Life is taking quite a toll on me these days; between work and classes, I don’t have much time left to myself hence the lack of posts. But last Sunday, wanting to escape the daily routine, I skipped classes (yes I know) and jumped on a train with one of my friends to Eskişehir. Eskişehir is one of only two cities (the other being Konya) which has the newly introduced fast train connection from Ankara. The Istanbul-Ankara route will be opened in the coming weeks from what I hear and there are plans in place a Izmir-Ankara route. Things are definitely improving around here.
Meant to be a relaxing day away from the buzz of Ankara, we had no real plan for the day. We thought it would be a refreshing change to just walk around the city rather than make a strict and stressful itinerary to try and see all the sights the city offers. Out of the train station, we headed to one of the few cafés opened – we reached there quite early in the morning and by the looks of it, Eskişehir is quite a slow starter on Sundays. I’ve quite grown a liking for Turkish breakfast and it was quite a hearty one we had accompanied with orange, carrot and apple juice (quite an interesting combo) and of course, TEA.
By the time we were finished, the bare streets of before had been filled with crowds also out to enjoy a nice day out with their families, most of them coming down to the cafés for a big family breakfast, which seems to be quite the tradition here in Turkey. Some had already started indulging in the gondola rides along the Porsuk river which runs through the city centre.
We headed to Odunpazarı, the historical part of the city which features both Ottoman and Seljuk structures, including lovely pastel-shaded traditional houses, most of which have been restored and now enjoy a protected heritage status. We walked towards the Kurşunlu Mosque, built in 1492, whose courtyard now is used by the locals for a place to just sit and spend some time together. The mosque architecture was no different from the other mosques I have visited so far in Turkey but I quite liked the rock structures incorporated.
Parallel to the mosque is the former Islamic school, part of which has now been converted to the Museum of Meerchaum where carved handicrafts from white rock found in the region are displayed. The other rooms are used as display rooms by local artisans.
There also is a Sema ceremony hall filled with people hoping to see the Whirling Dervishes, a miniature version of what I saw in Konya. We skipped this part as there were too many people and went on to see the other display rooms. Behind the mosque is quite a small but lovely garden which is also the burial place of one of the semazen who had come to Konya to spread the Sema tradition at the word of Rumi. We had a little chat with the gardener who himself had been a semazen; he showed us quite a good spot to watch the sema ceremony, away from the crowd.
We weaved our way through the old Ottoman neighbourhoods and reached a graveyard (yes this was quite the morbid trip), where some relatives of some Ottoman ruler was also buried. We went into his sepulchre to pay our respects as we did for the others we went to before him. There was an old couple there reading some verses from the Qu’ran so we sat down and listened as they read. They came up to talk to us afterwards, seeing that we were obviously not locals – my fiddling with the map must have given it away – and offered to take us to Şelale Parkı (Waterfall Park) which was our next destination. It’s apparently quite normal to meet random people at a graveyard and get into their car without asking any questions. And I’m still alive to tell the tale. We were quite grateful for the lift; the park is found at the top of a hill so it would have taken quite a lot of stamina to get up there. It was quite spectacular at the top, with a 360 degree view of the whole city.
Next, the Museum of Contemporary Glass Art where the couple dropped us. This has to be my favourite place in Eskişehir. This museum is a first in Turkey, showcasing the work of both Turkish and foreign artists. We even fell upon a photography exhibition which was on at the time.
Next to the museum is the Wax Museum. Whilst it’s nothing compared to Madame Tussauds, it offered quite an introspective on Turkish history and culture.
I, of course, couldn’t leave without visiting the Archaeological Museum where artefacts, coins and house items from Hittite, Phrygian and Classical Antiquity and more recently Seljuk and Ottoman periods, recovered from excavation sites in the region, are on display.
I slept throughout the whole ride back home and I could barely feel my feet with the amount of walking we had done but Eskişehir provided quite the relaxing day out I had needed, although I wouldn’t go back anytime soon.