Write: Melih Uslu Photos: Derşan Sezer
A beach town in Bursa Province, Mudanya is an ideal summer getaway spot with its Mütareke neighborhood, Ottoman mansions, magnificent train station, and historical villages like Tirilye and Siği.
Situated on the most beautiful beach where the Gulf of Gemlik opens out onto the Marmara Sea, Mudanya was built at the feet of hills covered in vineyards and olive gardens. The district, which was controlled by Persia, Macedonia, Bithynia, and Byzantium historically, gained importance when Bursa became the Ottoman capital. One of the visitors this district, which at first glance reminds one of Italian seaside towns, has welcomed is the world-famous author Ernest Hemingway. The author came to the district in 1922 and wrote about Mudanya for the Toronto Daily Star. We start touring this district, which was in those years an important harbor for the silk trade, from its wharf.
Station of the Seagulls
The train station by the wharf of Mudanya, one of the gulf’s liveliest spots, has an interesting story. This eye-catching building was constructed by the French in 1849 as a customs warehouse. It was turned into a train station a quarter of a century later. However, because the Mudanya–Bursa railway could not be connected to the newer lines, it gradually fell out of favor and was turned into a warehouse. Today, this elegant building is a touristic draw. Starting from the shore, which is lined by tea gardens, restaurants, and pastry shops, we walk toward the neighborhood of Mütareke (“Armistice”). Our first stop in this area, in which one finds houses characteristic of Mudanya, is Mütareke Museum. On display in this building, which is where the famous ceasefire between the Turkish government and the allied nations was signed on October 11, 1922, are objects, handwritten documents, and official documents related to the armistice. The buildings in the area provide hints as to daily life in the region. The ground floors of the three-story stone homes house fireplaces and olive cellars. Olive oil used to be produced at home, but this tradition has long been forgotten. The low-ceilinged second floors used to be employed for sericultural activities, and the high-ceiling third floors were for the residential use of the house’s inhabitants. As these houses are terraced houses and have no gardens, a cultural habit of sitting and socializing on porches developed. This tradition, which enables deep coffee-fueled chats, still continues today.
A Paradise of Fish and Herbs
Should you come to Mudanya in spring or summer, you are sure to be thrilled by olive oil-based appetizers made with the herbs “uruvez,” black-eyed peas, golden thistle, and field poppies. Fish, too, is quite reasonably priced and extremely delicious here. Having come this far, you would do well to visit Siği, or Kumyaka as it is now known. The village materializes before us like a postcard as we go down a gentle slope. In it are a tiny, adorable harbor; colorful boats; centuries-old stone houses; and olive, fig, and lemon trees. It is said that Siği was founded as far back as 220 BC. The town still preserves its original Ottoman-era architectural character. The old houses spread out on narrow, quiet hills in this region—where Turks and non-Muslims lived together amicably for many long years—are quite valuable. Siği, whose name means “tranquility,” is home to the Church of Taxiarchon (also Archangels), which is among the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in Anatolia. The village, which serves as a natural outdoor film set, also has some quiet coves near it that are suitable for swimming in the sea. A long tea break you might take in the village coffee house sheltered in the shade of an old sycamore is the perfect cure for all sorts of weariness. And, if you wish, you could rent a boat and fish for scad and minnows. The iodine-rich air of the region is clean enough to suggest it as therapy to people who suffer from respiratory illnesses—and furthermore, even on the hottest days of summer, it is slightly breezy and cool.
The Assos of the Future
After Siği, we head out to Tirilye, another Mudanya jewel. Built on the two slopes of an olive-tree covered valley, the town was once the area’s most important harbor. Tirilye (then Triglia) was renowned for the quality of its olives and grapes when it was held by the Genoese in the 13th century. In 1330, it was incorporated into Ottoman lands. Said to be named after the striped red mullet caught frequently in the area (“triglia di scoglio” in Italian), the town is roughly ten kilometers from Mudanya. The first thing that strikes one’s eye in this town, which is reached by descending down a gentle slope just like Siği, is the tile-roofed terraced houses seemingly covered by the giant roof of a single house. The first building to stand out from outside these shades of crimson, on the other hand, is Fatih Mosque. One enters this house of worship, which was converted in 1516 from a circa eighth-century church into a mosque, by passing through a magnificent portico. The decorations at the heads of the four marble columns in the courtyard and the fountain by the front-side wall are quite worth seeing. If one leaves here for Eskipazar Avenue and continues onward, a giant stone building will be seen in the right. This magnificent neoclassical building, which was built in the early 1900s, is known in the region as “Taş Mektep,” or Stone Academy. The building has been used for several purposes since it was built. Its cafeteria was, at one time, used as a concert hall. Continuing up the street right next to it, one comes across another interesting building: Dündar House. The façade ornamentation of the building, which is entered via an arched exterior portal, is still visible. Further ahead is the historic Kemerli Church. Tirilye, with its long seaside strip, wharf, spacious beach, fish restaurants, centuries-old houses, and historic houses of worship, truly deserves an excellent future. After a history-soaked stroll through the side streets, one would do well to head toward the fish restaurants on İskele Avenue. One of the offerings presented to us at the restaurant we visit, which is decorated in the style of traditional Turkish houses, is the famous Tirilye olive. Bearing a small seed, ample flesh, and a high level of oil, this olive possesses well-deserved fame with its intense flavor and lingering aroma—just like the area’s fish, sea, and air.
Giritli House on the Mudanya shoreline stands out with its deep red window blinds.
Various decorative elements add color to the buildings in the region.
Rice pudding à la mode is served in copper vessels at local cafes.
The local fishing boats set out for sea in the early hours of the morning.
The Dolphins Statue at the Loading & Unloading Dock in Mudanya.
The Mudanya Martyrs’ Memorial was built in honor of the soldiers who resisted the occupation in the 1920s.
You can track down the famous treaty of 1922 in the Armistice Museum.
Seafood is the specialty of the restaurants lining the shore of Kumyaka.
The Church of the Archangel in Kumyaka was built in the eighth century.
The doorways and windows of the local houses are decorated with pots filled with flowers.
Homemade jams and colorful soaps are sold at local stores.
The cradle-vaulted Church of the Archangel was built using stone and brick.
Fatih Mosque in Tirilye stands out for its elegant column heads.
The tile-roofed mosque of Kumyaka Village was opened to prayer in 1985.
Nostalgic items in a dumpling restaurant in Tirilye.
Fatih Mosque was converted from a church after the Ottomans conquered Tirilye.
The shoreline of Tirilye is renowned for its clean sea and expansive beaches.
The village market in Tirilye is very rich in products made with olives.
Some of the historical mansions in Tirilye have been turned into boutique hotels.
The calm beaches of Tirilye offer a holiday in the bosom of nature.
A nice cup of coffee in a terraced Tiriyle house is the perfect solution for all the things that might tire you.
Eateries in Tirilye present original menus to their guests.
The narrow streets of Tirilye are filled with memories of the past.
The original essence of the restored historical houses in Tirilye has been preserved.
The local markets and bazaars notably possess a diverse selection of items that make perfect gifts.
The three-story houses of Tirilye bear traces of Ottoman architecture.