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Íznik, Türkiye

I doubt that any of my readers have heard of Íznik before, let alone included it on their real or potential itineraries around Türkiye. When people think about Turkish destinations beyond Istanbul, what comes to mind is Cappadocia, the Turquoise Coast, or maybe Safranbolu or Pamukkale. Hardly ever anything in the Marmara region of the country.

But all of those great destinations require non-trivial travel from Istanbul, and I did not want to introduce additional flights into my plans. Instead, I rented a car for a couple of days of driving around Marmara, with Bursa as the main destination. Initially, I was thinking of circumnavigating the Marmara Sea, which would allow me to visit Gallipoli and Troy, but that would require me to spend roughly five times as much on driving as I would on sightseeing. I eventually sensibly pared down my plans, extending my stay in Bursa and including a half-day stop in Íznik.

Which happens to be nominated for this year’s World Heritage inscription. The town has a relatively illustrious history going back to Roman times, it was a capital of a couple of pre-Ottoman political entities, and it has been a center of tile production for several centuries. Getting another tick on my WH roster – even in a delayed fashion – certainly elevated Íznik’s profile for my plans.

The vestiges of the Roman times are best seen in the remains of the walls around the historic city gates, of which the eastern Lefke Gate is the most impressive, in my opinion.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
The northern Istanbul Gate presents a few similar features, while the southern Yenişehir Gate is the most fortress-like and also more visually muted.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
There is also a Roman Theater within the town’s boundaries, not accessible during my visit with some work going on in the enclosure.
Iznik
The tentative WH inscription names a number of structures in Íznik, one of the most important of which is Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine-era church last rebuilt in the 11th century and converted to a mosque in the 14th.
Iznik
The spartan interior both showcases the age of the church and exhibits a small number of decorative features from different eras.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
The most lovely of Íznik’s mosques is the Green Mosque, built in the 14th century along with several other major edifices.
Iznik
Iznik
The eye-catching exterior is a bit at odds with a much simpler interior, but then a provincial mosque is never likely to be too opulent.
Iznik
Iznik
One other mosque on the list that I stepped into is Mahmut Çelebi Mosque. It looks more ordinary from the outside but is slightly more ornately decorated than the Green Mosque.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
One of the oldest soup kitchens in the Ottoman world (also mid-14th-century), Nilüfer Hatun İmareti has been recently renovated and nowadays is home to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts which is sometimes identified as simply “the Íznik Museum”.
Iznik
I was the only visitor, outnumbered one to three by the attendants, one of whom actually turned on the lights in the building for me and then rejoined his coworkers in their meal by the ticket gates. The compact and well-curated collection covers the history of the town and the region and its most enduring craft – the production of ceramics and pottery.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
There is also a dedicated Tile Museum in Íznik which did not fit into my allotted time to see the town.

Beyond these defined points of interest, Íznik is more or less a typical Turkish provincial town. It is possible that attaining a full WH status will bring an avalanche of visitors to Íznik, but on the day I was there, I could have as well been on another planet as compared to the commotion of Istanbul. A tourist with a big camera attracted quite a few curious looks – and several “Where are you from?” inquiries, a couple of them executed via Google Translate on the phone. Not too many photographic perspectives of the streets attracted the attention of the said tourist.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
There were a few murals – the ones that I captured best all covered the walls of a single building.
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
Iznik
And here is the view of Íznik from a distance.
Iznik
As well as wider perspectives of the eponymous lake from an elevated point outside of town.
Iznik
Iznik
I spent about 3 hours in Íznik, which included a sit-down breakfast. Visiting the Tile Museum could have extended it by another hour or so. It is less than two hours by car from Istanbul and less than an hour from Bursa, where we will go next.

On a side note, I have used the correct Turkish spelling of the town’s name in this post even as I continue to use the anglicized version of Istanbul throughout this series. Capital “I” denotes a different sound in the Turkish language which does not have an equivalent in English, whereas the “Í” is the actual sound we make when saying “Istanbul” or “Iznik”.