EDİRNE - Edirne, on Turkey's western border, is one of the most overlooked tourism spots of the country. Having witnessed the times of the Roman and Ottoman Empires, Edirne is like an open-air museum, waiting to be discovered and take a fairer share from tourism.
Projects are in motion to lengthen Edirne’s tourism season to year-round and be more active in the tourism sector, said Edirne Governor Mustafa Büyük, speaking to the Anatolia news agency.
According to Büyük, Edirne is an important center for faith tourism and with the opening of restored historic places, he hopes for a vital tourism season.
Büyük said the Kırkpınar Oiled Wrestling Tournament in June would also help the city’s developing domestic tourism. "We care about restoring historical places a lot. This year we have activated the project for opening the Palace of Edirne and its bastions to visitors. I am hoping that our Edirne, with its mosques, caravanserai and mansions, will receive a bigger share of tourism than the previous years," he said.
The governor said they were lacking rest areas but that there has been development in that area as well. Additionally, this year Saros Bay has prepared very well for tourists looking for sea and sand, according to Büyük. "This tourism season we aim to transform Edirne into a location to be visited, not passed through," he said.
İrfan Özcan, Edirne’s director for culture and tourism, said first and foremost, in order for Edirne to receive a share from tourism, the promotion of the city must be done properly. Özcan said related sectors and local administrations should support the promotional work of the governorship and keep it constant.
Özcan added that there was a lack of brochures, flyers, books and magazines for the city’s promotion in recent years, but they are printed now. Özcan also said they are promoting the handicrafts of the area at domestic or foreign fairs they attend, alongside the historical and tourism spots. Özcan informed that two employees speaking English and German are on duty seven days a week at the Tourism Information Office to offer the best service to tourists. The office has provided its information service to 26,567 domestic and foreign tourists in three years, according to Özcan.
"We host many visitors every year from many countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Greece, Italy, Belgium and Austria. There were 3,159 domestic and 3,802 foreign tourists that visited Edirne and received information from our office in 2006. In 2007, the number of domestic visitors was 6,103 and the foreign visitor total was 4,544. And we helped 5,490 domestic and 3,459 foreign tourists in 2008." Özcan said, adding that their staff included 10 certified guides to help the tourists.
Özcan recalled that the foundation of the city dates back to the Roman Empire and Edirne was the capital of the Ottomans for 92 years. Both are the source of the many historical artifacts in the city’s museums. According to numbers from the last three years’ provided by Özcan, the Archeology and Ethnography Museum of Edirne has been visited by 714 foreign and 23,390 domestic tourists, while the Turkish Islam Artifacts Museum has attracted 1,501 foreign and 61,740 domestic visitors. The Ottoman Social Complex of Beyazıd II, transformed into the Health Museum, is the most popular museum with 12,774 foreign and 372,936 domestic tourist visits.
Özcan described Edirne as "the Sultan of Cities" and said they will try to promote Edirne in every platform possible and they will create a trend for people to visit Edirne.
Web promotion for Edirne
Gökhan Balta, president of the foundation that promotes Edirne and its tourism, said their biggest target this year is promoting Edirne to the world through the Internet.
Balta said they are sorry Edirne is still not an important tourism center despite all the history it houses and they will use every aspect of technology to promote Edirne. Work is in progress for advertisements on domestic and foreign Web sites, Balta said. "Alongside printed documents, we will open courses for tour guiding for the promotion of Edirne. Those courses will be run by the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism," he said.
Balta said tradesmen of the city would also attend the courses, which will result in well-informed tour guides from every aspect of the community. Balta said they would also attend fairs in the Balkans to promote Edirne as a border town.