The town of Osmaneli is a hidden gem. I made a day trip there from Eskişehir and spent two wonderful hours wandering through its streets discovering many beautiful Ottoman homes. The best thing about it is that I had the whole town to myself – no other tourists.
I started my walk into town from the bus station and came to Ulu Cami, a 16th century mosque built by Rüstem Paşa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Directly across from the mosque is the Osmanlı Konağı, now a boutique hotel.
The streets near the mosque have the best examples of refurbished Ottoman homes. One of them even has a fresco of Rumeli Hisarı in Istanbul. As you go further up into town, some of the homes are in bad condition but still very charming.
One point of interest in town is the Bayraklı Dede Türbesi, the tomb of a local holy man. Bayrak means flag in Turkish, and the man’s tomb is always covered in Turkish flags. Unfortunately, it was closed when I visited.
The most amazing thing in Osmaneli in my opinion is the ruined St. George Church. It was built in the 1890s by the town’s Greek community. Osmaneli had a very large Greek population until the population exchange in 1923. The city was known as Lefke (Λεύκη) until fairly recently. Some locals still refer to it as Lefke.
Behind the church is a path to the hill above town. It’s worth a walk up there for some wonderful views of the town and church. There were construction workers building a terrace and wall at the top, so I’m sure it will be a nice area when finished.
The best part of my day was drinking çay with some local cart pushers. They were very curious when they saw me walking around with my camera and started asking questions. When they learned I was a Greek, they invited me to sit with them and treated me to a glass of çay. I enjoyed the banter back and forth as the men were cracking jokes about each other. A few cart pushers walking by even stopped to talk with me for a few seconds. It was a very nice moment of Turkish hospitality that I will never forget.
I got to Osmaneli by taking a minibus from Bilecik. It was run by a co-op that had frequent service between the two towns. It’s best not to linger too late in the evening because you might not be able to find a ride out of town. I left at about 4pm to be safe. Once back in Bilecik, I was able to jump on one of the many buses going to Eskişehir.