Eskişehir, often known nationwide as the "students' city" due to the large numbers of students enrolling two local universities making up at least a tenth of its 600,000 residents, is a city in the northwestern part of the Central Anatolia.
Seldom on the travellers' itineraries only a decade ago, Eskişehir is now quickly polishing its historic attractions, and investing a lot on city beautification projects in the hopes of marketing itself to a wider audience—and now with the high speed rail link with Ankara in place, the regional tourists, at the very least, are quickly responding in consideration of checking out the "miracle in the steppes"—the "Venice of Anatolia", as they say, rather hyperbolically. Home of the hippest crowd in a largely conservative inland Turkey, Eskişehir is great for a laid-back day or two to break your Turkish odyssey, also providing a convenient base to explore the little visited surrounding region.
The area is inhabited since before the Phrygians founded Doryleaum near today’s Eskişehir (pronounced es-KEE-sheh-heer), name of which translates to "the old city" in Turkish, a fitting name as the city fully embraces modern life while still maintaining a sense of tradition and ancient values. The area to the south of Eskişehir is known as "Phrygian Valley" even today and contains many remnants from Phrygians (some parts of the valley is within the borders of Kütahya and Afyonkarahisar provinces).
Eskişehir is a haven of liberalism in a largely conservative region, which stems from the large student population, as well as the already-progressive-minded culture of refugees from Crimea and Balkans settled in the city in the late 19th century during the decline of Ottoman Empire, descendants of whom constitute most of the native population, who are well-adapted to the ideals of a westernized nation of the Republic.
One of the few cities in Turkey maintaining multiple state universities, Eskişehir is home to Anadolu University and Eskişehir Osmangazi University, both amongst the biggest universities of the country.
Despite its name, most of the city is new construction, with the oldest buildings being no more than 50 years old, with the prominent exception of the neighbourhood of Odunpazarı. Since 1999, when Yılmaz Büyükerşen, the former president of Anadolu University, has been elected mayor, the city has a somewhat-imitation Central European feel to it with its bridges, parks, statues, and trams.
The Porsuk River bisects the city all along. The other, non-natural feature that bisects the city is the main Istanbul–Ankara railway, which lies more or less a few blocks north of the river.
Eskişehir is a city with two distinct yet related centres.
The riverside promenade, Adalar (literally "the islands", although this area is technically a part of the mainland, except for a small river island on which the historic building of Tepebaşı City Council stands), and the pedestrianized Doktorlar Caddesi (officially İsmet İnönü Caddesi), just north of Adalar, with a tram line in the middle is the centre of youth life in Eskişehir. The natural extension of Doktorlar Caddesi towards northwest, past a bridge over the rail tracks and Espark shopping mall, Üniversite Caddesi, which leads to the Yunusemre Campus of Anadolu University, marks the northwestern extent of student territory.
Southeast from Adalar is Hamamyolu, another pedestrianized street with a large leafy strip in the middle—or a linear park, you might say. This is the old city centre and where locals and families rather to hang out and go shopping. At the southeastern end of Hamamyolu is Odunpazarı, the Ottoman district.
Adalar and Hamamyolu meet at Köprübaşı ("the bridgehead"), marked by the bridge on which the tram line crosses Porsuk.
Like any other part of the Anatolian highland, the winters are cold and usually snowy. Temperature is regularly below the freezing point during this season, but it rarely drops below -15°C. Thanks to the low levels of relative humidity, the hot and dry summers are more comfortable than coastal regions of Turkey. Summer nights are cool, though, so be sure to bring at least a cardigan with you to wear outdoors. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons, but with an annual rainfall amount of 415 mm (i.e., a semi-arid climate), you are unlikely to get much wet during your trip to Eskişehir, anyway.
Turkish Airlines has scheduled flights from Istanbul everyday of the week but Saturdays. On some days, there are two flights. Ticket prices vary, depending on the seats sold by the time you make the purchase.
Eskişehir is at the junction of almost all major rail lines in Turkey, so it is possible to arrive from almost anywhere with a railway line in Turkey (except from European Turkey until Marmaray, an undersea rail tunnel which will connect Europe and Asia under Bosphorus, is completed) to find a train which has a stop either in the Central station (official name: Eskişehir station; in the city centre) or in Enveriye station (about 2km south of the city centre). Most trains departing from Istanbul (all except those heading for southerly cities of Konya and Adana to be precise), and all trains departing from Ankara and İzmir stop at Central station, from which most of city centre is a short stroll away. Enveriye station, on the other hand, is linked to city centre by minibuses (operating until midnight) which drive along the nearby street. However, most trains with a stop at Enveriye arrive after midnight, so your best bet is to take a taxi if you want to avoid the 30–40 minutes walk to the city centre.
From Istanbul’s Asian station (Haydarpaşa), you can find several trains heading for either station every day (In fact, any passenger train departing from Haydarpaşa, except the suburban trains and regional expresses which head for nearby Adapazarı, passes through and stops in Eskişehir). Price depends on the speed of trains and ranges between roughly TRY10 (the cheapest) and TRY20 (the most expensive). 20% discount for students is possible in every train. Unlike many other examples in Turkey, rail travel between Istanbul and Eskişehir generally takes the same or less time than bus travel (it takes between 4 and 6 hours, depending on the train). The train ride from Istanbul is quite scenic, especially when the tracks traverse the shores of Lake Sapanca and go through the rocky and verdant valley of Sakarya River.
Ankara is connected to the central station of Eskişehir by a recently started high speed train service (YHT) seven times a day (which takes 1h 20min and costs TRY25), in addition to a wide number of conventional trains (which are mostly heading for Istanbul, İzmir, or other cities to the west of Ankara via Eskişehir).
Eskişehir lies on the highway D200/E90, which connects Bursa, a major city in the northwest, with Ankara, the national capital. From Istanbul, take D100 or the toll-road O-4/E80 eastwards to Adapazarı first, and then hit the southwards D650 there. In Bozüyük, take D200/E90 to east. Most of the route from Istanbul is up to motorway standards with segregated directions, except some short sections under construction through the valley of Sakarya River.
While landlocked Eskişehir is connected to the Black Sea through Porsuk/Sakarya River system, it's not possible to get into the city by boat unless you are extremely adventurous and obstinate to try to paddle; and even then you have more than a few rapids to pass through.
The city has a 2-line tram system. Of which you can buy a ticket of 1.60 TL per person and per trip and you can ride from bus station to city center. The Odunpazari houses and glass museum of modern art are at the Atatürk High school stop of Bus station line of tram. its 30 minutes walk to city center. Minibuses and public buses cover the rest. City also has a small fleet of 19th century-looking horse-drawn carriages, and a large taxi fleet. At almost anywhere on the large streets, you’ll see buttons (looking like electric switches) hanged on walls, trees etc. To call a cab, you need only to push one of those and the nearest taxi stop will soon send a taxi to where you have pushed it. But walking is probably the best way of transportation in this largely flat city, it is free of charge and the distances aren’t that huge.
- Odunpazarı – It may sound a bit odd in a city with a name which literally means "old city", but this is the only place in Eskişehir where the traditional 19th-century houses haven't been torn down in favor of newer buildings.
- Yazılıkaya – A rock carving left by Phrygians with inscriptions on it. It was a site sacred to Cybele, the mother-goddess of Phrygians, whose cult later arrived as far as Mauritania and Spain in the west and Afghanistan in the east, and all the way between these two extremes. Yazılıkaya is about 90 km south of Eskişehir, near the village also named Yazılıkaya (not to be confused with a site also known as Yazılıkaya in Çorum. Çorum’s Yazılıkaya is a Hittite site). A much smaller replica of it can be seen on the square next to the intercity highway, across the main gate of Yunusemre Campus of Anadolu University.
Eskişehir is known for its hamams (Turkish bath), although there seems to be no particular reason for this fame. There are some baths in the city centre, dating back to Ottoman period. Upon entrance you’ll be asked to put off your shoes and wear the slippers provided. Then you’ll put off all your clothes and wrap yourself in one of the large towels provided. A locker for clothes is provided. Have a through shower and wash your hair before entering the marble hot tub area. Don’t let soapy water leak into the communal pool, if you’ll also have a soapy scrub next to it. Staying more than one hour in the hot section is not advised (especially for the first time) as the very hot air and steam inside can cause the blood pressure to rise considerably. Once you’re done in the hot tub, you’ll be wrapped in the dry room all over your body and head, and asked what drink you’d like. Although never that pricey, the fee of this drink isn’t included in entrance fee, and you don’t have to drink anything if you don’t want to. Usually having a lemon soda is recommended, though, as it’s thought to lower the blood pressure back to normal level.
Entrance is about 5 YTL/person, massage costs a further 5 or 10 YTL (of course it’s not compulsory to have a massage and pay another fee just because you entered the bath if you don’t want to), towels are provided for free, shampoo and soap are provided for 0.50 or 1 YTL each. The price is not hourly, i.e. you can stay inside as long as you like (remember the ‘no-more-than-one-hour-for-the-first-time’ rule, though).
Women and men have separate sections (and enter the building from separate gates).
- Hot springs (kaplıca) also abound in the surrounding region.
In the last 10 years Eskisehir has changed a lot. Beginning with the tram lines here are the changes:
Anadolu University participates in pan-European university student exchange programs.
As you would expect from a big city, there are many ATMs around and credit cards are accepted in most places.
- Meerschaum souvenirs – Meerschaum is extracted only in Eskişehir province in the world. They are mostly chipped into little statues or high-quality tobacco pipes.
Because of the relatively large university student population, the city centre, especially streets leading to or running parallel with the Porsuk River are teeming with local and American-style fast food restaurants and pizzerias.
Local delicacies include:
- Çi börek (or sometimes also spelled çiğ börek) – essentially a Crimean Tatar dish, it reached Eskişehir in the late 19th century when a band of Crimean Tatars was settled in the city. It is a kind of pastry with thin dough walls shaped like a half-moon and filled with finely-minced meat inside. It is cooked in a large pot filled with heated vegetable oil. Crimean Tatars consider eating it with a fork an insult, and they don’t provide any in their restaurants (hands with a paper napkin are used instead).
Since it is a usual habit for university students to binge drink and to pub crawl, there are many bars, pubs, clubs, and discos scattered around the city. It is usually possible to attain a live music performance at weekends.
- Haller Gençlik Merkezi – Once warehouse of the city for fresh groceries, this elegant building has been renovated and now houses beer-, and winehouses. It is located near the central station.
Several pubs in the riverbank of porsuk and the clubs near train station offers a good night, and also an opportunity to know local students. Some pubs by genres:
- 645 (near the riverbank, "Adalar"). Offers live hard-rock and alternative after 11 pm.
- Ares (few blocks away from riverbank). Hosts good local heavy metal groups.
- Cagdas Bira Evi. Ordinary pub! They have cheap beer, anyway.
- Glow. A rock-club mixed place. One of a kind, but it doesn't mean this place is awesome.
Tourism information office – Vilayet Sq 1, tel +90 222 230 38 65
The area code of Eskişehir is 222. Dial +90 222 when calling an Eskişehir number from out of Turkey.
City’s large university student population makes it a place quite easy to communicate in English, although local older generations may only speak Turkish. Also you may encounter youngsters with an ability to speak less widespread European languages such as German or French, though this is much less possible compared with English.
- Kütahya — about an hour away to southwest by several daily buses and trains from Eskişehir, Kütahya is a city known for its faience tradition. It also serves as a jumping off point to Aizanoi with the Temple of Zeus, one of the best preserved Roman sites in the region.
|Routes through Eskişehir|
|Bursa ← Kestel ←||W E||→ Ankara → Adana|