Friday, 18 December 2015

Maiden's Tower

The Maiden's Tower is a monumental tower, roughly 25 meters tall, on a small islet just 200 meters from the coast of Üsküdar, at the southern entrance of Bosphorus. 
The oldest record about the islet on which the Maiden's Tower is erected today dates back to 411 BC. The first recorded function of this islet is also after the victory of the ancient Greek commander Alcibiades at Cyzicus (near Kapıdağ Peninsula today) in 410 BC as a customs station. The islet served as a customs station for centuries. The first wooden tower on it was ordered to be built by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenius in 1110. During the Byzantine period, this islet was connected to the land at the Asian side with a defense wall. Towards the European side, there was an iron chain stretching along the Bosphorus, with one end on the islet of the Maiden's Tower, and the other end connected to another tower that used to exist where the Topkapı Palace is now.
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, sultan Mehmet the Conqueror ordered this tower to be rebuilt with the intention of using it to protect the port.
The earthquake in 1509 was referred to by the Ottomans as "the minor doomsday", and the badly damaged tower was rebuilt with wood again.
When it was almost demolished by a fire in 1721, it was decided to use stones to rebuild this time.
With its new stone structure, the Maiden's Tower started to serve as a lighthouse mainly.
It received its final major restoration during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II between 1832 and 1833. The dome over the tower and the flagpole atop were added during this restoration. It is possible to say that it had received its final appearance then.
During the plague epidemic in 1836 and 1837, it was converted into a quarantine station. The Maiden's Tower has also served as a prison for a few Ottoman bureaucrats and generals, and even a dungeon sometimes, for executions.
In 1920, the tower was equipped with an automatic light system, to support its main task as a lighthouse.
When the risk of sliding into the sea was discovered, huge rocks were placed underwater around the islet in 1943.
The latest restoration work was carried out in 1998 before it played a role in the James Bond movie "the World is not Enough".
Right after the earthquake in 1999, steel support elements were added to its walls as a precaution.
Today, the Maiden's Tower serves as an attractive tourist magnet, with its mesmerizing view right above the Bosphorus. A private company runs a restaurant and a cafe in it. Private boats and shuttle boats from Üsküdar take hundreds of visitors to this beauty in İstanbul everyday.

Friday, 4 December 2015


Hundred kilometers away from Antalya, nestled in the Taurus Mountains, lies the ancient city of Sagalassos. It is a bit off the beaten track but is definitely worth the drive from Antalya. This ancient site will impress you with its vitality.

As it is situated on steep skirts of the Taurus Mountains and has been shadowed by other great sites such as Troy, Ephesus etc, it was fortunate enough to have remained well preserved, almost untouched. During a visit, one expects to see an ancient local just around the corner any second.

Excavations are on going since 1990, led by Marc Waelkens from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Stand in front of the impressive Nymphaeum, its waters still running and you won't regret the 100kms. Recently there are even some small hotels near the site of Sagalassos.