Ancient Nicea’s Turkish denomination has become synomynous with beauty. The ceramics produced here in the 17th century are a highpoint in the art form, adorning the walls of the greatest Ottoman mosques and the display cabinets of collectors worldwide. Located away from the main motorways and on the shores of a lake, the small town has retained much of its charm.
John Carswell, the celebrated historian and author of Iznik Pottery, describes the town as ‘an extended village within ancient walls’, and at first approach the sturdy defences and their many towers do seem a little incongruous. But in its day Nicea was apparently much coveted, changing hands between Byzantines, Seljuks, European Crusaders, Byzantines, Ottomans, Timurids and Ottomans again over the course of the 11th to 15th centuries. Prior to that it was an important Greek and Roman city, and crucial in the development of Christianity, hosting the first and seventh ecumenical councils. Once Ottoman rule had been secured, the importance of the town itself was eclipsed by the ceramics produced here by craftsmen imported from further East. Today it is a relatively peaceful place to ponder the incredible layers of history left behind by the passing of peoples and empires across Anatolia. After exploring the (oringally) Hellenistic walls you might visit the Roman theatre, Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia, early Ottoman Haci Özbek Camii, and the ceramics that have remained in the local archaeological museum. A more modern sort of fun can be had in winter at Kartepe Ski Centre, about two hours’ drive North towards Izmit.
Fish at one of the lake-side restaurants