Söğüt, Turkey: Cradle of Empire

Söğüt (sur-EWT), near Bursa to the south of Turkey’s Sea of Marmara (map), was the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire. The founding Ottoman is buried here.

That would be Ertuğrul Gazi (died 1288), the warrior chieftain who fought on the border of the Seljuk Turkishand Byzantine empires, and whose sons went on to form the Ottoman state.

Apart from his tomb, there’s not much else to see in Söğüt (sur-EWT) except pretty rolling hills. If you have an intense interest in early Ottoman history and you’re driving between Bursa and Eskişehir, stop and pay your respects to The Founder and have a glass of tea.

Ertuğrul (EHR-too-rool) established a small principality with Söğüt as its capital, but his sons Osman and Orhanmoved on to conquer the Byzantine towns of Nicaea(İznik) and Broussa (Bursa), and made Bursa the capital of their burgeoning empire. (Osman and Orhan are buried in elaborate tombs in Bursa).

By 1452, just over a century and a half after Ertuğrul Gazi’s death, the Ottomans controlled most of Anatolia, much of eastern Europe, and major parts of the Middle East.

In 1453 they captured Constantinople (Istanbul), setting the stage for the Ottoman Empire‘s golden age.

Distances & Travel Times

Ankara: 289 km (180 miles) E, 4 hours

Bilecik: 34 km (21 miles) NW, 40 minutes

Bursa: 124 km (77 miles) W, 2 hours

Eskişehir: 56 km (35 miles) SE, 50 minutes

Istanbul: fast ferry via Yalova then a 132-km (82-mile) drive SE; or 284 km (176 miles) by road via Kocaeli (İzmit) and Sakarya (Adapazarı).

İznik (Nicaea): 72 km (45 miles) NW, 1.5 hours

Yalova:132 km (82 miles) NW, 2.5 hours

—by Tom Brosnahan


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