Bursa – Home of the Iskendar Kebap

Iskendar Kebap, Bursa, Turkey, Ulu Mosque

It turns out that following the guy in the bad suit, wasn’t such a bad idea after all. He walked us right to the guest house we had chosen, the Otel Gunes in Central Bursa, talked with the family that ran the place to make sure they had a room and then shook my hand and gave a merry wave before heading off. This kind of kindness from strangers we found to be common in Turkey and unlike in Morocco, the strangers didn’t ask us for anything. They didn’t ask for our phone numbers, emails, for us to visit their uncle’s carpet shops, about starting a business, or anything else. Turkey is the home to unpremeditated kindness that isn’t looking for something in return.

The owners of the Otel showed us the room, gave us chocolates and juice, and told us we could bring our passports down to check in after we were settled and comfortable. They were a nice old Muslim family and Hanane was still getting used to the fact that no one cared if we were married or not. As soon as she saw they were Muslim she wanted me to pull out the marriage certificate and she made sure to tell them we were married. They smiled and said congratulations. Not all Muslim’s are such harsh judges as those in Morocco. Thank God.
Street scene in Bursa, Ulu Mosque
In any event, the Otel Gunes was fantastic and lived up to the Lonely Planet description as Bursa’s best budget pension. The double room was very clean and cost us 40 lira for the night. After we had checked in, I got a text from Alp that said there had been a big riot in Bursa and he wanted to make sure we were safe. It turns out that six people were stabbed in a coffee house and this led to an ethnic riot between Kurds and Turks. The whole thing started with one family insulting another and since one of them was Kurdish and the other Turkish, the whole community got involved and it ended up with thousands of people fighting with police and burning vehicles.

Bursa Riot, kid in Bursa, Iskendar Kid
This little guy was the only riot we saw in Bursa. He popped up at our table when we were having Iskendar Kebap.

Apparently it was all over by the time we got there because we never saw a thing. In the evening we decided to take a stroll and the owner of the hotel gave us a Bursa guidebook in English. We wandered down the streets to the Ulu Mosque (Cadii) which made me giggle as i translated Ulu to Hawaiian and came up with the Breadfruit Mosque. A nice name. I found all kinds of Hawaiian words inside the Turkish language. It made me feel very comfortable.
Bursa, Turkey, Turkey Travel, Turkey tourism, Ulu Mosque
In fact though, we didn’t go in the Ulu Mosque which was built by Yildirim Beyazit around 1309 AD. It had lots of domes in the Seljuk style on the outside though.

Instead we strolled down the street from one end of Attaturk Cadissi to the other looking in shops, checking out the small stores in the underpasses that go under the busy street, and looking for the right place to get an Iskendar Kebap.
tourism in Bursa, Turkey
It struck me as funny that this meal was recommended by just about everyone, especially when they heard we were coming to Bursa. It’s named for Iskender Efendi who ‘invented’ it. In essence it’s doner (thin cut meat) cooked in tomato sauce, put on top of some pide bread, and then covered with creamy yogurt and/or butter. People become seriously passionate about it. In fact, the original restaurant started by Efendi in Bursa trademarked the name since everyone else makes it. The only restaurant in Bursa that can legally serve “Iskendar kebap” is called Iskendar. We found them, but they had just closed. So instead we found another place that was filled with locals who looked very happy and we had the ‘Bursa Kebap” which is the same exact thing as Iskendar but about half the price. “Iskendar Kebap” is 20-25 lira and a “Bursa Kebap’ is 8-10 lira.

bursa kebap, iskendar kebap, bursa, Turkey, Turkish food

All I can say is that it was delicious! I thought after all the hype I would be disappointed but I wasn’t. I have to wonder if the actual “Iskendar” can be any better than the delicious meal I had.

And that’s actually all we did in Bursa- aside from me somehow losing Hanane’s camera case. We then went back to the Otel Gunes and went to sleep then woke up in the morning and caught the bus back to the Otogar.

News Reporter

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook