|Dance with the rhythm of different cultures|
|The square in front of the Blue Mosque covers the site of the ancient “Hippodrome”, one of the most famous areas in Byzantine Constantinople. The original Hippodrome was constructed in 200 AD. by Emperor Septimus Severus, when he rebuilt the town of Byzantium. After Severus, Constantine the Great made Constantinople new capital and gave much more importance to this area. The Hippodrome was the heart of the civil activities. Propaganda activities, rebellions, fighting’s and eventually chariot races took place in this area. The Hippodrome continued to serve as primarily a sports center as well as a gathering place of the people for centuries during the Byzantium Era. After the Ottomans took over, it was also used for the same purpose.
There are various monuments in Hippodrome Area. The most attractive one is the “Egyptian Obelisk”. This building was originally constructed by Pharaoh Tutmosis III(1549-1503 BC). It was 60 m. (200 feet) high and weighed 800 tons. When shipped from Egypt to Constantinople, it was split into three and only the very top of it survived. It was erected to Constantinople during the reign of Theodosius I in 390. There is a marble base with sculptured relief’s representing the Emperor’s watching of chariot races with his family. The obelisk is made of pink granite and it depicts Praraoh Tutmosis III with Sun God Amon Ra.
Another building in Hippodrome Area is so-called “Serpentine Column”. The three intertwined bronze serpents form the column. This column was brought from the Temple of Apollo, Delphi Greece dedicated to God by the 31 Greek cities who defeated the Persians at Platea in 479 BC. It was brought by Emperor Constantine the Great.
The third monument in this area is called as “Colossus” or “the column of Constantine Porphyrgenitus”. This column looks much more eroded and the purpose is thought to have a parallelism with the Egyptian Obelisk.
The last monument in Hippodrome Area is the “German Fountain” or “Fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm II”. It is an octagonal building with water taps around which was constructed in 1898. Inside the fountain, there are lovely mosaics which depicts the signatures of Wilhelm II and Sultan Abdulhamit II, the sultan of that time.
|The slightly sloped section stretching from Tunel to the shores of Halic is called Galata due to the Galata Tower. Galata Tower has dominated Beyoglu skyline since 1348 and still offers the best panoramic views of the city. Until the 1960s Galata tower was a fire lookout tower. Now the upper floors hold an uninteresting restaurant-nightclub, and a panorama balcony. The panorama balcony is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (7 pm in summer). The entrance fee is 7 YTL, roughly 5 USD. There is a lift which helps you to climb the first 7 floors and up there you need to climb two more floors to visit the panorama balcony. When you open the door to the balcony, a strong wind is welcoming you and a small shock, you were not expecting to be that high. But the marvelous 360 degree view, will soon let you enjoy its beauty. Galata Tower is 61 meter tall, and 140 meter above sea level. The diameter of the tower is 8,95 meter, where wall thickness is 3,75 meters.
History of the tower: During the reign of Byzantines, Genoese conquered the region, which stood at opposite shores of old Istanbul, and they decided to build a tower. Their aim was to surround the region with walls and they wanted to build a watchtower in the middle of the wall for defense purposes. At the time, they named the Tower “Jesus Tower.” The tower originally had a spire and a large cross on its top.
The Galata Tower did not only serve for defense purposes and as a watchtower, but it was also a part of the communication system, which had been built by Romans and then inherited by the Byzantines. People used to communicate by building fires at high and easily seen places. Therefore, the most important communication centers of Istanbul were the mountain of Bulgurlu, Fenerbahce, Galata Tower and Sarayburnu. Galata Tower, which captures our attention by its non-Islamic architecture, became famous in the Islamic world when Hazerfen Ahmet Celebi flew from, the Tower to Uskudar with the help of artificial wings. In 1794, however, the spire of the fire-damaged tower, was opened and the building was restored in an architecturally rather different style.