THE GALATA TOWER

This is my last blog about Turkey.  I promise.  If you haven’t noticed, it was one of my most favorite trips. 🙂

It’s funny how the most memorable parts of a trip aren’t the big towers and churches and castles and bridges.  It’s the things leading up to or right after visiting those things that are memorable.  And that’s exactly why I even remember the Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower is at one of the highest points in Istanbul.  I couldn’t even tell you what its significance is.  But I can tell you this.  It’s on top of a very steep hill covered in cobblestone.  And using a wheelchair, I will never forget the journey to the Galata Tower.

It was a cold and snowy afternoon when we made our journey to the top.  My mom had decided to stay in the hotel for the afternoon.  It was cold, wet, and she was likely tired of her four grown children (the same way most parents would be after five days in another country).  The beginning of the journey wasn’t too bad, a bit chilly, but we walked a few miles on flat surface, embracing the opportunity to see another part of the city.  But then it got complicated, with the roads no longer running perpendicular, but rather just this way and that, curving all over with no rhyme or reason.  And it became hilly.

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Our map wasn’t very helpful, but fortunately, we could see the Galata Tower and knew that we had to go up, so we turned here and there, always taking the road that inclined towards the clouds.  It started snowing and I remember putting an extra scarf on my lap so the snow wouldn’t collect on my pants.  And thank goodness I did; my lap had a thin layer of snow covering it by the time we reached the tower.

Julie and Natalie, my two sisters, held hands, taking turns pulling each other up the steep, and now slippery, cobblestones that were laid hundreds of years ago.  My brother took his place behind my wheelchair and just pushed.  Slowly…pushing and pushing.  I could hear him behind me breathing in and out, and knowing that he was working his butt off.

We made it to the top of the hill and it was as though the Galata Tower held it’s own town surrounding it.  Small shops and cafes and bakeries took their places, all cozily surrounding the tower.  We found the entrance to the tower pretty quickly and made our way in, glad to be warm.  The inside of the tower was exactly what you would expect – marble and stone floors, ropes blocking off most of it, and steep, winding steps to the top.  A quick elevator ride and a short piggy back ride (while the guard had his back turned against us), and we made it to the top.  The view was foggy and exactly as we expected.  We spent a whopping 15 minutes at the tower and decided we had seen everything it had to offer.

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But what I remember the most about this experience is what we did afterward.  We found a little pub next door that we entered simply to warm up.  But once we got in, the energy of the place was so welcoming.  People everywhere were chattering and sipping on coffee and warm drinks.  We found ourselves sitting at the end of a very long wooden table, ordering new foods to experience.  I had a glass of warm wine with small pieces of fruit cut up into it.  Sort of like a warm sangria, I guess.  It was something I had never had before.  And have never had since.  My brother ordered a tall cold drink and I commented, “Don’t you want something warm?  It’s so cold!”

“Oh Renee, I am HOT!  That was a steep hill to get up!”  Thank you, Matt, for the push up the hill!

We spent an hour or two in the restaurant.  The smiles and warmth of the people, with the fireplace burning in the corner, was so welcoming and relaxing.  So you see, yes, I went to the Galata Tower.  But what I remember the most about it is a giant hill and a glass of warm wine in a room full of the some of the nicest people in the world.

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