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Edirne (Turkey)

Pehlivan wrestlers and referees © Edirne

Edirne located at 225 km from Istanbul is one of the oldest settlements of both Thrace and Anatolia. Dating back to the neolithic age 7.000-6.000 B.C. with last excavations, examples of prehistoric monuments – dolmens, menhirs and tumulus – can be seen from its outskirts, notably in the Çardakaltı prehistoric settlement and in Lalapasa.

The various historical names Edirne has had indicate the many historical periods it has been through. From Odrisia – founded by the Thracian civilisation Odryses in the 5th century B.C. – to Hadrianopolis – after Roman Emperor Hadrian who re-founded the city in the 2nd (123-124) century A.C., it was named Edrine by Sultan Murad I upon his conquest of the city in 1361. It kept this name until the 18th century when it became known as Edirne.

As the second largest capital of the Ottoman Empire, the city has a rich cultural heritage. The tradition of wrestling is big in Edirne and dates as far back as 1361 and the mosques, religious centres, bridges, bazaars, caravanserais and palaces, all make Edirne a living museum.


Edirne is a city of rivers – the Meriç, Arda and Tunca rivers all meet at Edirne and join the Ergene river in the south. Edirne has become famous for the historical bridges on these many rivers – Gazi Mihal bridge built in 1420 is the oldest and Uzunköprü bridge the longest (1 392 m long) with 174 arches.

As an economic and commercial centre, life in Edirne was rich and colourful and bazaars and caravanserais spread around the city. Four ancient bazaars are worth seeing: Bedesten, a covered bazaar where valuable goods and jewellery were sold, Arasta Bazaar, Ali Pasa Bazaar, the centre of commercial life in the 16-17th centuries with 129 shops, and Rüstempasa Caravanserai which was converted into a hotel in 1972. The last two buildings were built by the architect Sinan.

Edirne is also famed for its mosques the most spectacular of which are:

  • Selimiye mosque built by architect Sinan in the 16th (1569-1575) century is the focal point of the city at the top of a hill and is one of the greatest achievements of Ottoman architecture
  • Eski mosque covered with nine domes is the oldest monumental Ottoman structure in Edirne dating back to the 15th (1403-1414) century
  • Üç Serefeli mosque built in the 15th (144-1447) century is a typical Ottoman monument. Its dome was revolutionary at the time showing the succession between two architural periods – the early Ottoman and classic one.

Museums preserve and reflect the history and traditions of the city:

  • the health museum (Sultan Bayezıd II. Mosque and Complex) – one of the most important health centres of its period 15. century where patients were treated with the sound of water, music, scents, various occupations, as well as medical knowledge and medicine
  • Edirne archeology and ethnography museum where Ottoman household goods and furniture, rugs, coins, dresses, wooden goods are exhibited
  • Kirkpinar house – encasing belongings of Kirkpinar wrestlers, pictures and documents about Kirkpinar
  • Hafizaga kiosque (the city history museum) – an authentic example of traditional Turkish houses
  • the museum of Turkish Islamic works exhibiting Ottoman tiles and ceramics, artifacts belong to wrestlers
  • the museum of Balkan War and the memorial of Sükrü Pasa
  • the Lausanne memorial war museum built at the historical train station area in the Karaagaç district.

Traditional handicrafts – brooms with mirrors, fruit soaps, Edirnekari and Edirne dolls – are exhibited for sale at handcraft shops.

Finally, visitors can sample delicious local cuisine like white cheese, almond paste, fried liver, wrapped liver, Deva-i misk (a kind of halva) and Hardaliye (a drink produced mainly from grape juice mixed with mustard and marzipan).

Kırkpınar wrestling events

Selimye Mosque © Edirne

The highlights of the city are the Kırkpınar wrestling events. “Kırkpınar” means “forty springs” and there are various stories about how Kırkpınar wrestlings started. This not only defines the soul of the festival organised since 1925 but also the entire culture of the town around which it centres itself.

A wrestling contest takes place in the area of Sarayiçi during the last three days of the festival and a master Pehlivan (wrestler) is the one who out of 1 000 Pehlivans takes victory on the Er Meydanı (the field of battle) competition. Pehlivans are educated according to specific values and rules and are symbols for the city. They wear a specific water buffalo leather garment, the kısbet. The master Pehlivan of Kırkpınar also wears a golden belt and traditionally walks from Sarayiçi to the city hall to deliver the belt to Edirne’s municipality. The contest starts after a visit to the graves of two famous wrestlers –Adalı Halil and Kara Emin.

Besides the wrestling contests, local cooking contests, various sport contests (swimming, archery, etc.), folklore demonstrations, exhibitions, and fairs are also organised.

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Last update: 01/07/2011 | Top