x0x Years of Solitude End for the Beauty in the Bosporus
- [See http://www.ddg.com/ISTANBUL/PLACES/kiz.html
for photographs and more on the Maiden's Tower.
Editor, TurkC-L ]
x0x Years of Solitude End for the Beauty in the Bosporus
* Kiz Kulesi has been handed over to Hamoglu Tourism and Hotel
Management by the Ministry of Tourism for 49 years, and after
extensive restoration work is now open to the public
* 'Kiz Kulesi was neglected for years. Why did the people who now
object to its restoration not do something during that period?'
* Now that the work is completed and the tower is ready to welcome
its guests, transportation is available by boat as this complies
with the 'historical identity and setting of the tower'
Kiz Kulesi (Maiden's Tower) has served as a lighthouse, a watchtower,
a traffic-control center and a prison over the years and is now open
to the public after complete restoration of the structure. Kiz Kulesi
has been handed over to Hamoglu Tourism and Hotel Management by the
Ministry of Tourism for 49 years. The ministry transferred the
restoration and administration of parts of the country's cultural
heritage to the private sector for the purpose of "protecting our
cultural inheritance," and turned the Kiz Kulesi restoration and
administration project over to Hamoglu Tourism and Hotel Management --
part of Hamoglu Holding.
The Tures Limited Corporation undertook the restoration of the tower.
Architect Semih Gucer from Tures stated that the restoration of Kiz
Kulesi had been going on for approximately 1.5 years and was carried
out by a staff of 60. He said the original architectural structure of
Kiz Kulesi had been investigated in detail and that their work had
been guided by the information obtained from this research. Gucer also
mentioned that the restoration which was done in 1941 resulted in
significant changes to a large part of the structure. He added that
they had removed the changes made during the previous restoration,
stating that the building had been plastered over in the 1941 work and
they had removed the plaster to reveal the original rock.
Cracks from earthquake are repaired
Gocer stated that the earthquake had caused thin cracks on the walls
of Kiz Kulesi and that these had been repaired. After Kiz Kulesi was
handed over to the private sector, the Chamber of Architects and
various other sectors criticized the move, saying, "If the tower is
opened to the public, it will be damaged." Gucer responded to the
criticism: "Buildings exist for people. Kiz Kulesi should be available
to people in order to remain standing. Nobody knows what sort of a
place it is. People who go there will discover its culture and its
history. This knowledge will become greater with promotional items
such as stamps, posters, brochures and books that people will be able
to find there. Kiz Kulesi was neglected for years. Why didn't the
people who now object do something during that period?"
Cost is around $3 million
Mustafa Balikoglu, general manager of Hamoglu Holding which has taken
over the restoration and management of Kiz Kulesi, maintained that
they do not expect any commercial benefit from the tower. Balikoglu,
stressing that Kiz Kulesi was a restoration project that formed part
of Hamoglu Holding's tourism investments, stated that the historic and
touristic tower which had not been utilized until now, had been
transformed into a viable structure. "This project is a rare honor
because Kiz Kulesi is unique in the world," he said.
Balikoglu revealed that the projected cost of the restoration was
around $2.5-3 million dollars.
Transportation to be by boat
The restoration team has finished the "New Kiz Kulesi." Now that the
tower is ready to welcome its guests, transportation is being provided
by boats to comply with the "historical identity and conditions of the
tower." The craft can accommodate 60 people at a time. Part of the
income earned from the management of the tower will go into a fund
established so that money needed for maintenance in future years will
The tower has a Turkish coffee and hookah section, a cafeteria, a
service kitchen, restrooms, an open terrace, and a painter and
musician corner. There is a lighthouse section on the ground floor of
the tower which has a 900-meter-square enclosed area and a
1,255-meter-square open area. The Bosporus Cultures Museum and an
exhibition hall are on the first floor, administrative offices are on
the second floor, stamps, pictures, posters and engravings are sold on
the third floor, a gift shop is on the fourth level and the fifth
floor houses a waiting room, service kitchen and observation area
where binoculars are available.
Kiz Kulesi will continue to use its old facilities as well as the new
ones. There is also a room for the radio operator on the first floor
-- which is not open to the public -- a watch tower on the second and
a flagstaff on the third floor.
Tower of legends
There are many legends about Kiz Kulesi, one of the prominent symbols
of Istanbul, that reflect the traces of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman
According to the most famous story about Kiz Kulesi, Constantine, one
of the Byzantine emperors, had a beautiful daughter that he loved
dearly. The soothsayers said the girl would one day be bitten by a
snake and die. To protect his daughter the emperor commissioned a
tower to be constructed on the small island where Kiz Kulesi now
stands and sent his daughter there. However, the girl was killed by a
snake that came to the small island in a grape basket.
According to another well-known story, Manuel Commene (1143-1180),
also a Byzantine emperor, got angry when he learned that his daughter
"Leander" had a love affair. He commissioned this tower to be
constructed and locked the girl inside it. After this the tower was
called "Leander Tower."
Aside from these legends there does exist some factual evidence on the
tower. The Byzantines used the tower as a prison from time to time and
made it a station to collect customs duties from ships and to guide
ships by way of the tower's lanterns.
The Turkish people's interest in the tower began when negotiations
between Orhan Gazi (1281-1362) and Byzantine Emperor John Cantacuzenus
took place at Kiz Kulesi. When the Turks conquered Istanbul the tower
was derelict. The tower, made of wood, was repaired. However that
tower burned down in a fire that started one day when the keepers were
lighting the way for ships. During the reign of Sultan Ahmet III, a
stone tower was built by Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasa in 1719. Kiz
Kulesi was also used as a prison by the Ottoman Turks. It was then
left in a state of disrepair for a long time before being restored by
the Denizcilik Bank in the republican period and made into a
It was handed over to Naval Forces headquarters on Oct. 20, 1966, and
turned into a radar station. Its management was taken over by the
maritime administration of the port of Istanbul on Oct. 7, 1982, and
it was opened to serve as the control center for sea traffic, a
function it still fulfills today. Nevertheless, the tower was then
handed over to the national property trust by the Naval Forces
The president of the Kiz Kulesi Association, architect, instructor and
photographic artist Mehmet Bayhan says:
"Five years ago there were activities taking place at Kiz Kulesi.
Meetings took place under the name of 'poetic republic activities.'
We, who participated in these activities, then established a
foundation. We had considered Kiz Kulesi a symbol and wanted to
announce our wish to make it part of art and culture through this
association. We wanted to promote goodness and beauty in an artistic
framework and saw the Kiz Kulesi as a place where we could let loose
the contents of Pandora's box. Our purpose here was to not leave Kiz
Kulesi exactly as it was. We maintained that it would become an
international symbol in the framework of what we proposed.
"But the Ministry of Tourism decided to turn the tower into a
cafeteria and the tender went to the firm which has done the current
restoration. We have nothing against this firm. When the ministry
makes such a decision the company that wins the tender naturally
completes the project.
"In recent years culture, art and science have almost been expunged.
Everything is seen as an instrument for making money. Kiz Kulesi was
brought to its current state with this kind of attitude. It would have
been a very strong and international symbol capable of increasing
society's cultural level. Our fight, understanding and approach have
been about this."
How to get there?
Now that Kiz Kulesi is open to the public, there are boats from
different places by which one can reach the tower:
From Salacak, there are boats that make daylong tours. Boat trips are
available from Kabatas to the tower, every two hours between 8:00 a.m.
and 7:00 p.m. and from the tower back to Kabatas every two hours
between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
If you have a reservation for dinner at Kiz Kulesi, Hamoglu Holding
gives you the opportunity to reach the tower from Kabatas at 8:00 p.m.
and 9:30 p.m. and to return to Kabatas at 9:30 p.m., midnight and 1:00
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