Today we took a class trip to the Roman province of Bithynia, modern day province of Bursa, situated on the Southern shore of the Marmara Sea. The purpose of our visit was to explore the Byzantine ruins in the area some of which had been transformed into a mosque and were still being used by the community and others that lay in ruins.
We started by taking the ferry from Yenikapi to Bandirma and then driving towards Zeytinbagi (Trilye). Although for some strange reason the government has changed the name from Trilye to Zeytinbagi, I will refer to it as Trilye. There is an 8th century church, St. Stephen Church, which was converted into a mosque after the Turkish conquest and became known as Fatih Camii. This is the oldest Byzantine building in Bursa. Trilye is a charming little town with distinctive Ottoman homes along tiny, winding streets.
Our second stop was the Arched Church, which was a late 13th century structure with painted walls, a unique innovation at the time in this region.
One of the most profound experiences we had was running into two ladies who were the head of some committee to conserve Trilye. One of the ladies runs a small bed and breakfast (there are great pictures of Trilye on their website) As they told us the tale of the Greek population which had to emigrate back to mainland Greece and how they come back every year at the exact same time and look at their old houses and cry and hug the locals, they burst into tears as well. The Greek inhabitants of this area were sent to Greece as part of a population exchange in 1923. It’s really sad because the people that were relocated did not speak Greek but only spoke Turkish and they became foreigners in their supposed ‘Motherland.’
After Trilye, we drove to Karabiga home to the Church of Archangels. It was raining when we got there so we took a little tea break at the coffeehouse in the middle of town. The locals were very helpful, one immediately ran to get the keys for the church while we enjoyed our tea. As we explored the ruins of the Church and climbed up the hill to see the beautiful prospect, dusk settled over the landscape and it was time to go home…