x0x Galata Bridge
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x0x Galata Bridge
By Lemi Ozgen
Galata Bridge is a bustling kaleidoscope with a view of many
places evocative of Istanbul's long history. Topkapi Palace conjures
up a vision of janissaries with magnificent moustaches about to set
out on campaign against Vienna; the city walls that of the Byzantine
emperor Justinian returning from fiercely fought battles in North
Africa. Looking at the old city you imagine the poet Orhan Veli
trudging downhill to Cibali to buy the salt and bread that he had
In Istanbul one small step or a slight turn carry you from one era to
From looking at the lavender blue of the Marmara Sea, you find
yourself gazing at pink Judas tree blossom. As you sorrow over the
Byzantine princes who were blinded and exiled to the Istanbul Islands,
you are cheered up by the sight of gypsy dancers led by Cihanyandi
Saliha of Dolapdere.
This is a city which whirls your mind and spirit here and there like
the Ayandon storm which swept away the roofs of old houses in Balat
one misty November evening.
GULLS OVER GALATA BRIDGE
We are in the centre of Galata Bridge, the sea stretching out on either
side. It must be admitted that the old bridge where a fire broke out
suddenly one night 10 years ago had far more charm. After leaning on the
railings of that bridge watching the sea, the gulls and the fish, you
could descend to the level of the pontoons to eat in the down-at-heel
restaurants. Above, cars rumbled across the bridge, rattling the glasses,
and the waves splashing against the pontoons shook the tables, while the
evening sun stained Istanbul with red light, and the diners reminisced
about old loves. Gulls fly over the bridge, and we remember Orhan Veli's
poem: 'I stand on the bridge watching you all with delight. / Some of you
pull on your oars, backwatering, / Some of you gather mussels from the
pontoons, / Some of you steer barges...' At Karakoy quay next to the
bridge, the ferryboats come and go. Smells of salt, seaweed, perfume and
separation waft on the air.
OPPOSITE IS TOPKAPI PALACE
Facing the bridge is Topkapi Palace on its high headland. The place
where so many unfortunate princes, sultans, concubines and ministers
fell victim to intrigues and rebellions.
In the first court at Topkapi stands the Byzantine Church of St
Eirene, and of the scores of beautiful pavilions that graced the vast
palace gardens, a few remain today.
Suddenly a serene blue light strikes our faces. Our eyes fall on
Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, whose architect Mehmet
Aga was also a musician and mother-of-pearl craftsman. The interior is
faced with 21,043 tiles patterned in cobalt and turquoise specially made
From the palace headland the Column of the Goths can be seen, and behind
it the green expanse of Gulhane Park, among whose trees is a lonely walnut
that no one notices.
The district north of the bridge was a colony of Italian merchants
surrounded by its own great walls. Here stands the Galata Tower, built by
the Genoese 650 years ago. At one time it was used as an observatory, and
then for years as the fire tower. When the watchmen caught sight of
flames, they lit green and red lamps to alert the firemen and spread the
news of the fire around the city. It was from the top of this tower, 350
years ago, that Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi launched himself into the air on
artificial wings tied to his body, and flew right across the Bosphorus to
Uskudar, where he landed safely after his adventure.
CARIA'S RED AND WHITE MARBLE
Behind Topkapi Palace stands Haghia Sophia, like a milestone in history.
Istanbul's most ancient monument, it was built by Isidorus of Miletus and
Anthemius of Tralles.
Its many coloured marbles appear in our kaleidoscope; the
green and black of Ephesus, the pale green of Euboea, the red and
white of Caria, and pink veined of Siga. Then you are dazzled by the
mosaics in gold, oleander pink and sea blue.
Crisscrossing the water in every direction are ferryboats, carrying
people to and from work, on shopping expeditions, to school, and on
The first steam ferries began to ply these waters in the
19th century, and before that graceful caiques carried passengers and
goods across the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
Let us turn our kaleidoscope again to look at the Bosphorus Bridge
suspended far above the water like a necklace.
At one foot is the lively Ortakoy with its restaurants, cafés and art
galleries, and at the other the dreamy old-fashioned district of
Beylerbeyi. By this bridge it takes just five minutes to cross from one
continent to another, watching the sparkling water below, and the wooded
hills above Kavacik and Rumeli Hisar further up the strait.
Time becomes distorted, and past autumns come to mind. The melancholy
strains of a ney rise from Asiyan.
LIFE AT THE END OF A FISHING LINE
At dusk the anglers on the bridge wind in their lines and put away their
rods, recalling a life spent at the end of a fishing line, and memorable
catches in the past.
The steel blue evening falls over Sadabad as they depart home, leaving the
bridge and the sea to the gulls.