The Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque the Galata bridge among a few others are part of totemic importance to the Istanbullus.
Long before I ever thought of visiting Istanbul I saw a documentary about Istanbul on Thalassa a French tv programme concerned with anything and anywhere nautical and was struck by the sight of the people of Istanbul fishing from Galata Bridge, so many it appeared that half of Istanbul was there.
Known affectionately to all the inhabitants of Istanbul as simply ‘The Bridge’ not dissimilar as an icon to the the bridge between Denmark and Sweden ..but I did look and equidistant between Istanbul and Pera I couldn’t find a body constructed of 2 corpses ..!
Today’s location of the Galata Bridge, it’s fifth incarnation is situated at roughly the same spot that Sultan Mehmed II built a pontoon bridge that bought his troops over to finally conquer Constantinople.
This fifth bridge was finished in 1994 after the previous one was destroyed by fire and constructed of steel girders and large rivets painted in a naval grey blue, with it’s raised central sections in the middle, it has the feel of a ship, and it was here in the middle that at one time ferry boats stopped to pick up passengers.
In 1502 there were plans to construct the first bridge at the current location. Sultan Bayezid II solicited a design and Leonardo da Vinci came up with a plan using three well-known geometrical principles, the pressed-bow, parabolic curve and keystone arch, created an unprecedented single span 240 m long and 24 m wide bridge for the Golden Horn, which would have become the longest bridge in the world of that time if it had been constructed. However, the ambitious design was not approved by the Sultan. He was probably aware a bridge here was one of the ways the Ottomans had captured the city and decided not to have a bridge as an opportunity for future invaders. In 2001 Da Vinci’s design was used to build a bridge near Oslo.
When one crosses the bridge from old Istanbul to Beyoglu you really cross from one civilistation to another. The Pera Beyoglu side is the more secular side with less mosques and more of the old Greek and Armenian business and residential areas, and it is also today’s young and vibrant area with the best nightlife and restaurants. This is also the part of Istanbul with Taksim and home to the protest movement.
Perhaps it is this no man’s land between the old and the new that frees the spirit of the Istanbullus because here, more than most other areas there are more smiles and animation. It appears more relaxed and with a fishing rod in their hands, all troubles can be forgotten and istanbullus by the look on their faces, enter a dream like state. The tea sellers come round regularly with teas on a tray and there are fish sandwiches to be had from the restaurants on the lower tier or from the floating barbeque barges on the Emonou side of the bridge.
With fishing rod in hand there is the world’s great landscape before you with the Boshoros, the sea of Marmara, the Asian shoreline and the hundreds of different ferries buzzing around in between the huge bulk carriers that sail up and down from the Black Sea and ultimately the rest of the world.
In September the bridge hosts the Fatih Fish Festival.
Free fish sandwiches are handed out to all who have the patience to queue for sometime.
Fatih, which covers the area of Istanbul which was historically the old Constantinople and although it has many of the main tourist sites, the Blue Mosque and the Bazaar it is
today largely a working class district, but being a previously wealthy area, is well-resourced, with a more thoroughly established community than the relatively poorer residents of the newly built areas such as Bağcılar or Esenler.
In the 2 or 3 weeks I spent in Istanbul I think there was only one day I didn’t walk down to the Galata bridge and lean on the railings and gaze from the Topkapi, the Aya Sophia, across to the Asian shore, round to the ferry terminal and finally to the Galata tower. And yes like the Istabullus you could dream, where was that supertanker going or where was that bulk carrier coming from and yes there was Asia, a land mass going all the way along the old silk road all the way to China.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT ARE COPYRIGHT MICHAEL JENNINGS APPLY AND REPRODUCTION WILL NEARLY ALWAYS BE GIVEN PROVIDING A CREDIT IS GIVEN