Monday, June 22, 2009

Climbing tourists

(Above view from atop the Galata Tower and below view of the tower as approached from the street.)

Sunday morning in Istanbul we cross over the Galata Bridge to the old Genovese neighborhood  of the city and climb to the top of the Galata Tower...there's actually an elevator nearly to the top. It's been a part of the city since the 14th century, a watchtower part of what used to be city walls, a tower in honor of Jesus, a fire-lookout point. 

The most interesting event maybe to have happened here was the flight of Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi. Like Icarus he strapped on artificial wings built to a design by Leonardo da Vinci and jumped off the tower. Hard to imagine doing that, I can tell you having looked down from the top of the thing, but the wings worked. He made it across the Bosphorus and landed in Anatolia. You'd think that kind of thing would have won him attention and fame like Lindbergh, Glenn, Armstrong. Indeed he created a big stir by flying. Sultan Murat IV wanted to reward him and thought it was cool. But religious leaders made the ruler see things differently. Here was a challenge to his superiority. The real-life Icarus was exiled to Algeria. And he died there soon after. 

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