As you may now, CosmopoliDad Fatih has Turkish roots and some of his relatives still live in Turkey. We went to visit them in Eskişehir, a large city located in between Ankara and Istanbul. Sure, we had been to Istanbul and the popular tourist resorts on the coast many years ago. But for me it was the first encounter with a true Turkish city. And for the girls it was their first visit to Turkey altogether. Eskişehir has a modern side but also a historic one: colorful Odunpazarı.
Modern and vibrant city center
Eskişehir literally means ‘old city’ and it was named that way because it has existed for over 4000 years. It was often described as one of the most beautiful cities in Anatolia. Today, this progressive university city on the banks of the Porsuk river is in full expansion with many developments in progress and even more in the pipeline. We enjoyed this family time in Eskişehir and took the opportunity to explore this off-the-tourist-radar destination with our favorite locals. Yeah, you know who you are! 🙂
Historic and colorful Odunpazarı with kids
Apart from the modern structures and much to our delight, the city is home to a historic district as well. Colorful Odunpazarı, literally meaning ‘firewood market’, is where you’ll find the city’s old soul. This district is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list thanks to its Seljuk and Ottoman structures.
The hillside site has been developed around the 16the century Kursunlu Mosque and Social Complex consisting of seven sections, some of which are museums. These are the ones we visited with the girls:
- The Luletasi Müzesi or Meerschaum Museum, which is rather a large exposition of artefacts made out of meerschaum. This is a soft white mineral stone that has been used for thousands of years and is very typical for Eskişehir. The most stunning carvings in tobacco pipes are on display. And I was so impressed that I forgot to take pictures…
- The Sıcak Cam Üfleme Sanat Stüdyosu or Hot Glass Blowing Studio
- The Ahşap Eserler Müzesi or Wooden Works Museum. This mesmerizing setting is home to highly unique wooden art pieces. It is also the location for International Wood Sculpture Festival.
We found the museums to be pretty interesting for all ages. From the carved pipes over wooden sculptures to glass blowing, it was the tangible aspect that kept them fascinated.
As much as loved learning about the local art, the historic 19th century konaks or colorful Odunpazarı houses that are built around the Kursunlu complex, steal the show. It’s a treat to wander around the pastel-shaded streets and admire the houses with contrasting wood-framed shutters. It’s such a harmonious site. These historic residences are usually only 2 floors high but we found the exception to the rule.
Even though more and more tourists discover this stunning site, you can still get a real sense of the authenticity of this historic Turkish neighborhoods. It’s like walking in an open-air museum but one that is still as lively as it used to be with cafes and craftwork shops around every corner.
The picture-perfect site has been renovated building by building and street by street in the past few years. We only found a few houses that are in still their original state. It’s clear however that a big effort is being made to prepare the historic district for further tourism.
I’m pretty pleased that we got the scoop on colorful Odunpazarı before the word is out and tourist busses find their way to the site. Classic cars such as the one below are a much better fit.
And that’s not the only scoop we enjoyed… What better way to end the day then with a scoop of Dondurma ice-cream. If you can catch it, that is. Yes, we’re feeding our gelato-addiction. 🙂
Where to stay in Eskişehir
- Modern district: We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn because it was walking distance from our relatives and the city center. It’s a very recent and fresh hotel.
- Historic district: Two hotels caught our eye, the first being the Tasigo because of its luxurious style and jaw-dropping views and the second being the Abaci Konak boutique hotel because of you get to sleep in one of the colorful buildings on site.
Which cities have you been to in Turkey and what sights or museums did you visit? Let us know in the comments!
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