whose characters originated in Bursa according to legend, is trying to compete in a world whirling at Internet speed.
This area of historic markets and exchanges, where time weaves cobwebs in dusty corners, cares nothing for the new plaza just a short distance away, where the sunlight dances on the glistening glass pyramid.

* Ersin Toker is a freelance writer

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