Saturday, August 04, 2007

Escape to Nicaea: The Capital of Tiles

Last weekend, on Sunday, it was shining and hottest time in a year. We decided to visit Iznik town with my family which is on my wish-list for some time long. Now, lets start firstly how to getting there...

The best way to visit Iznik is with a ferry that is much faster option than travelling on road. Taking a catamaran ferry over the Sea of Marmara, see map here, we came to lovely Yalova town within 40 minutes. Then we re-started directly driving off Iznik. Upon having a travel of appr. 3 hrs departed from home Istanbul, we ended up it with a safely arrival to Iznik. Our travelling by road gave us a chance to travel the beautiful valley by tracking and viewing plenty of interesting places at the Lake of Iznik. What can I say? Amazing nature with olive trees and hot springs, and small villages made me thinking for one moment as if I was in the gardens of paradise. What a superb feeling...

Iznik is a lovely ancient town surrounded by colossal walls on the shores of the Lake of Iznik in the province of ''Green'' Bursa in the northwestern part of Anatolia, where is ~80 km away from the City center. Population of Iznik is only 34,000 that was enough to surround myself in peace and quiet when arrived to this small town. Less people less traffic jam when compared to the huge population of City Istanbul I live. Even though it was for only one-day stay here but it was worth to be.

Iznik in History
It was found by Antigonius Monophtalmos, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, in 316 BC. The town was named as Antigonia after him. Then Lysimakhos, who seized the town, named it after his wife Nikaia. Iznik's story goes back to antiquity. Originally an important Roman and Byzantine town. One of the rarest ancient and historical cites of the world since prehistoric times. It has played an important role in the world and also Turkish culture, being the best known for the two Ecumenical Councils held here in the early Christian Era, and for the Iznik ware tiles and ceramics produced during the Ottoman period.

Claims to Fame
The town is a relic from its colorful past: full of archeological and etnographical remains from its Roman, Byzantium, Seljukian and Ottoman past. Firstly we started taking a tour around the historic town walls with a magnificient view in the center. We then visited for the remarkable monuments belonging to many civilizations. I would like to underline that Iznik still preserves its characteristics of an ''Open Air Museum''. I completely understand that's why Iznik is proclaimed as an historical urban place to be a heritage site!

After that, in this illustrious town we visited the ruins of St Sophia Church, the seat of first Ecumenical Council of 325, which shows the images of convening bishops and clergy. The Church of St Sophia is sacred because VII th Council assembled here in 787.

Later on, we did our next visit for the Roman theatre and also for ancient four gates, which they are known today as Istanbul, Gol, Yenisehir and Lefke Gates. In Iznik there are many tombs and mosques that gives us an idea about the unique architecture of the Ottoman period. Some of the famous mosques of the Ottoman period are found in Iznik. The Green Mosque (Turkish: Yesil Cami) is the most famous one. It had been built by Haci Musa. The arch of the door and the minaret had been built with coloured (blue and green) marble pieces.

Our last stop to visit was Nilufer Hatun Imaret. Imaret in Turkish means as the soup kitchen which was used to serve for the poor people in the past. However this building is used today as a City Museum.

Iznik Tiles It is for certain that the beauty and magic of the area captured our hearts! It would not be complete if I do not mention about the marvelous world-famous glazed tiles. Because Iznik is ''Iznik'' with those hand-made tiles. The tiles have a clean white base. Its exquisite beauty lies in the three successive layers of semi-precious stones, especially quartz and quartzite. They have a hard back. The opaque quality of the glaze gives a relaxing effect. The colors resemble successfully with those of the stones like lapis lazuli, the coral, the turquoise and the emerald. There are mostly floral designs on the tiles. The main reason contributes to its beauty is that they are extremely durable and adaptable for any ornamental and architectural model.

This flourishing pottery art of Iznik had gained a great popularity during the Ottoman rule, that has also influenced European Arts. All Ottoman handcrafts became famous ones and often ordered. Giving an example, Sir Harry Garner in discussing Iznik Tiles and ceramics of the 16th century, remarks that ''The Turkish pottery from Iznik can claim to be the most decorative and colorful pottery ever made.'' As a result, tiles and potteries from Iznik occupies an important significance within the fine selection arts of both Turkish and world museums. Regarding Iznik Tiles and Ceramics, check out here for the full of scoop.

Sister Cities for Iznik
Do you know that Iznik has got 2-sister cities one in Germany and other in Greece for to be known as worldwide? They are:

(Germany) Spandau - Berlin since 01.May.1987
(Greece) Larissa - Thessaly since 03.Feb.2001

Before Leaving Iznik It was fun and delicious dining out at a lakeside restaurant while a superb and magnificient sunset accompanies us.

I did some shopping at a lovely Tiles&Ceramics Store, where I felt in love with the great colors and beautiful ornamentation of the Tiles on sale and -as you can easily guess- I spent more time inside than planned because... click here to see why;) In the end, I left store with several souvenirs, pendant necklace and decorative plates made from famous Iznik Tiles.

Briefly we had a great time! Though it is a small location to visit, Iznik surely made an unforgettable place in my memory as one of the most endearing spots. I was seriously thinking by myself on our returning way to home, why I have been late so far to pay a visit for Iznik? As it is said, that I too believe, ''Better late than never.''


  1. Beautiful photos & great history. So good to see you active on line again
    Sam / USA

  2. Nicaea gezimiz
    Gercekten de daha once neden gitmedik dedirten bir gezi oldu...Iznik, turistik acidan cok zengin ve etkileyici bir yer...Roma'daki gibi bozuk para atmadik cesmesine, ama bir kez daha gidecegimiz kesin gibi :)))