Turkey // Around the Sea of Marmara //

Bursa silk and the cocoon auction


The annual highlight in Bursa’s bazaar is the cocoon auction of late June and early July, when silk-breeders gather to hawk their valuable produce. The courtyard floor of the Koza Hanı becomes a lake of white torpedoes the size of a songbird’s egg; the moth, when it hatches, is a beautiful creature with giant onyx eyes and feathery antennae, though this rarely happens, as the cocoons are boiled to kill the grub inside, and the fibre is then spun. You can watch the melee from the upper arcades, but, if you’re careful, the merchants don’t mind you walking the floor.

Bursa’s silk trade declined due to French and Italian competition during the eighteenth century, but has since experienced a tentative revival. However, the quality of contemporary fabric cannot compare to museum pieces from the early Ottoman heyday, and most of the better designs use imported material, better quality than the Turkish. If you’re buying silk, make sure the label says ipek (silk) and not ithal ipek (artificial silk).

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