Friday, September 26, 2014

A Strategic Sanctuary - Rumeli Fortress (Istanbul, Turkey)

More than almost any city I've visited, Istanbul feels like a city that's actually more like an amalgamation of a number of smaller cities, each with their own culture. I've lived in Seoul, South Korea (notoriously large with disparate areas), so I feel I can make a statement like that and have it carry at least some validity. And so, we left the concrete haven of Taksim Square, and headed for watery Bebek, which is technically in Istanbul's Beşiktaş neighourhood. There was decidedly less concrete. 

Strolling down Bebek's promenade, I couldn't help feel that I had left Istanbul altogether and gone on a vacation to another city, somewhere in the Mediterranean, perhaps. Scantily clad older gentlemen fished along the seaside and dove into the water with surprising gusto, and all seemed to be pleasantly soaking up the sun. Happiness did not strike me as particularly hard to come by in this affluent area. Bebek, I might note (because...why not?), means "baby" in Turkish.

Though Bebek is lovely, the real goal of the trek was to make it to the Rumeli Fortress, in nearby Sarıyer, the northernmost district of Istanbul. Oppressive heat aside, it was very impressive. 

The Rumeli Fortress (or Rumelihisari) was built by Ottaman Sultan Mehmed II before he actually laid claim to all of Constantinople. The fort was purposefully built to prevent any reinforcements coming up the Bosporus for the Byzantines while Constantinople was being fought over. The fact that seems to be displayed the loudest throughout the fortress is that it was built between 1451 and 1452 in just a matter of months - that's quite the feat. From a distance (especially on the Asian side), you can clearly notice the three large towers (named after 3 of Mehmed's esteemed political strategists), which are connected with a multitude of other lookouts and viewpoints. Given it's hillside position, I can only imagine it served its purpose with flying colours.

I was once again blessed to spend the day with people I love - Bri, Chantal, Jamie, and Anjali. Bri and I will be heading to Bulgaria with them on vacation in less than two weeks, and I'm sincerely looking forward to it. I didn't quite know all that then, though - my visit to Rumeli was only about two weeks after I arrived, and if I recall correctly, I just remember thinking, "Yeah, so this is my home now? um...sign me up."

After fulfilling its duty as a fortress, (only 4-500 or so hundred years ago), Rumeli has served as a customs checkpoint, prison, and even makeshift settlement, but I'm pleased I was able to enter the fortress under its current incarnation - as an open-air museum.

In terms of blogging, I'm currently trying to catch-up to all that I've done so far in Istanbul, which is a good thing, so the even better news is that the list of things to do in this city is simply endless. I imagine I'll be quite behind on writing when I do finally leave, but the general uncertainty of when that will be leaves me with a sweet taste in my mouth (that could be all the sugary tea I drink here, though). Rumeli was a stop I'm pleased I made, and something I did not have the chance to check off the list when Bri and I were here 5 years ago.

Well, I hope you've felt it was worth stopping by, and if not, my blissful ignorance of who exactly you are ensures that I'm not offended. Though, whoever you are and wherever you find yourself, I appreciate the support.

Until later, but not too much later,


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