Galata Kulesi / Galata Tower

Galata Tower was top of my list of things to visit in Istanbul, and I wasn’t disappointed!
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Built in 1348, it was the tallest building in Istanbul at the time – 220ft. It was designed with a military purpose, so it’s stone walls are 12ft thick. During peaceful periods, the tower’s main purpose changed, and it became a watch tower to spot city fires – so it’s ironic that it was damaged severely by a few fires itself. The tower was also damaged, repaired and altered several times over hundreds of years thanks to earthquakes and storms. In the mid 1960’s it was restored to it’s previous glory and opened to the public, with an observation deck boasting 360o views over the city.

We walked to the tower from Galata Bridge and oh my god, the stairs up towards it were a killer – even the pretty colours they were painted wasn’t much of a distraction, I had to stop half way up to recover – there must have been an easier way!
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At the top of the steps there were some cute cafes and shops, and the street was narrow and cobbled. The shops were selling homemade goods, souvenirs, coffee, and a lot of the walls were painted with interesting street art, I couldn’t fully appreciate it as I was trying to get my breath back!

When we got to the top and turned the corner, I was so glad to finally see Galata Tower, and the walk up the steep steps had definitely been worth it. Built of stone, it’s quite a beast, and when you stand next to it looking up at it towering over you, it’s very impressive. It dominates the Karaköy skyline, looking beautiful both at day and at night.
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Everything I had read online and from friends, said that you can queue up for hours to enter as it’s so popular, even in winter, so we headed there in the morning at around 9:30am, and there was no queue whatsoever. We paid our fee to enter (I think its around 20tl for tourists, but for those with Turkish ID cards, it’s 10tl – I managed to sneak in for the lower price when Berkay flashed his ID and told them I was his wife!)

Thankfully, there’s a small but beautifully tiled lift inside that takes you close to the top of the tower, but you still have to walk up two twisty, narrow flights of stairs to reach the observation area – there’s also a restaurant inside up there too.
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The outside observation area is very narrow, in some places only one person could fit through, and you had to really lean onto the railings to let someone squeeze past – not the safest, especially when people aren’t patient or can’t follow the staff that tell you to only go around in a clockwise direction!

It’s fascinating to think about all the things the Tower must have been witness to in it’s 600 years of existence. The views are absolutely stunning. Our morning was a bit hazy, but we could point out things like Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque easily.

You can really see the mix of old and new from up there, modern sky scrapers in the distance and old, colourful houses and buildings all around the city.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the early morning sun shining down on me, coupled with the fact I was still sweating from the walk to the tower, meant I took my coat off – but don’t be fooled, it was cold, especially when we got to the parts in the shade!
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After spending some time at the top taking photos and being in awe of the view, we headed back down the stairs to where the lifts are on the 7th floor – I spotted the toilets and decided I really needed a wee. As odd as it sounds, the toilets were so cute, they even had a little window peering through the stone wall of the tower. The whole thing really reminded me of Rapunzel, so the Disney geek inside me loved it!

There’s a little shop at the bottom of the tower inside the entrance/exit and I got a cute, mini tower ornament which is sat on display in my living room.

If we go back again I’d love to go to the tower again in the evening, around sunset, because the views would be even more stunning!
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P.S click on any of the photos above to enlarge them and see them in all their glory! 🙂

The opening of Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – a new modern side to Fethiye?

Last Friday the new, 80 million lira, ‘shopping & lifestyle’ centre opened in Fethiye. I dragged Berkay along to the opening ceremony to be one of the first inside.
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I’d seen adverts all over the billboards and bus stops in Fethiye and Calis regarding the new shopping centre – Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – and when they announced the opening day and time, I knew I wanted to go and check it out. Berkay came home at 9am and we rushed to get ready and on the bus so that we could be there for the official opening at 10am…like I actually expected it to be on time!
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Most people had taken the sensible option and were waiting under the shade of the building or using the coffee shop seating area – but I wanted to get a good view, so chose to stand under the sun, my poor red shoulders regretted that decision later. There was a separate seated area sectioned off which was for the special guests, they even had an armed policeman guarding it! Once all the guests of honor had arrived, including the designers and the major of Fethiye, the barriers were removed and all us normal folk were allowed to move forward and fill in the remaining seats, I’m certain it was just because they wanted a photo showing a crowd of excited people!
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The speeches began, all in Turkish so I of course had little or no idea of what they were actually saying, but whatever it was seemed to go down well with the crowd as there were a lot of happy faces, loud cheers and clapping hands, especially when the major of Fethiye – Behçet Saatcı – stepped up for his speech. The people of Fethiye clearly adore him, Berkay included, as I’ve never seen him clap so enthusiastically before! After the speeches were over, a ribbon was cut and a plaque presented signifying that the new centre was now open. An Imam was then called up to the stage to say a prayer – I’m assuming as a kind of blessing of the new building. Everyone in the crowd joined in the prayer by cupping their hands, although I did not. I felt a bit guilty, but I’m not a religious person and wouldn’t want to fake anything. My guilt was short lived when the Turkish lady behind me answered her phone and was shouting loudly down it all whilst the prayer was still going on…

After all was said and done, they opened the doors and everyone piled through them. They had metal detectors which everyone, including the armed police, ignored even though they were constantly beeping!

The major went around to each shop, cutting more ribbons and shaking the hands of all the employees – it seems like he is really respected and loved, he seemed genuinely happy and excited about the whole thing which was really lovely to see.

Now onto the actual shopping centre – it’s situated near Fethiye otogar – the main bus station that all the big coaches go into. The building is very impressive looking, it’s really well designed, but it cost 80 MILLION Turkish Lira, which is an awful lot of money, so you’d expect it to look pretty amazing.
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The first things we saw are the huge letters spelling the name of the shopping centre ‘ Erasta’.  There is a huge wooden frame design covering a large garden and seating area with water fountains at the bottom. To the left of that is the main entrance from ground level, which had a huge Turkish flag draped above it- but I’m not sure if that is a permanent fixture – knowing the Turkish pride it may well be!
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There are around 50+ shops inside, although not all are fitted and open yet. There’s a good variety of shops,  some fashion ones such as LC Waikiki, a shoe shop – Deichmann, some swimwear shops, a good sized Migros, and a superdrug type health/beauty shop by the name of ‘Gratis’. Those are just a few of the shops currently open – there are many more.
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There are water fountains all around the centre, both inside and out, which really adds to the modern look. The whole place is air-conditioned too which is a big bonus for hot days! There are escalators to the 2nd floor, which as well as more shops hosts a small cinema, a children’s indoor play area and a food court, all of which were not fully open when we visited. From what I could see of the food court, there were a few kebab restaurants, a Burger King and an Italian, there was a good amount of seating and a large outdoor seating area attached too. Apparently escalators are not a very common thing in Turkey – I remember that Berkay had never been on one until he was at Dalaman on his way to England the first time, which I thought was really bizarre, but it turns out he’s not the only one… While trying to go upstairs we became stuck behind 2 Turkish women who were afraid to step on the escalator and had no idea how they worked.. it was amusing to say the least!
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We had a little walk around the shops and made the most of the freebies on offer – we got given free cakes in Migros which were delicious, and then queued up for free candyfloss outside afterwards, embracing our inner child!
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One of the things I was most excited about was the fact the centre has TWO coffee shops, with almost identical names. We went to Kahve Dunyasi (coffee world), and had a drink. I had the cappucino with icecream, it was yummy, but I’d have preferred a Starbucks! The menu was really expensive, think Starbucks prices, my coffee was 8.5tl. There were all kinds of hot and cold drinks on offer, a huge selection of chocolates and cakes too, but again, these were expensive at 9tl for a piece of cake.  Both of the coffee shops were really busy and I can imagine that they will be very popular even after the inital opening period.
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After our coffee, we went to pay and noticed there were a band and dancers performing inside, so I went out to get some photos. There were women and men on stilts dancing, people dressed as clowns juggling and people playing instruments – it was all quite impressive really and a large crowd gathered quickly!
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I know that when people first heard about this new shopping centre they were afraid that it would take away business from the smaller, family run shops in the surrounding area, personally I don’t think this is the case at all as the new shops are all part of large chains and are more expensive than the small, family run shops you find in Fethiye town. The centre is definitely aimed at certain types of people, in my opinion, and we probably won’t visit much because of how expensive most of these shops are. I don’t think it will be overly popular with tourists, as it’s not in the main resort/town area. However, I love that it adds a modern side to Fethiye and think it will be very popular with university students and expats as a place to meet up. It’s definitely worth a visit for the air-con alone and would be a great meeting point for friends to just walk around, shop and relax. It’s definitely something that Fethiye was lacking. I just hope that the new centre continues to be popular and busy and that Fethiye continues to grow and modernise, whilst still keeping it’s more humble roots in mind.