In the dynamic, always expanding and running megalopolis between the two continents, the clock seems to stop suddenly for the visitor of the massive Rumeli Hisarı (Rumeli Fortress), or even to send you back directly to August, 1452.
At that time, the current district of Sarıyer where the fortress is located and majestically dominates the European bank of the Bosporus, was out of the edges of the city, since the old Constantinopolis, capital of the Byzantine Empire, was mostly concentrated within the historical peninsula.
Who knows if its inhabitants could ever imagine that the warm summer wind blowing from the towers of the new-built Rumeli Fortress would have wiped out forever the old habits of their city, just a few months later? This wind was called Sultan Mehmet II (Fatih Sultan Mehmet) and he had a clear goal: conquering the Christian Constantinopolis and embracing thus the prosperous city into the Ottoman Empire, under the crescent moon shaking flag.
It was for this purpose that he ordered the construction of Rumeli Hisarı, that was completed in just 4 months (April-August, 1452), as a military fortress aimed at controlling the naval traffic on the Bosporus, in order to avoid any goods provision to the city by enemy vessels; this would have impeded an effective siege and delayed the Ottoman conquest of Constantinopolis.
The structure, in fact, was built on the narrowest part of the channel, in the European side, right in front of another fortress, situated on the Asian bank (Anatolian Fortress) so that every single enemy boat attempting to pass the channel had no chance to remain unnoticed and safe.
The whole Fortress plan seems to belong to the Architect Muslihuddin Aga and it is made up of 3 main towers, whose names are the ones of the pashas who ordered their construction (Zaganos, Saruca and Halilpasha tower). There are in total 15 towers of different sizes and shapes, linked by the walls, and 5 doors in the fortress.
As soon as the visitor enters the main door, through the thick stone and masonry brick walls (3-5m), he realizes even better that the structure was not designed exactly as a Luna park: lots of huge cannons lying on the floor severely bring you back to consider the military purposes of Rumeli Fortress, even though the beauty of the landscapes would suggest you to have a picnic, and shoot the beer cap, or a picture, instead!
In fact, it takes a few to get on the top of the walls surrounding Rumeli Hisarı; from there it’s possible to enjoy the view of Bosporus channel and the Asian side from above, together with the second Bosporus Bridge (Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge): the latter is very near and it seems you are watching it almost from the same height of the vehicles moving on it.
Little hint: remember to bring comfortable gym shoes with you and pay attention to climb up the walls! Sometimes there are no protections against falling down and it can be very dangerous, due to the considerable heights.
The whole structure, anyway, has been restored several times during its long history, in particular after the earthquake in 1509, that destroyed also the Ebulfeth Mosque, previously built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet over an old cistern in the inner court, where the ruined minaret is still visible, next to the open-air theatre. Rumeli Fortress was also used as a prison (after the conquest of the city in 1453).
Finally, a more recent and great restoration, dated 1953-58, gave it the aspect we can admire now days and turned it into a museum. Together with Seven Towers Fortress and Anatolian Fortress, Rumeli Hisarı is thus part of the Fortress Museums of Istanbul.
Photo Credits: Dennis Jarvis