Return to Turkey: Bursa’s Museums – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  

You will remember from my last post that I started my day at the far end of the main street in Bursa, at the Green Tomb. Interspersed between the tombs and mosques of Bursa are several interesting museums, which I crammed all into a single day. I am told that I cover an insane amount of ground…

The Turkish Islamic Museum of Arts fills several tiny rooms surrounding an open air courtyard. There is an extensive array of artifacts, each room seems to be themed with either the type of item (coins) or the items’ usage (prayer items). Assuming that a catalog does not wait for me at the end, I start photographing items.

Below are a selection of ink cases, coffee roasters and coins.

Some of my favorite turbans.

Porcelains in glass cases in the courtyard, dating between the 10th-13th centuries.

And now I have attracted the attention of one of the security guards. I am writing notes, and in spite of the language barrier, I figure out that he’s asking me not to lean on the glass. I point to my camera to make sure photography is allowed. “Yes,” he nods. I continue to photograph everything, which continues to rouse their curiosity.  I take a last look to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and wave goodbye. 

As I am standing just outside the entrance with my nearly useless map, trying to figure out where next to go, the youngest guard runs up to me and presents me with an English language Bursa City Guide.  “A gift,” he beams. I thank him profusely and sit down with it for the next 20 minutes. Small gestures make such a big difference, and this is gesture #3…

Next up is the Cultural Museum, previously a dervish lodge and then a library, now houses a collection of costumes and textiles. I wander around, completely alone, no guards or attendants in sight. Sunlight streams through the windows and reflects off the cases, which makes photography difficult. I also wonder about UV damage, especially to the metallic thread embroideries. Fully costumed mannequins will be posted soon to August Phoenix Hats.

Shown below are two bridal headdress pieces, a belt buckle and a pair of chopines, worn in Turkish baths (hamam).

Silver-worked embroidery, a petit point embroidery, shears and a loom beater that I would become acquainted with in Morocco.

A tea set, and a silver Qu’ran holder that would hang on a wall in your home.

I visited the Silk Bazaar, built in 1491, stocked to the ceiling with every type of silk scarf, apparel and towel you could possibly imagine. A small import shop at the entrance of another bazaar attracts my attention. I should have bought a lamp here but did not, and the filigree belts which the clerk pulls off the wall en masse for me, also sadly stay behind. Other bazaars sell modern goods for the locals and cheap trinkets for everyone else.

I tour the 17th century Ottoman House Museum, believed to be the birthplace of Sultan Mehmed. Note the double decker stairway and the center-pivot windows.

The “Receiving Room for Gentlemen Guests” features both a fireplace and a brazier. At upper right is a detail shot of the upholstery, at lower right the built in bookcase below a marquetry ceiling. I saw similar bookcases at the Topkapi in Istanbul.

I find the Uluumay Ottoman Costume and Jewelry Museum just minutes before it is scheduled to close. The curator gives me a personal tour of room after room of costumes, textiles, jewelry and other artifacts that he has been collecting for the past 50 years. It is housed in an old Ottoman school, only large enough to exhibit a quarter of his collection. Completely accessorized mannequins of folk costumes from all over Central Asia and the Balkans, are displayed on turntables in glassed off sections of the room. Photography is not allowed and of course these things have not been cataloged. But the presentation is exquisite and had I had more time, I would have asked to sit and sketch things. The Hurriyet published an article about this museum the year after I was there.

I head back up the hill to the hotel and find dinner at a kebab place about a block away. Traffic is insane. Motorcycles hop off and onto the sidewalks. Right of way seems to go to whoever is fearless enough to take it. In Istanbul there are crosswalks and walk signals, but those are a rarity here. Women with children and strollers take the same risks and are awarded the same care as anyone else. By the end of the day, I find myself running in front of cars and buses, not being assured that I would make it across the street…

I spend the rest of the evening wandering around the residential areas, admiring the architecture. I have figured out the high-speed ferry, a 2 hour trip which will return me to Istanbul tomorrow morning.

2 thoughts on “Return to Turkey: Bursa’s Museums – The Director’s Cut

  1. Wonderful, as always! These “Director’s Cuts” are a treasure! I think I’ll go make some Turkish coffee now!


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