Monday, January 5, 2015

The Glory of Galata (Galata Tower - Istanbul, Turkey)

Istanbul's Galata Tower is downright iconic in this city, and has been since it was built by the Genoese (The Genoese had a colony in Constantinople) in 1348. The Genoese called it 'Christea Turris," or the Tower of Christ, and, that name has certainly not stuck through the centuries for obvious reasons. It has dominated Istanbul's skyline (particularly north of the Golden Horn) for hundreds of years, and surely will continue to do so well into the future. It's a striking medieval tower that was the tallest structure in the city when it was built, and now offers almost incomparable panoramic views of Istanbul, especially the Sultanahmet area and, more generally, the historic peninsula on the south portion of the Bosphorus.

Let's take a sidestep. This weekend we had visitors from Vienna. Katie, a good friend of ours from Korea who is originally from America, recently moved to Vienna to be with her Austrian boyfriend that she had met on a trek in Mongolia during the summer. We met up about a month ago in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then, shortly after that, they decided to come to Istanbul. Did you catch all that? Such are the joys of the expat life. A complicated web of friendships and encounters that, somehow, work. We hadn't seen Katie since Korea, so about two years, then, all of a sudden, we see her twice in a Europe. Sure, why not?

We had brought Katie and Arnold to the delicious Cafe Privato (one of the best Turkish breakfasts in the city) in the Galata area, and we continued to marvel over the view out the back window of the Galata Tower. Naturally, it became clear that we had to go up to the top, immediately after breakfast. We paid our bill, and off we went.

Apparently the rest of Istanbul had a similar idea.

However, the wait was nothing to worry about because Bri and I had recently taken advantage of Cyber Monday in the US and bought ourselves a fine looking camera (Nikon D3200 and Sigma 17-50mm DC OS HSM lens) off of Amazon. So, we both took the time to take some photos of the tower and the surrounding area while we waited.

Interestingly, there is a sign upon entry that states that Turkish students pay 5 lira, Turkish citizens pay 10, and "foreign people" pay 25. Well, alright, I suppose. Luckily, I'm a Turkish resident so I was able to pay 10, but our visitors had to pay more than twice what we paid. Something about that whole situation just rubbed me the wrong way, but, all in all, it's not that big of a deal.

I checked the time that the sun would set on my iPhone while in line and was pleased to note that it appeared as if we would be at the top of the tower when the sky gained its pinkish hue. We were very fortunate that this was exactly the case. We took the elevator up to the top, then headed outside for our 360 degree lap around the top of the tower.

It was emotional for me in some ways. I found myself pondering how everything had aligned to bring me there on that tower at that particular moment. It was all the more emotional thinking about the fact that, while Katie and Arnold were merely visiting, this was my home. 

This is my home. 

I'm about 6 months into living here now, which seems like a lot, but feels like nothing when I think about all the experiences to be had in a city like this. Yet, I must admit that my life in Istanbul during the first 6 months has also been packed full of new experiences. On some level, it's comforting to know that even if we had visitors every weekend, we would never run out of things to do.

In three weeks time, Bri and I will be heading to Australia for a few weeks, something I am very much looking forward to. However, it's comforting to know that when we return from Australia, as the wheels hit the tarmac, I won't be thinking "I'm back in Istanbul," but rather, "I'm home." And, it's places like the Galata Tower that make that such a sweet thought indeed.

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