Yesterday was pretty rad. I got to pee out of a hole 20 meters in the air!
We got wind of an old fort built into the city walls on the city’s Marmara coast. It is supposed to have spectacular views and it’s a commuter train ride away so we decided to check it out. First mission: get on the train. Well I suppose the first mission is get to the train, but we’re pretty good at getting to the old city by now. Although we are still evolving a better and better route through the windey streets.
We knew right where the train station is becuase it was the terminus of the Orient Exppress and kind of sticks out. We didn’t realise that the old entrance is no longer in use so we wandered up to it only to find a crowd of men busting and talking to eachother and their cell phones. It looked a lot like the bazaar currency market. But I can’t find it them on google so the mystery will live forever.
We eventually did find the entrance, figured out how to pay, and hopped on a train to Yedikule. The train ride was so nice, zipping past Marmara, the green ruins of the old city wall and old neighbourhoods of decrepit buildings. It’s the 3rd mode of public transportation we’ve taken here. it’s always fun to try new modes of public transportatoin. When we arrived at Yedikule I was amazed to find so many disused buildings and such a calmness. This is a neighbourhood well inside the outskirts of one of the biggest, denesest, cities in the world and it was calm and slowly reveling in the fresh sea air. We breathed deep, enjoying the change of pace, and strolled the few blocks to the old fort. Which was soo coool.
Embracing the relaxed atmosphere there was less a ticketing system as a sign politely asking you to find someone to pay 5 lira to. Inside there was almost noone. We had this giant fort all to ourselves. The only thing better was that they had decided to skip making the fort tourist friendly and just open the sucker up. It was like we were archeologists who had found it in the desert.
The entire inside had been gutted. You could tell there were buildings inside but they had all burned down. Only part of the Mosque’s minarette still existed so the fort consisted of the seven walls and three big bastions. The oldest wall has quite a story. Around 500ad a huge marble triumphal arch was erected by… I forget, you could look it up if you want to know. Some emperor. Then his son built the arch into the city walls as a major entrance to Istanbul and later Mehmet II (the Ottoman who took and restored the luster of Istanbul) built the inner walls and bastions, making it into a fort. The Ottoman’s continued to use it for victorious parades into the city.
The point is, there is a giant marble triumphal arch built into this fort and holy god is it giant and marble. You can’t really see it from the inside but when you walk outside you realise you just walked through it and, turning around, your head explodes. The fort is mostly unfinished red stone. The arch stands out like a Frank Gehry building in the middle of the suburbs. You can walk around inside the walls to get on top of the wall that contains the arch. The top is also marble and at this point you’re 30 meters in the air with a view unobstructed by railings or saftey features. It’s so easy to imagine the procession of an Ottoman king, rich with looted spoils, marching through the gate underneath you.
The lack of safety features was a wonderful plus. We got to walk around everywhere. On top of crumbling stone walls, up and down 30 meter stone staircases built into the walls that had no railings, even up some rickety wooden scaffolding. It was just great being able to see the buildings as they were and experience them as a soldier might.
The bastions were also very very cool. They had stairs running up the inside with the occasional dank room and poorly appointed toilet. Yes the toilets were still there and in working order. I mean it would be hard to break them as they were just a hole with a short sluice leading to outside the walls. Although I lied. I didn’t actually make use of one (even though one of them had a supply of toilet paper on the ground). I posed for a few pictures as if I was using them but that’s it. Still very cool.
At the very top Sarah and I had an amazing view of the ruined city walls receding back into the city on one side and ending at the Marmara sea at the other. It was certainly the most fun I’ve ever had visiting a fort before. I wish there was more of an effort to just give you the run of a place.
On the way back we finally used the old Funicular pulling people up from the Galata bridge to Istiklal street. It is the 2nd oldest underground people mover in Europe. Second only to the london underground.