9 Aralık 2013 Pazartesi

Galata Tower

Visitors to Istanbul cannot miss the Galata Tower. A huge cone-capped landmark on the European side of the Golden Horn, it dominates the skyline of Galata and is the first sight to hit you in the city. 

Galata is located in Istanbul, where the Golden Horn meets the Bosphorus. The Galata bridges spanned the two shores of the Golden Horn. The name Galata comes from `gala`, which in Greek means milk. It is presumed that the many dairies in the district lent the place this name, although there is no historical evidence of the fact. It could also have come from the Italian word `calata` or `the road leading down to the sea`, possibly because of the slight slope of the section between Tunel to the shores of Halic.

The region of Galata was famous for its several Latin Catholic churches. Most of these however were destroyed by fires so you may not really see any. Galata also has an abandoned synagogue built by a Jewish banker and many mosques that were built during the Ottoman era. Galata has always been famous for its confluence of many cultures - a place where people from many religions and races got shelter. The warm, tolerant and democratic environment of Galata has been symbolized in the structure of its most famous landmark - the Galata Tower.

Located in the north of the Golden Horn, the Galata Tower was originally constructed by Emperor Justinian in 528 AD. It was destroyed during the Fourth Crusade, but when the Geonese conquered the place in the medieval period, the tower was again built as part of their fortification of the region. They wanted to build a wall to fortify the area and the tower was built in the center as a watchtower as it was a vantage point to look out to old Istanbul on the opposite side. At that time, the Galata tower was known as `Jesus Tower,` with a spire and a cross on top.

Istanbul was later conquered by the Turkish ruler Sultan Mehmet. He caused no harm to any of the religious buildings in Istanbul or to the Galata Tower. In fact, it was rebuilt time and again by the Ottomans after damages caused to it by fires and earthquakes. During the course of reconstruction, the Ottomans incorporated their own architectural design into it. The Galata Tower is therefore a true reflection of symbiosis of cultures so typical of Galata.

The huge cone-capped cylindrical tower is magnificent in its dimensions. It measures 8.95 meters in diameter and stands 140 meters above sea-level. From ground level, it is 61 meters. This altitude makes it a good vantage point to see the whole of Istanbul. The walls are 3.75 meters thick. Not much remains of the original appearance though, due to destruction by fire and earthquakes. However, an interesting feature you will observe is that the first three floors have a Genoese style of construction while the upper floors have Turkish architecture. Around the topmost row of windows is a narrow panorama balcony. Although open to weather, it offers a spectacular view of the city of Istanbul.

Before you visit the tower, it will be interesting for you to know a few of the stories associated with the Galata Tower and the variety of uses it has been put to. This adds more significance to the visit. The Geonese first used the tower for defense purposes. It was also a part of the communication system at that time - a method inherited from the Romans. Fires were lit on top of the tower to send messages at great distances.

When the Ottomans captured Istanbul, they converted it into a prison and later used it as a dormitory for the military band.

However, the most well known story is that of Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi. The Galata Tower really became famous in Turkey and a part of Ottoman history when in the 17th century; Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi attempted to fly from the GalataTower to Uskudar on the Asian shore with wings attached to his arms. After working on this project for many years, he succeeded one fine day, when the winds carried him all the way over the Bosphorous to Uskudar. After this spectacular event, the locals referred to the tower as the Hezarfen Tower for quite some time.

It is also during this period that people used the tower for a strange sport. They tied ropes to the supports on top of the tower and slid down the rope. Later they climbed up the rope back to the top of the tower. Regular competitions were held in this sport of rope climbing.

At times, the tower was also used by the Mevlevi Order of the dervishes for their sema ceremonies.

The Galata Tower underwent its last restoration in 1990 and was made open to the public as a tourist attraction soon after.

On your visit to Istanbul, you will at once be struck by the sight of this enormous construction that dominates the skyline. The tower is open to visitors from 9a.m to 8p.m daily. The balcony remains open till 5p.m and till 7 p.m. in summer. You have to pay a small fee to enter the Galata Tower. There is an elevator to the tower, but you have to walk up the last two floors to the observation desk.

The climb will be worthwhile as the sight from the observation desk is most spectacular. It will give you a 360-degree panoramic view of Istanbul. You can see the Asian side, the highest point of Istanbul, the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Suleiman`s Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Spice Market, the New Mosque and all other important destinations of Istanbul. From the Galata Tower, you can see the four different sides of Istanbul.

If the visit makes you hungry, there is a restaurant on top of the tower where you can taste some fine Turkish cuisine. If you visit the tower in the evening, you can get a taste of the Turkish nightlife at the nightclub. Turkish folk dance troupes and belly dancers perform regularly there to entertain the guests.

So if you wish to get a true insight to Istanbul, feel its history, and enjoy a magnificent view of the sea and The Golden Horn, you must visit the Galata Tower - the oldest and most beautiful tower of Istanbul.

From Turkey For You - Turkey Travel Guide

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