In the 18th century, it was one of the seven largest cities in Europe. Set on a verdant plain of poplar trees near the junction of the Tunca and Meriç rivers, this gracefully historical city welcomes visitors as they make their way to İstanbul and other points east. The people of Edirne trace their origins back to the rule of the Macedonians. The Roman Emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city and renamed it Hadrianople after himself. With the division of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines claimed Edirne. In 1361 Sultan Murat I added it to his empire. The city’s role as the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost 100 years accounts for its many historically and architecturally important buildings. With its mosques, religious complexes, bridges, old bazaars, caravanserais and palaces, Edirne is a living museum.
Edirne has retained many of its colourful traditions and customs. Every summer the Kırkpınar oil wrestling contests are held at an emerald green meadow in Sarayiçi. Shiny, slippery bodies grapple with each other to decide on the champion wrestler. As you walk through the city and peer into the corners of the grocery stores, you see blocks of white feta cheese, a local specialty. Hardaliye, another of the city’s delicacies, is a grape drink mixed with mustard and marzipan. Scented soaps, earthenware pots and straw baskets from Edirne make good souvenirs. You will also find it difficult to resist the beautiful embroidery work of the local women.
The Archaeology and Ethnography Museum traces the history of the area from prehistoric to Byzantine times and exhibits clothing from the late Ottoman period. At the Turkish Islamic Art
The Selimiye Mosque and its Külliye form a complex including a madrasah or Islamic religious academy, dar-ül hadis (hadith school), timekeeper’s room and an arasta (avenue of shops). Constructed by the celebrated architect Sinan between 1569 and 1575, the Selimiye Mosque and its complex are located in Edirne, the capital of Ottoman Empire before İstanbul. A masterpiece of Ottoman art and in the history of world architecture, the Selimiye Mosque is visible from all parts of the city with its monumental dome and four slender minarets. Besides its unique architectural characteristics, the mosque evokes admiration with its exquisite details in its carved-stone work and marble, glazed tiles, wood carving and mother-of-pearl inlays.