Now that spring is arriving in Bursa, it’s time to start thinking about dusting off the grill. With that idea in mind, I dug up this photo from last fall that I’d like to share as today’s Featured Fotoğrafı.

This photo of hard-working yet fun-loving grill masters was taken at the 5th annual Nilüfer Görükle Balkan Fair, a festive October weekend filled with music, games, food, and fun. The fair celebrates the strong Balkan heritage of a large part of Bursa’s population. The town of Görükle, in particular, is home to many Balkan Turks who in recent decades have re-settled in Turkey.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Ottoman Empire grew to envelope many of the Balkan countries, and over the centuries Ottoman Turks settled in such places that we know today as Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, and Greece. The Ottoman culture flourished during these centuries and the mass Turkish expatriation to these areas left its mark on the ethnic, social, and religious makeup of the Balkan region. However, after Ottoman control of the region began to erode in the late 19th century, Balkan Turks began returning to Turkey. In the 20th century, waves of Balkan Turks repatriated to Turkey in coincidence with the close of the Ottoman Empire and the rise and fall of communism. In 1989 alone, around 320,000 Turks emigrated from Bulgaria to Turkey. Over the years, a large number of these emigrants landed in Bursa, bringing with them their own unique version of Turkish-ness. Many neighborhoods in Bursa reflect a Balkan influence and there seems to be a sense of brotherhood between many of Bursa’s residents and their Balkan counterparts.

It’s this sort of ethnic heritage that is celebrated at the annual Nilüfer Görükle Balkan Fair. For me, the fair was an opportunity to learn something new, eat some great food, have a little fun, chat with my good buddy (himself a Bulgarian Turk), and see Bursa’s culture from a little different perspective.

Here are a few other snapshots from last fall’s Balkan Fair…

Nilufer Gorukle Balkan Fair

Nilufer Gorukle Balkan Fair

Nilufer Gorukle Balkan Fair