Last weekend I organized a tour of the ancient city İznik (a small city south of Istanbul) and its surroundings. We had a sunny weekend and had a great time. Like me, many people and tourists pass by İznik while on their way to Bursa. İznik with its beautiful nature and its history are a city worth visiting if you’re traveling to Turkey.
1. The Founder of city, Antigonus, was a General of Alexander The Great
İznik or in another name Nicaea was founded by Antigonus Monophthalmos in B.C. 316. Lysimachus took over the city from Antigonus in B.C. 301 and give his wife’s name to the city, Nicaea. Since then the city was called Nicaea.
2. The First Capital of Anatolian Seljuk Empire
In 1071, Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert which was between the Byzantines and the Seljuk Turks and then Turks started to march into the Anatolia. Suleiman Shah conquered Nicaea in 1075. The Seljuk Turks made Nicaea the capital of Anatolian Seljuk Empire and changed the name of the city to İznik. İznik was the first Turkish capital in Anatolia.
3. The Byzantine Emperor Theodoros – Nicaea Empire
The Seljuks couldn’t stay long in Nicaea because the 1st Crusade army which had 600.000 soldiers conquered the city and Seljuks left the city. Crusaders gave the city to the Byzantines and headed to Constantinople. They captured Constantinople and set the Latin Empire. The Byzantine emperor Theodoros Lascaris escaped from crusaders invasion and came to Nicaea and declared his empire in Nicaea. He ruled his empire for 57 years from Nicaea.
4. The First Council of Nicaea
İznik has an important role for Christianity because the first ecumenical council was gathered here in A.D. 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. Some important discussions were held and some rules were written such as the settlement of the Christological issue of the nature of the Son of God and his relationship to God the Father. The Creed of Nicaea was made here.
5. The Famous İznik Tiles and Pottery
Iznik tiles and pottery have an important place in the Ottoman architecture. The best pottery experts lived in İznik. The peak period of İznik pottery was between 16th and 17th centuries since then it lost the importance and experts. In 1985, the art of pottery was revived again. Nowadays there are many pottery experts and ateliers that try to reach the excellence of old İznik tiles. The old İznik tiles have a special red color and it is still a mystery how they made it.
6. The 5th Largest Natural Lake of Turkey
Iznik lake is the largest natural lake in the region of Marmara and 5th largest natural lake in Turkey. You can sit in a cafe, restaurant or have a picnic near the lake and enjoy the great view of the lake. The lake area is very important for birds but unfortunately, the lake is not in a protected status. In 2014, a Byzantine basilica was discovered underwater which was dedicated to St. Neophytes of Nicaea.
7. Köfteci(Meatball) Yusuf and The Catfish
You will find out about the history and see the culture of İznik but you shouldn’t leave İznik before tasting these two meals; meatballs of Yusuf and the catfish. You will see a lot of people that come to İznik just for trying out these dishes. Köfteci Yusuf has 14 branches in different cities around Turkey and it is the biggest meatball factory in Turkey. The catfish has no bones so you can eat it very easily. There are many fish restaurant alongside the lake and you can enjoy the fish and the view.