Turkey // Around the Sea of Marmara //


The dramatic, often cloud-cloaked massif of 2543m-high Uludağ (or “Great Mountain”) presides over Bursa, its northern reaches dropping precipitously into the city. In ancient times it was known as the Mount Olympos of Mysia, one of nearly twenty peaks around the Aegean so named (Olympos was possibly a generic Phoenician or Doric word for “mountain”). Locals insist this was the seat from which the gods watched the battle of Troy. Early in the Christian era the range became a refuge for monks and hermits, replaced after the Ottoman conquest by Muslim dervishes.

These days the scent of grilling meat has displaced the odour of sanctity, since Bursans cram the alpine campsites and picnic grounds to the gills on any holiday or weekend. Getting there has always been half the fun, especially if you opt for the cable car (teleferik), which links the Teleferüç borough of Bursa with the Sarıalan picnic grounds at 1635m, where a cluster of et mangals and kendin pişin kendin ye (cook-it-yourself establishments) await your custom. At the time of writing, however, a new cable-car line was being built and the entire teleferik service was shut down, pending its completion.

Much of the dense middle-altitude forest has been designated a national park, though only a few kilometres are marked hiking trails. In fact, the best part of the mountain lies outside the park to the east, where a few hours’ walking brings you to glacial lakes in a wild, rocky setting just below the highest summit. The best months to visit are May and June, with wildflowers in bloom, or September and October, when the mist is less dense.

However, thanks to the nearby Sea of Marmara, the high ridges trap moist marine air, and whiteouts or violent storms can blow up during most of the year. Skiing is possible from December to March, though it’s better earlier in the season than later. At around 1800m, there’s a dense cluster of hotels known as Oteller, most with their own ski lift (day-passes TL15), and you can rent skis and ski clothes on the spot.

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