Rich in historical significance, Edirne, Turkey, saw the best and the worst times of the Roman Empire.
At one time named Hadrianopolis after Emperor Hadrian, under whose reign the empire reached the farthest, this city 145 mi/235 km west of Istanbul (near the border with Bulgaria and Greece). was also the scene of the empire's worst military disaster. The Emperor Valens and all his troops were slaughtered there by barbarian invaders, the Goths, in 378. The site of at least 16 major ancient battles, the area was dubbed "the most contested spot on the globe" by military historian John Keegan, pointing to its enviable strategic location. Its past has left the city with a heritage of cobblestoned streets, outdoor shops, wooden houses and an eastern European feel.
The main reason to visit Edirne, however, is to see the Selimiye Mosque, a building that represents the best work of the finest Ottoman Turkish architect, Sinan—it's a true masterpiece. The Uc Serefeli Mosque, Eski Mosque and (a little way out of town) Bayezit II mosque complex are also worth seeing.
Plan one night in Edirne, two or three if you're visiting for the wrestling festival.
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