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Galata Kulesi (Galata Tower), although not as romantic as Kız Kulesi, is definitely wise staple along the Istanbul skyline. While Kız Kulesi is located at sea and looks up at city, Galata Kulesi has bearded witness to all the stories taken place within the city. With one tower at sea and the other on land, a few poetic souls of Istanbul have taken to the towers, avowing their love through their poetry. They say Galata Kulesi and Kız Kulesi are complementary lovers whose fate reaches one other, but the two are forced to love from afar.
Galata Kulesi’s fame comes from the beautiful view it presents as well as the history it has been through. Thus, Galata Tower has both a materialist and spiritual meaning. It was originally built as a generic lighthouse in 528 remained unchanged until the Fourth Crusade. After the crusaders abandoned the city, Genovese people restored it and named it Christea Turris, while simultaneously called Megalos Pyrgos by Byzantines.
Galata Kulesi grew tall a few years before Mehmet II conquered the city. Historical records show that Murad II provided financial support to Genoveses to heighten the tower. This renovation marked the beginning of the friendship between Genoveses and Ottomans. After Constantinople became Istanbul as it was taken into Ottoman hands, Genoveses was granted many privileges as a result of the friendship. Constantinople’s second dervish lodge, Kulekapı (Galata) Mevlevihanesi, opened in 1491 very close to Galata Tower. The young tower grew old together side by side the melancholy reed flute melody. While Mevlevi poet Şeyh Galip was writing “Hüsn-ü Aşk” (“Beauty and Love”), Galata Kulesi was watching over him and taking its own spiritual journey. Who could be more heartbroken than Galata Kulesi when the mystical Mevlevihanesi was closed in during the winter of 1925?
According to Evliya Çelebi, Galata Kulesi played a large role in an extraordinary historical event. Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew from atop the Galata Kulesi, passed over the Bosporus, and landed safely at Üsküdar. Sultan Murad first celebrated Çelebi, but ultimately sentenced him to exile in Algeria. The Sultan claimed, “Hezarfen is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people in the city”.
Galata Kulesi went on to work as a fire tower during 18th century, when Istanbul plagued with many disastrous fires. On the event of such emergencies, Galata would glow red for Istanbul proper, white for Beyoğlu, and green for Anatolia. While Galata Kulesi spent time chasing after the fires in the city, it became a victim of a fire event itself. Mahmud II adopted the dilapidated tower and ordered its restoration immediately. The clock was placed on the tower during these restoration efforts, thus retaining the image until present day.
Finally, Galata Kulesi was restored in 1960 for the last time and opened its doors to visitors. The tower’s balcony still boasts the most beautiful 360 degree view of the city. Galata is open to visitors from 9am to 7pm. If you’d like to stay later, the Galata Tower restaurant is opened for business until midnight.
Photo Credits: Boon Low