Bursa’s Koza Han: A center for silk trade

Bursa’s Koza Han: A center for silk trade

Wilco van Herpen
Bursa’s Koza Han: A center for silk trade

The Koza Han has become a tea garden, so there are tables and chairs everywhere. There are also little shops that sell silk clothes, shawls and cloth. Photo by Wilco van Herpen

A while ago I went to the northwestern province of Bursa for a couple of days. It is such a lovely place, just three hours away from Istanbul. I was struck by the beauty and coziness of the city. I found it comparable to Utrecht, a place just half an hour’s drive from Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a very nice place, but if you ask me I prefer Utrecht. Why, you might ask? Well, Utrecht is smaller than Amsterdam, with almost as much to see and enjoy in terms of history, museums, concerts, canals and nice restaurants. But the nice thing about Utrecht is that it has something Amsterdam lacks: terraces along the canals where you can have a drink or a very nice dinner. The same goes for Bursa. It has a beautiful history, some nice museums, and a lot of nice places to eat and shop.

Once famous for its silk production, Bursa nowadays is using silk as a nostalgic way of putting their city on the map of Turkey, and doing it in a very nice and efficient way. There is the beautiful and very old Koza Han (silk cocoon hall), built in 1451. It was once the center of the silk trade, but unfortunately Bursa has lost its monopoly over Turkish silk.

Some people are trying to revive silk production in Bursa. A good example is Yaşar, a friend of mine who lives in Datça. He started producing silk five years ago, working in an old workshop, and he was the only one who believed in the project. Nowadays a lot of people in the village are following his initiative, and I have the feeling that slowly the production of silk will be put on the map of Turkey again.

Best place in town

The Koza Han is a wonderful place. You enter via a nice old gate and suddenly find yourself inside the old han. These days the whole place has become a tea garden, so wherever you look there are tables and chairs, but it still has its charm. Most of the visitors first tour the han, climbing some stairs to the han’s upper gallery. Everywhere there are little shops that sell silk clothes, shawls, cloth or other products. Be a bit careful when buying, because not all of the silk is real, pure silk. You might be able to differentiate between genuine and imitation silk by the price or by its feel, but sometimes it is really difficult to understand what you are buying. I advise making a complete tour, comparing all the prices and making a second round to return to one or two shops and, if necessary, bargain. While walking around you also have a beautiful view of the entire interior of the han, with its tiny mescit (mosque) in the center. An impressive flight of stairs leads to the entrance and a lot of people use these stairs as a background for photos.

Many visitors take a short break after they have visited all the silk shops on the upper galleries of the han. This is probably the best place in town to enjoy a nice cup of Turkish tea or coffee. If you are lucky you might find someone who is willing to predict your future by reading the coffee grounds left in your little cup.

Reading coffee cups

There are a couple of things that you should do when you want someone to read your coffee cup. First of all you take your cup, put the saucer on top of it and turn the cup and plate upside down. At the same time, turn the cup and saucer three times clockwise.

After that you put a golden ring on top of you cup (which is now facing the other way round) and let the cup and its contents cool. Once it cools, the coffee sediment will have left various patterns in your cup, and now the work of the “fortune teller” can begin. It is important is to make a wish before your coffee reader lifts the cup, because if the cup sticks to the saucer your wish will come true. Even if it doesn’t, you will be in for a nice lengthy fortune-telling session that might surprise you.
I promise I see a beautiful future with long roads ahead of you. And you just solved a very important problem that has been bothering you for a long time. There is one small problem, though, that you still need to solve, but then everything will be fine. I wish you a beautiful life and yolunuz acik olsun (may the roads always be open for you).