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Once known as Adrianople or Hadrianopolis, Edirne was the first capital of the Ottoman empire, from 1363 until 1453 when Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, so it is not surprising that it has some impressive architecture. He built a palace, partially restored, and a little morre than a century later Selimiye Mosque, taller than Haghia Sofia, was built by Turkey's greatest master architect, Mimar Sinan. Many other minarets and spires prick the sky. Caravansari and bazaars have survived and Its bridges are famous, too. The traditional religious mix of the region is recalled in Bulgarian Orthodox churches and a Grand Synagogoue, reopened in 2015. A Monument and Museum to the Treaty of Lausane, which redifined the Greek-Turkish borders, are in an annexe to Karaağaç Railway Station.
The Ottoman sultans moved their court to Edirne in the 1350s after they took the city and, like Bursa, the capital it replaced, it boasts an extraordinary wealth of historical monuments (writes Andrew Finkel in Cornucopia 37). It has something more, however, an element missing from all those housing estates we had to pass to get here with bucolic names such as Garden City or Beach Town. Even fans of Bursa readily confess that this jewel of a city has concreted over its charm. Edirne, however, preserves not just the monuments of the past, but also a sense of scale. Once upon a time many Ottoman cities were like Edirne, a place where centuries-old structures, from bridges to caravansarays, from covered markets to mosques, are still in daily use. The grand Selimiye Mosque not only dominates the town, but, like the spires of Oxford or a medieval cathedral, it dominates the flat countryside for miles around. The imperial mosque of Selim II, the Selimiye was finished after six years of construction in 1575, and is the masterwork of the architect Sinan.
Other gems in Edirne are the Sultan Beyazit complex seen above in a photograph taken by Simon Wheeler for Cornucopia 37.The mosques are clustered round the Selimiye, but it is worth driving down to leafy waterside restaurants and cafés by the river.
By car (recommended) Edirne is an easy 2-3-hour drive down the motorway.
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