MERİÇ FLOWS, SELİMİYE MESMERIZES: EDİRNE

EDİRNE MAKES ITS NAME HEARD OFTEN THANKS TO THE SELİMİYE MOSQUE, THE KIRKPINAR OIL WRESTLING COMPETITIONS, OUR BORDER CHECK-POINTS, AND ITS LOCATION THAT FACES WHERE TUNCA, ARDA AND MERİÇ RIVERS UNITE.

An Edirne Newspaper is hanging on the wall. The last stanza of a poem takes place on it: “Arda, Tunca, and Meriç flow how beautifully/ Selimiye looks into a mirror from here/ This beauty burns, it burns me too/ Beautiful Edirne is such a garden of roses…” A business card is attached to its corner: Clarinetist Serkan.

This is a place where the merry people gather, Çalgıcılar Kahvesi –Musicians’ Café. However, the country weddings that come one after another all summer long cease with the arrival of winter. The region that doesn’t accept weddings without the traditional entertainments becomes bare without the music of the Romans. Mostly Roman musicians who love to dance, their friends and fans, and old wrestlers visit this café. Their music accompanies the oil wrestling competitions. The musicians know well that the traditional weddings will begin once again right after the wheat is reaped. There used to be a bargain market called Bat (Sink) Pazarı, where the café is located today. According to the musicians, the name of the market comes from an idiom: “The sunken fish floats on its side.”

The city is more than a place just to stop by
Edirne had been the capital of the Ottoman Empire for 92 years after Bursa, before İstanbul. The city makes its name heard often thanks to the Selimiye Mosque, the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Competitions, our border check-points through which millions of people pass every year, and its location that faces where Tunca, Arda, and Meriç Rivers unite. History of Edirne that used to be called as “Der-i Saadet” (The Door to Happiness) during the times that the Ottomans used to organize their festivals is full of invasions, sieges, earthquakes, fires, and pain. The Russians invaded the city in 1829 and 1878 and so did the Bulgarians in 1913. The invasion of the Bulgarians was the result of the Balkan War where the biggest battles took place. Edirne that was invaded lastly by the Greek in 1920 has become the western border and the door to Europe of Turkey with the national fight. The city goes beyond more than being a place just to stop by with its structures dating from the Ottoman era, bridges, marketplaces, neighborhoods, churches and synagogues dating from the cosmopolite period, the holy Bahai House which was where the Bahaian leader Bahaullah stayed during the time of his exile in Edirne, coffeehouses, restaurants, and the Karaağaç district.

A tunnel of willow trees
You realize that you are in a city that is the only one of its kind as you pass the Meriç Bridge, where the marble mansion, from which the sultan used to watch the sunsets, is located. wide Lozan (Lausanne) Avenue, which is paved with cobblestones, that begins right after the bridge ends is impressive in all seasons. The willow trees that bend over the roadway on both sides create a white or sometimes green tunnel above your head. Turkey’s door to Europe, Edirne is enlivened by Tunca and Meriç rivers. The bridges over the rivers take you to Lozan Avenue, also known as the Karaağaç Way. Karaağaç welcomes you with its wide streets and colorful single homes after you travel through this wide cobblestone roadway and the Söğütlük (Willow Grove) Forest Park. Karaağaç is the only piece of land that belongs to Turkey in the west of Meriç River, which acts as a natural border between Turkey and Greece. Lausanne Peace Treaty defined the western borders of Turkey. Karaağaç had been retrieved as a part of Edirne on September 15, 1923.

Station: Adrinople
Vegetables that are sold in the Edirne marketplace come from Karaağaç, which is positioned to take advantage of the abundance of Meriç River where the city’s greenhouses and gardens are located. You cannot keep your eyes off the Karaağaç homes, which seem like they just jumped out of fairytales with their pink, yellow, lilac, and blue colors. These homes used to belong to the Italian, Bulgarian, and Ottoman-Greek families that used to live in here. Trakya (Thracian) University’s Rectorate Building welcomes you at the end of Lozan Avenue. In this location there used to be the famous Karaağaç Train Terminal back in the days. Passengers who arrived here had great time at the recreational centers and hotels of the neighborhood. “Adrinople” is inscribed on the wall of the Karaağaç train station. This place was the home of Italians, French, Greeks, and Germans in the 19th century. Today’s Rectorate Building of Trakya University is not the old Karaağaç Train Terminal. The construction of today’s building was suspended after the Balkan War and the WWI and was completed after the Republic.

Nostalgic Edirne
Kaleiçi (inner castle) is the oldest settlement in town; it is as if the Edirne of the old times. Kaleiçi used to be a large neighborhood where the non-Muslims lived. When the Ottomans came, they settled outside this neighborhood and established the first palace in the vicinity, which is located between today’s Selimiye and the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography. Kaleiçi is the busiest settlement of Edirne today. The Kırkpınar Cultural House that exhibits the 644 years old history of the Kırkpınar competitions and the portraits of the wrestlers is here. Only one bastion out of four that are located on four corners of the castle that surrounds Kaleiçi, which had been through battles and fires and had found a way to revive each time, remains standing today. The place that has given its name to the district is in ruins today. It is also called Clock Tower.

Along the Tunca River
Sarayiçi is the vicinity through which the Tunca River flows. It is also the place where the Edirne Palace, which was exploded by the Turks in 1877 so the Russians would not take hold of the armory here, was established by Murat II. Ruins of the Hammam and a tower, which is known as the Justice Pavilion, are the only remnants of the palace. The Balkan War Cemetery and the stadium where the Kırkpınar wrestling competitions take place are nearby. The Health Museum located in the Bayezid II Social Complex is noteworthy. The social complex consists of a hospital, a madrasah of medicine, a guesthouse, a mosque, a food bank, and a bridge. The architect of Bayezid II’s palace Hayrettin had built it between the years of 1484 and 1488. This place is accepted as the largest social complex that was constructed for both the physical and mental welfare of the Ottomans. The services with social, cultural, and religious aspects held here demonstrate the health and social aid approach of the period. Music, water sounds, and scents were used for treatments in the hospital’s inpatient treatment section.

The city of beautiful mosques and bazaars
The oldest mosque of Edirne dating from the Ottomans is the Eski Mosque that draws attention with the huge calligraphies that takes place on both sides of its front entrance. Bedesten, which is the first covered bazaar of Edirne, is right next to it. The Muradiye Mosque, which is famous with its tiles and location on a hill that faces the Tunca River and Sarayiçi, is worth seeing. The vicinity of the Sokullu Pasha Hammam is the liveliest place of Edirne in the mornings. The mosque is accepted as a milestone because it reflects the transformation from Seljuk to Ottoman architecture. Its courtyard was an innovation for its time. It houses a fountain, which is surrounded by marble pillars that were taken from the structures dating from the Roman period. Mimar Sinan had built the Rüstem Pasha Caravansary. Ali Pasha Covered Bazaar had been among the most colorful places of Edirne’s trade business in the 16th and the 17th centuries.

The star of Edirne
For the last four hundred years, each person who has crossed the Yalnızgöz Bridge built by Mimar Sinan saw the Selimiye Mosque at one end and the Bayezid II Social Complex at the other. Edirne’s life dynamics are different; bridges and rivers are important parts of this picture. No matter which street you enter in Edirne, you feel that you are under the power and influence of the Selimiye’s gaze. When Mimar Sinan completed the Selimiye Mosque he was 84. He used to refer the mosque as his mastership work. It is believed that the mosque that was constructed between 1569 and 1575 was built in Edirne because of Selim II’s special interest in Edirne or the unavailability of suitable lots or hills to build such a large mosque in İstanbul. The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Dar-ül Tedris Madrasah located in the courtyard of the mosque is noteworthy.

A look at the mother-in-law through the mirror
Entering to the magnificent courtyard of the Selimiye by passing through Arasta is a very different kind of pleasure. Before beginning to climb up the old stone steps of the bazaar, one walks through the stands full of almond paste, fruit soaps with their wonderful smells, and brooms with mirrors. Every courtesan in harems used to use a unique perfume that corresponded to a fruit. Brooms with mirrors that used to symbolize pureness and beauty once upon a time have lost their meaning. When women cleaned their houses, they would look at their mother-in-laws through these mirrors to see whether they were satisfied or not. Again, women would look into these mirrors to beautify themselves before their husbands came home.

TASTE STOP
Try Edirne’s special dish pan-fried liver at Çiçek Tava.

PHOTO SPOT
Watch the Meriç either from a mansion as if you are a sultan or behind the vapor of a hot cup of coffee on a snowy winter day.