İznik; Tiles and Tranquility

The tourism Mecca of Dalyan lies just 10 minutes down the road from Okçular. Dalyan is steeped in history and is set on a canvas of outstanding natural beauty with a beautiful lake on its doorstep.

İznik lies just south of İstanbul, about 2 days drive from Okçular (we always take the scenic route over the mountains). İznik too is steeped in history and sits at the edge of a large and beautiful lake.

There the similarities end; Dalyan town itself is bereft of charm; there is little to appeal to the eye with concrete villas set in their 500 cubic metre plots. The tea garden trees are dying, everywhere is paved with blocks that radiate the sun’s heat and graceful, old eucalyptus trees, which may not have been native but gave welcome dappled shade and ‘texture’ to the town centre were cut down and ghastly, out of place palm were planted.

In contrast, İznik feels and looks like a Turkish town; İznik has retained its trees and İznik has not fallen into the trap of paving everything in sight. The promenade area is grassed with little man-made promontaries and islands reaching into the lake. The whole feel of the town is of quiet gentility.

J and I have just returned from a trip to the province of Karabük in the north of the country. On the way home we diverted to spend a little time in İznik and we were both taken with the place – it is a really nice town.

Originally named Nicaea by the Greeks, it served as the interim capital city of the Byzantine Empire between 1204 and 1261, following the 4th Crusade in 1204, until the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1261. Much of the original defensive walls still stand along with 2 imposing gates. The city and national authorities are carrying out restorations of old mosques, churches and hamams to the highest aesthetic standards using real craftsmen to do the jobs.

With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the town lost a great degree of its importance, but later became a major centre with the creation of a local faïence pottery-making industry in the 17th century (known as the İznik Çini, Çin meaning China in Turkish – Chinese porcelain stood in great favour with the Sultans.) İznik tiles were used to decorate many of the mosques in İstanbul designed by Mimar Sinan. Attempts to recreate the perfection and colours of the early pottery glazes have proved elusive. As an aside, one of my prized possessions is an original İznik bowl; although slightly chipped the (hazardous) cobalt blue of the glaze can be found in no pieces other than these originals.

I like İznik; it makes a great staging post for exploring the area or as a stop-over to or from İstanbul. Its true value is as a gentle, relaxing place to spend time replenishing the inner self, wandering back streets, searching out the surprises (see below) and enjoying the finest catfish kebap to be found anywhere in Turkey.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

old hamam restoration

the quality of restoration is oustanding

the mighty northern Istanbul gate

the scary sight that awaits those entering the Istanbul gate

would you want to mix it with these jokers?

the southern gate

. . can you work out what this is?

admit it, you’re amazed to see it’s an electricity sub-station

the back view of the triumphal march

part of the extensive defenses

. . . and yet more

13 thoughts on “İznik; Tiles and Tranquility

  1. Fascinating. I’ve alwyas enjoyed the Iznik tiles in museums but never knew anything about the actual city. Thanks for this.

    1. Hello Ellen! Thank you for the comment and welcome to ‘Archers’. Now I’m off to check out your blog.

  2. I love the way you are always getting off the beaten track Alan. BTW – Tried to make it to Elmali,as you suggested but schedule went a little wrong. Still on my list to do, along with Iznik now.

    1. we wandered south over the mountains from Iznik to ‘my next post’ – it was beautiful. Always somewhere else to find – ain’t it great?

  3. It’s a real shame about Dalyan. I first visited about 17 years ago and it was very different, commercial even then but charming. Great pics of Iznik. Liam and I have promised ourselves that we’ll travel more in the coming year. We really do need to get out more!

    1. you should; I’m sure you’ve already been told many times that wandering around this great country is a joy.

  4. My heart has seized up for those “tea garden trees (that) are dying” and the ghastly palms. Crimes against trees have always gotten to me (the inner tree-hugger in me is surfacing). As a kid, I walked to school with my Mum and we prayed for the sycamore trees that struggled to make it through winter (this was when I wanted to be a Unitarian nun, which I have gotten over). It was so hard to watch the slow death of those trees, day by day, as the snow got higher and higher in the New England winter. So, I feel for you guys and the tree observations in Dalyan.

    However, Iznik, now this place looks fab. The photos are great. M. tells me that the compound for that famous color has recently been figured out…I will let him post on that. So glad you got to spend some time in this spot.

    1. love to hear from M about the colour thing. Dalyan is beautiful and sad (in my opinion), many others, of course, would disagree. Step away from the concrete jungle and the surroundings are still quite special – You’ll see. TCOEO

  5. I have not been to Turkey. I’ve always wanted to go there. I hope to travel there soon.

    Your pictures really piqued my curiosity.

  6. Hello Alan
    We are even seeing this in tile design. Even here in the Sydney market the trend has been for patterned floor and wall tiles that are inspired by this region of the world. The Iznik inspires even down under.

    Charles Chetcuti

    1. Hello Charles and welcome to Archers. I don’t know if you are aware that after many years of trying the tile makers in Iznik have been able to duplicate that amazing colour.

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