This post is part 7 of 17 of my trip to Istanbul. The series intends to give more than just a I-saw-this-and-did-that review. It aims to share the voice inside my head as I explore a world I’ve only read in books.
If you lucked out of a stay in the Hali Hotel and it’s terrace view of The Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque and The Bosporus River, visiting the Galata Tower is the second best place to go for a panoramic view of the Old Istanbul. JC and I hopped on a bus from Chamberlitas station in Sultanahmet and took it over the Galata Bridge. The sun beamed at a 45 degree angel. In a few hours it would be setting. There would be no better place to watch the sun set over the Istanbul skyline than up on the Galata Tower.
We climbed up the vertical hill before reaching the foot of the medieval stone cylinder, where a line already snaked around the base. The Galata Tower stands out as one of Istanbul’s most striking landmarks. The blue cone capped tower offers a panoramic view of The Golden Horn, The Bosporus River, the Sea of Marmara and the skyline of Old Istanbul dotted with minarets and dome mosques.
The Galata Tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 to fortify the city. After the Ottoman Conquest, it became a holding place for captured war prisoners and a watch tower for spotting fires. There is an Old Galata Tower called the Megalos Pyrogos, which was built during the Byzantine period on another location. It was used to control the entrance of the Golden Horn. However, the old tower was destroyed during the Fourth Crusade.
The current Galata Tower contains a restaurant, a café and a nightclub. None of which were of any interest to me. I darted straight to the narrow deck to claim my spot and held down the fort until the sun set. The deck is just wide enough for one person but tourists are impatient. They squeeze by anyway forcing the person standing closest to the fence to sway the upper half of their body over the edge giving them a thrilling view of the 220 foot drop. It’s not for the faint of heart. Good thing I’m short. I didn’t sway over too much.
We lingered on the deck long after sunset. The city looked different at night but it was still as lively as it was before. From above, the lights below were the heartbeats of the city. Everything seem to have a pulse – the restaurants, the cars, the mosques, the ferries, the streets, everything. JC and I made our way back over to Eminonu via the under path below the Galata Bridge. Restaurants filled the length of the bridge from one end to the other. Looking out towards the water, I could see the almost invisible fishing lines that were dangling from above.
At the end of the Galata Bridge in the Eminonu district, three neon flashing fishing boats rocked heavily from left to right. They were Eminonu’s famous fish boats that served fish sandiches straight from the deck. I was a little seasick just watching the cooks work. I wonder how they stayed on for so long. The waves crashed hard along the boardwalk and the boat almost looked like it was about to tip over. The cooks didn’t look phased at all. They must have taken some really strong dopamine. We sat away from the water and people-watched from afar while we munched on our fish sandwiches. Our fingers smelled fishy for a very long time but I didn’t mind. It was great to be absorbed in another world.