Istanbul is the city where state of the art meets the conventional world. This is the place where the flavours of the two largest continents, Asia and Europe merge to create a unique and exotic world altogether. Beating the City of Love, Paris to the top spot for the Travellers Choice Destination awards, Istanbul is the rage for holidaymakers this year. So forget the tried and tested and give a shot to something new, the largest city of Turkey, Istanbul. And the best way to start your tour is by breathing in the Turkish air from the highest structure in Istanbul from back in the days, Galata Tower.
Galata Tower also known as The Tower of Christ is one of the most important landmarks of the city. This ancient stone tower is situated in the Galata quarter of Istanbul, north of the famous estuary, Golden Horn’s junction with the Bosphorus. The cylindrical tower with its conical top dominates the landscape of the city and visitors can gulp in a stunning view from up there. The tower can be seen from any point around the region. It gives you the feeling that it is stalking you, while you explore the city beckoning you to come and see what it has to offer. Walking down a street and you turn back and look up and there it is towering over all the other buildings. The easiest way to arrive here is to take a metro till Taksim Tunnel and walk up to the tower through a narrow street lined with chic boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants exclusively set up to lure tourists. It is open to visitors from nine in the morning to seven in the evening and even though the admission costs are a little steep it is definitely worth the visit. The tower consists of nine floors with two elevators taking you up till the seventh floor and the topmost level acts an observation deck which offers a 360 degree vista of the exotic city. The narrow platform that constitutes the terrace surrounds the tower and at that height you can see all the way till the seven hills of Istanbul along with the Golden Horn and the Galata Bridge. An additional bonus is enjoying the view while dining at the restaurant up there to make the experience even more memorable.
The Galata Tower was built by the Genoese in the year 1348. Back in those days Istanbul was known as Constantinople. Before this tower came into existence another similar one was in its place, under the Byzantine Empire it was known as the Great Tower but it was razed to the ground after an attack from the Latin Crusaders. That tower was located further away from the present tower and it played the part of defence to watch over the area of the Golden Horn for protection from a massive onslaught. A huge chain was used to corner off the area and slow down an oncoming assault. Earlier the tower did not have a cone capped top, it was more of a cupola. In the beginning the tower stood as a sentry watching over the city, later it took the job of holding prisoners during the rule of Ottoman, further it was used to spot fires which occasionally broke out in the city due to a large number of wooden houses and often it was used as a lighthouse to guide stranded ships. The tower was renovated countless times due to frequent damages from an earthquake, or a fire, or due to storms. Through the years the tower was used for various purposes and it was also damaged time and again but after all the rough days it still stands strong today.
The tower is not just known for its historic value. There are endless stories about the seemingly mundane structure that makes it distinct. You must have heard of tales narrated by people who randomly spotted something peculiar in the sky. Hoards of people looking up to pinpoint what it is. Is that a bird? Plane? Shooting star? Or UFO? A similar incident happened back in the 1600s. The legend goes, a man named Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi designed artificial eagle like wings which he attached to his torso and flew from the top of the tower all the way over Bosphorus till the slopes of Uskudar covering an astounding six kilometres. This early aviator was seen by many spectators who could not believe their eyes. The ruler during that period was so surprised that he believed it might be dangerous for a man with such a skill to live there and so he was send on exile to Algeria. No one knows what happened to him after the incident and people slowly began to forget about this miracle. Another famous folklore is that the Galata Tower was said to be in love with the a neighbouring tower known as the Maiden Tower but this tower was so mesmerised by the sight of the ships docking at the harbour that it never realised Galata Tower’s feelings towards it. Based on this tale it is said that lovers who are not meant to be together cannot reach the top of the tower. Circumstances always prevent them to reach their final destination. At the same time it is also said that you are destined to marry the person with whom you go up to the top for the first time.
Interesting isn’t it? The tower has become a resident of Istanbul as much as its citizens. They believe the skyline is incomplete without the conical top of the tower reaching up to the skies giving love faith and hope to the people who visit it. So be ready with your cameras to immortalise the moments that you spent on top of this legend known as the Galata Tower.