If you want peace and quiet, authentic Turkish hospitality, and gorgeous scenery, there’s always Gölyazı. This tiny little town is situated on a small island in a large lake, Uluabat Gölü, a short ride west of Bursa.
I went with my friend Aisha on a short day trip from Bursa. We took the metro to Küçük Sanayi and hopped on the 5/G bus at 11am. You can find the bus schedule here. Gölyazı is the last stop on the bus so it’s impossible to miss it. The entire journey took about an hour. Buses aren’t frequent, so it’s wise to check the schedule for return buses ahead of time. It’s also good to buy a return ticket in Bursa because it may not be easy to find one in Gölyazı.
What’s there to do in Gölyazı? Nothing. That’s the beauty of it. Enjoy the scenery of the lake and the mountains in the distance. Say “merhaba” to the locals. Eat gözleme. We were invited by three different women to have gözleme in their homes!
It takes barely 15 minutes to walk around the entire town. There’s a bridge that passes from the mainland to the island. You can walk on a road that follows most of the perimeter of the island and through the few streets in the middle.
If you’re lucky, you might meet a local willing to take you on a boat ride around the island. İbrahim saw us walking around, called us over to his boat, and asked if we wanted to take a ride. He was a happy man who liked to make jokes. His wife and son were also very friendly and had lots of questions about why two foreigners wanted to visit their little village.
Uluabat Gölü is a very large lake with cold water. The lake is surprisingly only 3m deep at its deepest point. A lot of locals make a living by fishing in the lake.
One of the most popular sites in Gölyazı is the Ağlayan Çınar (Crying Plane Tree). The tree is over 700 years old and has a gaping hole in the trunk. It’s located on the mainland end of the bridge. Next to it is a restaurant with excellent home-cooked meals, çay, and Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee).
The most important site is the former Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Gölyazı was once a majority Greek town, but the residents were sent to Greece during the population exchange of 1923. The church was in ruins but has since been restored.
You wouldn’t know it by looking, but Gölyazı was once an important ancient Greek colony called Apollonia-on-the-Rhyndacus (Απολλωνία επί Ρυνδάκω). Ruins of the ancient city walls can be found near the mosque on the island. There was also a Byzantine monastery called St. Constantine on another small island nearby. It survived the Ottoman conquest and is still intact today.
Gölyazı is worth a nice half day trip for the tranquility and hospitality. Any more and you’ll probably be bored!