Cadets Of Galata Tower: International Counterculture Hang Out

Galata Tower looks like the tip of a galactic spear that was rammed through the earth like a shish kabob.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2
PHOTO JOSHUA ALVAREZ

Galata Tower looks like a spaceship. It’s very wide, its girth challenging the very idea of it being a tower. It’s made of solid stone like the cobbled streets that converge below it. Sitting atop one of the tallest hills in Istanbul, it looks like the tip of a galactic spear that was rammed through the earth like a shish kabob. At night, orange lights glance off the stone, reminiscent of what torch light must have looked like when it was completed in 1348.

Surrounding it are cafes, restaurants, hundred year-old apartments and a slightly curved staircase with long shallow steps often used for sitting. Late at night, the steps are swarming with long-haired Turkish hippies, aimless European backpackers, and sweating partygoers rendering the staircase inoperable to all except those nimble enough to tiptoe through legs, arms, lighters, ashtrays, beer and wine bottles, guitars, and backpacks. The staircase is a slice of Greenwich, Haight and Ashbury, and Berlin. Weird haircuts, ill-fitting clothing, and bare feet populate this place. Guitars are lamely plucked and half-drunk voices waver.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 1
PHOTO JOSHUA ALVAREZ

Orhan Pamuk describes Istanbul’s feeling as hüzün, a kind of sweet melancholy. Istanbul was one of the most glorious cities in the world, serving as the capital city of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Galata Tower was constructed just a little over one hundred years before the demise of the Byzantine Empire at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. It was one of the last architectural gasps of an empire past its prime. The tower remains accessible today and it offers a 360 degree panorama view of the entire city. For the Ottomans, the tower was a trophy that offered an unparalleled view of the greatest treasure of all.

But the Ottomans’ decline also came to pass. Today, it is a must-see for tourists. Tonight, it’s an unofficial rallying point for the world’s Millennials, a generation yearning to be lost in space, who gather at the base of their spaceship hoping it would take them even farther from what they know.

Article Joshua Alvarez.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 3
PHOTO JOSHUA ALVAREZ

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