Edirne is a gateway of Turkey opening to western world in Thrace, the first stopover for newcomers from Europe. Situated between the Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish borders, this beautiful city is famed for its many mosques, the elegant domes and minarets which dominate the panoramic appearance of the province. It was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1416 until the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmet II in 1453.
One of the most important monuments in this ancient province is the Selimiye Mosque, built in the 16th century by the Turkey's greatest architect, Mimar Sinan. Carrying the name of the sultan reigning in that era, this mosque magnificently represents Turkish marble handicrafts and architecture, and it is covered with valuable tiles and fine paintings. In June 2011 the Selimiye Mosque Complex has been accepted under the list of UNESCO's World Heritage List.
The Yildirim Mosque and the Eski Mosque, dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries respectively, are other spectacular sights while the Muradiye Mosque and the Üç Serefeli Mosque are also among the oldest and most impressive buildings. Last to be mentioned is the Bayezid II Mosque, a great monument with its complex construction comprising many facilities used in those times.
Bayezid II mosque was built by Sultan Bayezid in 1484. It is a large complex consisting of a mosque, a medicine school, and a hospital (Darussifa) in which they used to cure mentally ill people of the period using various tecniques, such as the sound music, water, pleasant smells and occupation. Today, the complex is housing the Health Museum displaying many tools, drawings, and rappresentations from its past. The complex was converted into a fine museum in 1997 and was awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize for the year 2004.
Besides the fascinating mosques, there are different sites to be visited in Edirne, all reflecting its rich past. There are attractive palaces, the most prominent one being the Edirne Palace, which was the "Palace of the Empire" built during the reign of Sultan Murat II. There are amazing caravansaries, like the Rüstem Pasha and Ekmekcioglu Ahmet Pasha caravansaries, which were designed to host travelers, in the 16th century.
The lively bazaars of "Bedesten" and "Arasta" make the province colorful and bring back the ancient times. In the center you should definately taste the special dessert of almond butter (Badem Ezmesi), and eat tender lamb livers (Ciğer). Several bridges exist which have stood for centuries, adorning the land with their old but fine appearances.
Ipsala, is a district of Edirne province and it is Turkey's second most important border gate on the European frontier, with Greece. It is a wildfowl paradise enjoyed by both Turkish and foreigners.
A specialty of Edirne is to be a center for oil-wrestling (Yağlı Güreş in Turkish), which is the national sport of Turkey. The championships are held here every year by the end of July, for more than 400 years on Kirkpinar island, a forested area between the Meriç and Tunca rivers. These traditional occasions compromise many entertaining activities, and the province is filled with spectators from all around the world.