Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Galata Bridge

The Galata Bridge,(the oldest recorded bridge), is a bridge that spans The Golden Horn and connects Beyoğlu and Eminönü,founded by Abdulhamit ll in 1453 during the Turkish siege of the city.In the years 1502-1503 plans to construct a permanent bridge were discussed , and with a design sketch was made by Leonardo da Vinci showing a single plan with double pillars at either end, 350 m long and 24 m wide.However,technical drawbacks made it impossible to realize this project and another Italian artist,Michelangelo was invited to design a bridge for Istanbul.He rejected the proposal and the idea of building a bridge and the idea of building was shelved until the 19th century.
Bridge at the mouth of the waterway was constructed in 1845 by the mother of Sultan Abdulmecid and used for 18 years. It was known as the ‘Cisr-i Cedid’ or ‘New Bridge’to distinguish it from the earlier bridge further up the Golden Horn, which became known as the ‘Cisr-i Atik’ or ‘Old Bridge’.

The first Galata Bridge at the mouth of the waterway was constructed in 1845 by the mother of Sultan Abdulmecid and used for 18 years. It was known as the ‘Cisr-i Cedid’ or ‘New Bridge’to distinguish it from the earlier bridge further up the Golden Horn, which became known as the ‘Cisr-i Atik’ or ‘Old Bridge’.First to pass over this new bridge was Sultan Abdulmecid, and the first to pass below it was the French captain Magnan in his
ship the Cygne. For the first three days crossing the bridge was free, after which a toll known as mürüriye was paid to the Naval Ministry.
This was replaced by a second wooden bridge in 1863, built by Ethem Pertev Pasa on the orders of Sultan Abdulaziz in readiness for the visit to Istanbul of Napoleon III.
Then,in 1870 a contract was signed with a French company, Forges et Chantiers de la Mediteranée for construction of a third bridge, but the outbreak of war between France and Germany delayed the project, which was given instead to a British firm G. Wells in 1872. This bridge completed in 1875 was 480 m long and 14 m wide and rested on 24 pontoons. It was built at a cost of 105,000 gold liras. This was used until 1912, when it was pulled upstream to replace the now genuinely old Cisr-i Atik Bridge.
Lastly,the fourth Galata Bridge was built in 1912 by the German Man firm for 350,000 gold lira. This bridge was 466 m long and 25 m wide. It is the bridge still familiar to many people today that was badly damaged in a fire in 1992 and towed up the Golden Horn to make way for the modern bridge now in use.

The Galata Bridge was a symbolic link between the old Istanbul at Eminönü neighbourhood site of the imperial palace and principal religious and secular institutions of the Ottoman empire ,and the districts of Galata ,Beyoğlu ,Şişli and Harbiye where a large proportion of the inhabitans were non-Muslims and foreign merchants and diplomats lived and worked.Thus,in this respect,the bridge bonded these two distinctive cultures.

And it keeps going its funtion today.It has been a prominent and authentic bridge that connects Beyoğlu and Eminönü which have in fact different aspects in terms of both spirituality and materialism.Beyoğlu is a far more modern,sophisticated and complex place when compared to Eminönü that has a rather mystical and spiritual atmosphere.As it is seen,Galata Bridge is a construct that brings together different views and lives rather than the funtion of being just a bridge.It is like a transmission line that brings close people from different cultures together.

Apart from its function of being a transmission line between cultures ,its being surrounded by sea of Marmara, which is one of the clearest and most fertile seas of Turkey, makes it prominent and the fact that the Sea of Marmara is known as being rich in fish offer people oppurtunity to catch fish in either as a hobby or as a way to earn a living.

Another thing that makes it prominent is its having a number of historical and cultural buildings around it such as ‘New Mosque,Sultanahmet ,Galata Tower ,historical ‘Egypt Bazaar’ and etc.The importance of these antique places in making the bridge more attractive and appealing, is expressed so by foreign tourists with whom we interviewed on the bridge.An African couple say that ‘There is a different spiritual atmosphere of this bridge that we are not familiar in our country and I think that this atmosphere is actually connected to religious air provided by the beautiful and great mosques and the surrounding people that carry this air in them and the buildings are very densely located. Likewise the people are so sincere and friendly.’Like this tourist ,a lot people that are interested in those authentic buildings ,not as merely buildings but as a spiritual atmosphere that provides this bridge as a means to transport both materially and spiritually.

When we asked tourists coming from South Africa about cultural meaning of this bridge , they uttered these words; ‘We used it (laughing) to cross over another side.’ Then we observed a lot of people who used this bridge for various purposes and this made us realize that it is not true every time to think everything in a concrete way and we must try to get the underlying meanings of these concrete things.
Well!There are millions of people who use this bridge as a means to cross over the other side, but on the other hand there are also people who use it as a means to earn their livings as a saying goes in Turkey “I struggle to make a living.”: some catch fishes,some sell fishing line and prey to those people,some sell tea and the others earn money by weighing people’s weight.Therefore, the aim of all those is common :earning money and providing a life for their families and themselves.
As we interwieved with tourists , we understood that they agreed with us. When we asked them to say what they think about this bridge, for example a couple from United States of America and another from Canada , we saw that among the things what caught their interest were fishermen and the little working field set up naturally on the bridge: “ the atmosphere on the bridge is really wonderful and worth to be watched happily. There people catch fish either to enjoy themselves and make their living . Other people sell the things that are useful for the fishermen. Although everybody fight for their bread no one fight with each other, but live in harmony with each other.” These words exactly show that Galata Bridge is a social district and working area beside being a means of transportation.

Galata Bridge has such a mystic atmosphere that it makes people abstract from there,making them feel the spirit of nature. While passing by it, people detect the smell of the sea and fish. To detect their smell is indispensable for the people who want a natural atmosphere. On the bridge, it can be observed that there are people from different classes- poor and prosperous. For example; there are a lot of people who try to catch fish in order to earn some money. This bridge means only “to earn their own living” for them. They only look at the sea for hours to catch fish with their fishing lines. However, some people eat fish in the restaurants under the bridge and this bridge make themselves feel at peace. While these people take a rest on this bridge, the other people try to make their living there. It is clearly seen that different people with different purposes come to the bridge.

After passing from this bridge, the people come to Eminönü from Beyoğlu, and in this area the smell of fish, corn, chestnut, and pickle meet the people.

These things enable people to interact with each other. The people getting drunk because of these smell cannot help themselves to taste them. All of these people are enchanted from these flavor carosal.
Consequently, this unique Galata Bridge can be thought to be only a means to pass over it at first sight, but it has a function of having hosted many civilizations and empires in past and besides, being a transition line between cultures ,being a source of income and its spiritual meaning.If Galata Bridge started to talk,undoubtedly it would say many things we never think and imagine.

Fadime Kelek
Elif Hatipoğlu
Öznur Bayrakdar
Kader Kırıntı
Şeyda Deliacı
Merve Özgül

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