The Marmara Region in northwestern Turkey is the country's bridge and connection to Europe, with Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, at its heart.
1 Istanbul, capital of three empires, is the grand metropolis connecting Europe and Asia.
|Eastern Thrace |
This is the European part of Turkey west of Istanbul. 2 Tekirdağ on the Marmara coast is famous for its local meatballs and raki. 3 Edirne (Adrianople) close to the Bulgarian border is a former Ottoman capital with lots to see. The long peninsula south leads to 1 Gallipoli, site of the 1915 ANZAC landings, and now dotted with World War I memorials. Ferries sail to 2 Gokceada, a mountainous island with semi-abandoned Greek villages.
|Eastern Marmara |
Istanbul's industrial sprawl goes all the way out to 4 Izmit. The prospect improves to the south: lakeside 5 Iznik was ancient Nicaea, scene of the first and seventh ecumenical councils of Christianity. 6 Yalova on the coast is set among verdant mountains dotted with thermal springs and waterfalls.
|Southern Marmara |
7 Çanakkale on the banks of the Dardanelles is the base for visiting ancient 3 Troy and the pleasant island of 4 Bozcaada. It's also the route to ancient Pergamon further south, and an alternative route to Gallipoli. Set within Turkey's "inland sea", the 5 Marmara Islands range from cramped resorts to remote getaways. 8 Balikesir inland is basically just a transport hub. Highlight of this area is 9 Bursa, a former Ottoman capital with lots of early imperial history, and with the nearby national park and winter sports resort of Mount Uludağ. Routes east loop back through Iznik to Istanbul.
The region is named after the sea it surrounds: the Sea of Marmara, connected to the Aegean Sea by the Straits Dardanelles, and to the Black Sea by the Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is considered the geographical border between Europe and Asia: the coastline to the north of the sea is European, while its southern and eastern coasts are in Asia. In addition to the Sea of Marmara, the region has coastlines on the Black Sea to the northeast and the Aegean Sea to the southwest.
The northwestern/European part of the region is one of few wide lowlands in the country, with the occasional gently sloping hill, except southwestern and northeastern coasts which are dominated by hilly areas. South and east parts of the region is more mountainous, or hilly at least. While the Marmara Region is the second smallest Turkish region in size (with only Southeastern Anatolia being smaller), it is only a bit smaller than Ireland or the Netherlands and Belgium combined.
This region is Turkey’s most populous and most heavily industrialized part, with the residential and industrial suburbs and exurbs of Istanbul going on for hundreds of kilometres towards any direction the geography permits, although you can still find primordial forests hardly seen by human eyes here and there.
Travellers often overlook Marmara Region except for Istanbul and a few sites in the southwest and southeast of the region, but there is not really a reason why they should—in addition to quite friendly and open locals, fairly good transportation links throughout and temperate climate which make travelling in the region a breeze, you will certainly find something to catch your glimpse in any part of this region, where empires have made their debut and have seen their fall, and where dense urban areas and farmlands interact with untouched wilderness beautifully.
Generally speaking, the climate of the Marmara Region is a mild and temperate one, but it's also transitional; between the Mediterranean climate to the south and west, and the Oceanic climate to the north and east. This, as you might expect, causes the climate to change quite rapidly, starting as what could be described as a 'not-as-warm' Mediterranean climate in Çanakkale, and morphing into the generally drab and rainy climate of northern Istanbul. This kind of rapid change in climates can be hard to describe (and you will definitely see more detail in the subregion and city pages) but the best comparison is probably that you would be traveling from the Central Valley in California to Northern Oregon in a fraction of the distance.
In general, though, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Areas closer to the Black Sea coast (Istanbul, Yalova, İzmit and to some extent Bursa) experience quite a humid climate, with long stretches of chilly, cloudy weather, rain and sometimes snow in the colder months, so much so that the sun not shining for a week or two straight is the rule, not the exception. In the warmer months, this is replaced by warm, partly cloudy weather with infrequent showers, but morning fog still can ruin some of your views, especially around Izmit. This area is also rich with vegetation wherever the urban sprawl hasn't reached yet, and a majority of the area is part of the Euxine-Colchic forests, the temperate rainforests of Turkey.
- Areas closer to the Aegean Sea (Balıkesir, Tekirdağ, Çanakkale) have a Mediterranean climate with an asterisk; as while the summers are hot and generally dry, and the winters are not as frustratingly miserable, chilly weather and snow are still possible and happen almost every year. Fog in this area is generally confined to spring and fall.
- As you might expect, the further inland you go, winters and nights get colder, summers and days get hotter. This causes cities like Edirne to be significantly continental-influenced.
- All of Marmara is very windy, especially during winter, when southerly windstorms, called Lodos, can cancel ferries and even cause damage.
While it is possible to come upon a village founded by immigrants from the Balkans in the early 1900s where old people speak the Pomak dialect of Bulgarian or some other Balkan language in the region, Turkish is by far the most common and the most useful language, as is in most of Turkey.
There are trains to
- Istanbul from Bulgaria, Greece, and a number of other Balkan countries via Edirne.
- Istanbul from various central and eastern Turkey locations via Izmit and Eskişehir, and from Tehran, Iran.
- Bandirma on the southern coast of Marmara from Izmir.
All cities and many towns in Turkey has direct daily bus services to Istanbul. Many cities neighboring Balkan countries also has bus links to the city. Bursa, by virtue of being a big city, is also served from a large number of cities and towns throughout Turkey.
The Marmara Region is well linked to neighboring regions and countries by a motorway and highway network.
While there are more than one airport in the region, given the region's relative small size and the relative short distance between the airports make transportation by plane practically impossible. The only feasible (and, operating) air service totally within the region is between Istanbul and Çanakkale.
There is an extensive bus network between towns and cities of the region, and any town with a considerable population (over 10,000), has a direct bus service to Istanbul.
As in the rest of Turkey, the rail network in the region consists of linear lines rather than a spider web-like system. The lines with passenger services are between Istanbul and Edirne (via Corlu and a number of other towns on the way), continuing on to Bulgaria and Greece; Istanbul and Bozüyük (via Izmit, Adapazarı, Osmaneli, Bilecik, and a number of other towns on the way), continuing on to Eskişehir/Ankara in Central Anatolia; and between Bandirma and Balikesir, continuing on to Aegean Region.
There is an extensive network of ferry and fast ferry lines connecting northern and southern coast of the Sea of Marmara, cutting travel time dramatically. Most fast ferry lines fan out of Istanbul towards towns and cities on the southern coast, while conventional ferries can be found between almost any town on the northern and southern coasts (such as Tekirdağ-Gemlik line, which traverses almost the whole sea northwest to southeast).
As both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires were centred here, the Marmara Region has quite a lot of imperial monuments from each. While the Byzantine monuments are mostly in Istanbul with a number of intact artifacts in historically important, but nowadays provincial towns such as İznik, Tirilye and Vize. The Ottoman monuments, on the other hand, while can be found almost anywhere in the region, are best seen in Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul—the three consecutive capitals of the empire.
The main wine areas of the region are the Şarköy District on the Marmara coast of Eastern Thrace which produces wine out of many varieties, the Marmara island of Avşa where the local wine is of varying quality but is often strong, and the Aegean island of Bozcaada which has a wine tradition dating back millenia ago.
The town of Susurluk in the south is renowned nationwide for its local foamy ayran, which is available in (and apparently advertised by) many rest areas along the main Istanbul–Izmir highway.