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The Galata Tower is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city on the European Side, located in Old Pera (Beyoglu) district. It is open everyday from 9.00 to 18.00 to climb up to the observation deck. There is a restaurant on the top of the tower where you can enjoy a traditional Turkish Night. There is an elevator and two floors to walk up.
The tower was the focus of the Genoese fortifications of Medieval Galata. Originally known as Galata Tower the "Tower of Christ", it was built in 1348 in connection with the first expansion of the Genoese Colony. The first fortified area, walled in as early as 1304, was a long, narrow rectangle along the Golden Horn between today's two bridges over the Golden Horn. On the 17th C, an Ottoman citizen, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi attempted to fly from Galata Tower to Asian Shore of Uskudar and he worked on his project for years. With the wings he invented, he succeded to fly to his target and this was a great success of that time. It was used as an observation tower and constituted an important part of their defense system. It was used as a fire observation tower till 1960s, and later restored and converted to a touristic attraction.
The observation deck is spectacular, it gives one the opportunity of a 360 degrees of vision. It is 61 meters, 183 ft. tall. From the deck, one can observe the Asian Side, the highest point of Istanbul, the Bosphorus, the Bophorus Bridge, the harbour for the cruise ships, the Golden Horn, the old Galata settlement with rather poor neighborhoods, the Suleiman's Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, the Spice Market, the New Mosque, the Halic (Golden Horn) settlements, the new part of the town, Beyoglu (old Pera) and so on...In order to see Istanbul's four different sides, one must go and visit the tower. It is being restored but still open to visit.
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.
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.